Even though I call this Summer Pasta Salad, asparagus is typically a spring vegetable. But I always make some version of this just as the heat begins to creep into our days, as it’s easy and delicious. Add some bread, and bowl of fruit for dessert and dinner’s done.
1 lb. package of high quality cheese-filled tortellini
about 8 ounces of golden cherry tomatoes (2-3 handfuls)
about 8 ounces of sweet red pearl-like tomatoes
bunch of asparagus, about 15 spears
pitted black Greek olives, about 10 very large ones, or 20 medium
extra-virgin olive oil
good quality balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
a light shake of cayenne pepper
Toss the tomatoes with some olive oil and some salt and pepper, then spread out on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 425F for 15 minutes. The tomatoes should still have their shape but be a little wobbly-looking. Set aside to cool.
Wash, then prepare asparagus by snapping off the ends. Hold your fingers at the end of the spear, letting it snap off where it wants to, then cut into 1″ pieces. Cook in a gently simmering pot of salted water for 1 minute, then plunge into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking. They should have some chewiness to them, but not crunchiness. I always test first as some batches can take up to two minutes to be at the right texture. To do that, grab one piece and put it in the ice water bath, then taste.
After each batch, place cooled asparagus to drain in a strainer or colander, then set aside.
Cook the pasta in lightly salted water on a gentle boil until done, but not DEAD-done. You don’t want the pasta to fall apart. Tip into a colander in the sink and rinse with cool water. GENTLY.
In a large bowl, place drained pasta, tomatoes, blanched asparagus, Greek olives. Splash more olive oil on the mix, then some balsamic and some red wine vinegar (about 2-4 Tablespoons combined for the vinegars) then grind on some fresh pepper and salt, then a light sprinkle of cayenne.. Toss gently, then taste. Adjust as needed.
Serves a crowd.