The arrival of warmer weather brings with it new opportunities for culinary exploration. Chilled foods, not so often eaten in the cooler months, start to come into their own around June, as the summer approaches. Sitting outdoors, under an almost cloudless sky (where I now write this), feeling the warmth soak into your skin, the thought of cold meals is alluring, perhaps simply because of its contrast to the norm. We eat hot food as a matter of course. We don’t say to ourselves I’d like to eat a hot meal today. It is assumed that our meal will be served hot, whereas we actually think about eating a meal chilled.
Pasta salads can be prepared in advance, even days ahead, and kept in a container in the fridge until you are ready to eat them. They are fantastic served as a side with a barbeque, or with other cold dishes such as Vegan Quiche Lorraine. As with hot pasta, there are a multitude of combinations you can mix in to keep your tastebuds enthused. Try my Green Pea Pasta Salad with Pan-Fried Peaches as one idea. You can make them as simple or as complicated as you like, depending on your mood.
This recipe does require a few different steps, and perhaps a bit more washing up than you would like, but the results make the effort very worthwhile. The roast aubergine and tomato ad a bright Mediterranean feel to this recipe, while the parsley and mint pesto lends a silken touch of luxury few could refuse.
I’ve used vegetable oil for the pesto to lessen the richness of it, but you can by all means switch to olive oil. I’ve also used green pea pasta (cooked to al-dente, not mush), a gluten-free and much heartier pasta with a strong protein content, as I like the firmness of its bite. You can, however, substitute with whatever pasta takes your fancy.
Roasted Aubergine and Tomato Pasta Salad with Parsley and Mint Pesto
Prep time: 25 minutes. Cooking time: about 30 minutes, plus cooling time.
For the Salad:
250g dried green pea pasta (or any pasta)
1 aubergine, stalk removed, cut in half widthways and then cut into 1cm thick slices
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
A pinch of salt
150g cherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
For the Pesto:
A large handful of fresh parsley
A small handful (150g) fresh mint leaves
2 tsp garlic puree
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
150ml vegetable oil
25g vegan parmesan, grated
50ml balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200C/ 400F)
First cook your pasta by bringing a pan of water to the boil, tossing in your dried pasta, and cooking for 8 or 9 minutes, until the pasta is cooked but still retains a bite. Drain and rinse under cold water, then allow to completely cool.
While the pasta is cooking, lay the aubergine out on a baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and then sprinkle on the oregano and salt. Rub into the aubergine with your hands (the oil will soak up very quickly so do this as fast as you can). Place towards the top of the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Take them out of the oven again and toss in the tomatoes, then roast together for another 15 minutes, or until they have started to brown. Once they are done, transfer to a container or plate and allow to cool.
Now make the pesto. Put all of the pesto ingredients into a blender and blitz in short bursts, until the mix is blended but not fully pureed.
In a large bowl, combine the pasta, roasted veg, red onion, cannellini beans and the pesto. Mix thoroughly and then cover and store in the fridge until you are ready for it.