Ah, the age-old question of the season: what to bring to a summer pot-luck bbq? You want something that will travel well. Something that can be served at room temperature. And something that isn’t too time-consuming to prepare – I mean, you’re still the guest after all! I found myself in this predicament this past weekend, musing over what to contribute to my in-laws Father’s Day BBQ.
I found my mind drifting back to a gourmet prepared foods market where I worked earning $10/hour while still in high school (for my Armonk-ian followers, I’m talking about the original Dr Produce, later known as Cafe Norma, now sadly replaced entirely by some Bread Shop that doesn’t even sell rolls – another story for another post). One of Dr Produce’s best-selling summer salads was a penne pasta tossed with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. It was always among the first dishes to sell out for the day. I decided I would take a stab at re-creating it. Which it turned out, wasn’t very difficult to do at all!
I used jarred, olive oil marinated sun-dried tomatoes and amped up their flavor with the addition of minced garlic and fresh herbs. Mixing those together using the tomato-oil from the jar made for a stunning ‘sauce’. Add that to al dente penne, toss, let cool, add basil, toss, and serve. That was it! And the dish was stunning.
A couple key pointers here – because this is a cool pasta salad, the pasta must be cooked al dente. There’s nothing appealing about mushy room temperature pasta – it’s got to have that toothsome bite. And you need to let the hot pasta cool before adding the basil, otherwise the heat from the pasta will wilt it. You want the freshness of that basil coming through with every bite.
- 8 oz jar olive-oil marinated sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp mixed fresh herbs, minced (thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley or any combination of these)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 lb penne pasta, preferably De Cecco brand
1. Combine sun-dried tomatoes plus all sun-dried tomato oil from jar, garlic and minced herbs. Let stand while pasta cooks.
2. Cook pasta to al dente – 1-2 minutes less than package directions. Taste for doneness and drain.
3. Combine pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and toss to coat. Allow to cool to room temperature. If pasta looks dry, add 1-2 Tbs olive oil and toss. Once cool, add basil and toss. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 6 side dish portions