Remember when I said I’d found my new favorite summer pasta salad? I may have been a bit hasty. I say that because there’s a hefty tub of this Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato (I mean, prosciutto, arugula, and caramelized cherry tomato) & Avocado Pasta Salad in my fridge and it’s taking all my self-control to wait ‘til noon to start lunch.
I do enjoy a BLT on a hot day. Crisp, salty, tender, fresh, hot and cold all at once . . . it’s a surprisingly complex combo, when you think about it. So here I present its classy relation–a BLT-inspired pasta salad where tender, springy Hodgson Mill Veggie Rotini Spirals set the stage for sweet bursts of caramelized cherry tomato, savory crispy prosciutto, and spicy arugula leaves, just barely wilted. Chunks of avocado (which in my house, we call ‘nature’s mayonnaise’) give the salad a creamy richness.
The caramelized tomatoes are a little bit of a commitment, but they can be made ahead, even a few days ahead, and you can make a lot – trust me, you’ll want a lot. Warm up any extras and toss those with noodles of any shape or size and some parmesan, and it’s an instant pasta side for a meal.
If you just don’t have time, you could also just sauté the halved cherry tomatoes in a hot pan with a little olive oil, and throw in minced garlic during the last minute or so. They won’t be as sweet as caramelized ones, but it will intensify the flavor and bring out a touch of sweetness in only 7-10 minutes.
Substituting prosciutto for bacon doesn’t make this health food, by any means, but it’s certainly no worse than a slice of bacon. Plus, since it’s so flavorful, you can get away with using less. (That’s also good since it’s a little more expensive.) There is plenty of precedent for the substitution.
I also think I’m going to try this recipe again with some “vegan ham” (veggie protein slices) and see if the flavors can hold up – it would be a handy healthy recipe hack if it works.
I mean . . . I’ll make this one again if I HAVE to. Go on, twist my arm.
(Photos and taste-testing for this post provided by the incomparable Kevin Good.)
BLT and Avocado Pasta Salad
Adapted from Splendid Table’s BLT Pasta
2 cups Hodgson Mill Veggie Rotini Spirals, uncooked
1 ½ cups fresh arugula, chopped (about 4 ounces)
2 ounces prosciutto, sliced (may substitute pancetta or thick smoked ham)
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 pint tub of cherry tomatoes, caramelized (see recipe below)
Salt & Black Pepper
Cook pasta according to directions on package, until al dente. Drain and keep covered until needed. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan and cook slices of prosciutto until they’re crispy, about 2-3 minutes.
Mix pasta, prosciutto, tomatoes, and arugula in large bowl. Add chopped avocado and stir gently to combine. Serve immediately, or chill (cover tightly, so avocado doesn’t brown) and serve cold. Season to taste with black pepper and salt (taste first, as the prosciutto adds a surprising amount of salt)
Caramelized Cherry Tomatoes
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Teaspoon garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 275° F. Cut tomatoes in half, and coat well with 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir in 1 teaspoon chopped garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 60-90 minutes, until slightly collapsed and softened, and turned a brilliant dark red. Use immediately or let cool and store in fridge.
Notes: Makes 3-4 servings. Keeps 2-3 days in sealed container in fridge. If serving more than 2 hours from mixing, it is recommended that you keep the avocado whole and separate, and slice and mix it in just before serving to avoid browning. If serving warm, you may wish to add tomatoes to prosciutto in hot pan and stir for 1-2 minutes until heated through. For gluten-free option, consider using Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Brown Rice Penne with Milled Flax Seed.