I haven’t always been a pasta lover.
In times past I saw pasta only as a vehicle for a grey, pasty, congealed type of sauce with chunks of meat sprinkled in and cooked to oblivion.
And then I discovered gardening.
Suddenly I had access to fresh garden tomatoes, sweet white onions, and crisp delicious peppers in every color of the rainbow, My world of pasta changed in an instant.
Garden Fresh Pasta is one of my favorites. It is a simple meal that can be thrown together quickly. Change up the spices, throw in a few herbs and the possibilities are endless. I love spicy, so when I don’t have any homemade chili oil ready to go, I substitute cayenne pepper instead. I love the added benefit that cayenne pepper gives to boost my immune system. It’s even better when I’m using my own cayenne peppers I have dried from the garden.
Another of the things I love about this salad is the juice from the tomato makes up part of the delicious dressing. So, I pick out the juiciest looking tomatoes I can find. Usually this means a vine ripened tomato like a Beef, or Celebrity variety. A Roma or any Italian variety is usually too dry for this salad. Also, don’t worry about the seeds from the tomatoes. You will want to scrape up every bit of tomato juice for the yummy dressing to cover your pasta and you wont even notice the seeds.
Orecchiette Pasta with garden fresh veggies, feta and toasted walnuts all add up to a wonderful mouthful of delicious fresh flavor.
- 1- 2 tbsp chili infused olive oil or substitute ½ tsp cayenne pepper with 1 -2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 links Italian sweet sausage
- 1 lb package of Orecchiette (may substitute any shaped pasta)
- 4 vine ripened garden fresh tomatoes chopped with liquid reserved
- ½ cup chopped white onion
- 1 cup chopped colorful peppers (whatever you have available)
- ¼ cup chopped Walnuts
- ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- ¼ cup chopped flat italian parsley
- ½ tsp garlic salt
- 1-2 tsps sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Lay walnuts on a baking sheet.
- Roast walnuts until they start to brown and smell toasted, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Heat saute pan to medium.
- Add 1 tbsp chili infused oil (or oil and cayenne pepper)and cook sausage until well browned on all sides and cooked completely through, adding additional oil as necessary.
- Remove from pan, cool and slice into ¼ inch rounds.
- Cook according to directions on package.
- Drain pasta in colander and rinse in cold water to stop cooking process.
- Pour into large bowl and place in refrigerator to chill while preparing vegetables.
- Place 1½ Tbsp olive oil in saute pan heated on Medium low.
- Add chopped basil and stir.
- Remove from heat after basil has wilted and turned bright green in color, about 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes with their reserved liquid, peppers, onions, Italian sausage, olive oil basil mixture, parsley, garlic salt, salt, and freshly ground pepper to the chilled pasta and stir gently.
- Sprinkle with feta cheese and toasted walnuts.
- Serve immediately.
Prepare walnuts, Italian sausage, pasta and vegetables (with the exception of the tomatoes, because you want every dip of that juice for your dressing) earlier in the day. This way, your salad will be quick to throw together when you are ready to eat it.