Tofu Pasta Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

by smokinchestnut

I don’t have the perfect quote to go with this post but instead I’ll regale you with a dream I had involving this recipe. Don’t worry, it’s short (because my dad and I hate when people tell long, boring, drawn-out dreams) and, since it’s me we’re talking about, it’s WEIRD.

In my dream, my sister was eating this pasta while stuffed into a microwave. I walked by and opened up the microwave and yelled at her, stating, “Do you know how dangerous it is to be in a microwave?! What are you doing!” She replied, unconcernedly and enthusiastically, “This pasta is SO GOOD! And the green beans — they’re so squeaky! They’re squeaky in my brain!”

When I recalled the dream later that morning, I called my sister right away so that she could crack up with me. “Squeaky in my brain.” I’m going to have to use that one. Oh, and my sister eventually crawled out of the microwave right before I woke up, so no worries, she’s safe. My brain, on the other hand…

But that’s OK. Because any recipe that can inspire a dream like that HAS to be good.

You start with some pasta, vegetables and (my favorite way to eat) tofu that is baked into little cubes.

Oh, and toasted walnuts. Do not forget those!

Then, if you haven’t taste-tested every last drop of what is now known as the best basil/pesto vinaigrette EVER, pour that atop your pasta creation. Then stop to admire the piece of art you’ve created.

You’re supposed to let the dish sit for 15 minutes to allow the sauce and pasta to meld together. You don’t think I did that, did you? Well you would be WRONG! I did let it sit in the fridge for 15 minutes… while I scraped the pesto bowl clean with my fingers. That sauce is addictive, I tell you.

Recipe time! As you can probably guess, pasta salads are endlessly versatile. Feel free to mix and match vegetables to your liking. I added sauteed squash to the green beans and peas in the original recipe. I also added baked tofu, which did an incredible job of soaking up the sauce while giving the dish an extra boost of protein. PLEASE try the dish with tofu — it’s worth it to heat up your kitchen in the summertime by baking the tofu, I promise! Or you can sautee it. If you really despise tofu, then I feel bad for you… and I suppose you can add shrimp or chopped chicken instead.

Tofu Pasta Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
slightly adapted from Fine Cooking
serves 4-6

1 1/2 c fresh basil leaves
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan (I used grated soy Parmesan and it was delicious!)
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
3 Tbsp red or white-wine vinegar
2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Pasta Salad:
1 package extra firm tofu, baked into small cubes*
1/2 lb whole grain farfalle (bow-tie) pasta, or any other short, chunky pasta
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 medium squash, halved, sliced and sauteed
3 Tbsp toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

*To cook tofu, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Drain tofu package and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place cubes onto a baking sheet lined with silpat mat or lightly oiled foil sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cubes are lightly browned.

For Vinaigrette:
Add basil, olive oil, Parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

For Pasta Salad:
In a large pot, bring 4 to 6 quarts lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add green beans and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove beans with slotted spoon and place on paper towel to dry. Add frozen peas and cook for 3-4 minutes, then also remove with slotted spoon and place in a bowl with green beans.

With water still at a boil, add pasta and cook until al-dente, according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, saute sliced squash in a pan with a dash of olive oil until browned. Place squash with green beans. Drain pasta, shaking off excess water, and place in large serving bowl. Add green beans, peas, sauteed squash and toasted walnuts to pasta. Add vinaigrette and toss (you may not need to use all of it but I did).

Allow salad to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste. Take photos of creation and send to friends and family members to ensure this recipe is made in all households! Enjoy!