Friday, September 4, 2020

Gearing Up for Labor Day...Featuring Pesto Pasta Salad #labordayfood #summerfood #potluck #pastasalad #pesto #bigflavor

This crazy year is finally heading toward the final few months, and this topsy-turvy COVID-centric Summer is winding down too. Can you believe that Labor Day is coming up on Monday?!?!? If you're like us, that means firing up the grill for a delicious in Texas, we're able to grill pretty much year-round. To go with smoky burgers, steak...or even need some killer side dishes. Michael has been on a pesto kick this year, so I knew he'd really enjoy today's Pesto Pasta Salad! It feeds a crowd, has lots of great Summer veggies, and it's flavored with bold basil pesto and tangy feta. The best part? Leftovers taste even better after a day or two in the fridge! This pasta salad can be made up to a day ahead, which saves time in the kitchen on Labor Day. Feel free to use any pasta you like, but I like to use high-protein rotini pasta to make it as healthy as possible. 

Pesto Pasta Salad
inspired by Claire K Creations
Ingredients (makes approx. 12 cups):
  • 14.5-ounce box high-protein rotini pasta, which yields 8 cups cooked pasta [NOTE: I used Barilla Protein+
  • 1/2 cup pesto [NOTE: I used Buitoni Fresh Basil Pesto Sauce]
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Step 1: Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions. Drain the cooked pasta and add to a large mixing bowl. Let the pasta cool for a few minutes. Add the pesto, olive oil, feta, spinach, corn, tomato, green onion, and salt & pepper. 
Step 2: Stir the ingredients with a sturdy spoon just until the ingredients are evenly combined -- be careful not to break up the feta cheese too much. Refrigerate the pasta salad until completely chilled, at least 4 hours...or overnight. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl/platter and serve.
This pasta salad is simple and delicious! I love how the pesto stands in perfectly for traditional dressing -- and it flavors the pasta with basil, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts . The slightly warm pasta wilts the spinach perfectly, and the feta provides a tangy burst of flavor. Finally, the combo of tomato, corn, and green onions screams Summer. I especially love that this pasta salad is light and refreshing, unlike heavier mayo-based pasta salads. 

This recipe makes a ton of pasta salad -- which isn't a problem. Leftovers taste even better the next day after hanging out in the fridge! To turn the leftovers into a perfect second-day lunch or light dinner, simply add a pound of chopped boiled shrimp. 

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