Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pasta and Cannellini Salad with Asparagus, Bell Peppers, and Walnuts

This is a vegan-friendly variation of our popular recipe for Tortellini Salad with Asparagus, Bell Peppers, and Walnuts.

Bowtie pasta and cannellini beans replace the tortellini. The beans are a satisfying substitute for the creamy tortellini filling. There's nothing missing here!


8 ounces dried bowtie/butterfly pasta (farfalle)
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne slices
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into julienne slices
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar*, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, shredded or coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Rinse the pasta in cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, rinse the asparagus and break off the tough ends. (If you hold the asparagus spear at each end and bend it slightly, it will break at the right spot.) If using thicker spears, trim off the larger buds near the bottom of the stalk as desired. Cut the asparagus spears diagonally into 1-inch pieces. Blanch the asparagus by boiling (or by microwaving with a small amount of water) for 1-3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, asparagus, cannellini beans, bell peppers, and walnuts.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar until well blended, and then whisk in the basil, salt, and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture, and gently toss until all salad ingredients are coated with the dressing.

Refrigerate if not using immediately. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

-- 4-6 servings

* Note: I like to use white balsamic vinegar in pasta salads, because the more common dark version will turn the pasta brown, which some people find unappealing. But if you don’t mind the color, the dark balsamic vinegar works fine in this recipe as well.

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