Here are just a few reasons to love this spring pasta salad:
- Asparagus is a good source of inulin, a prebiotic, which provides food to support the healthy flora in our gut and keep our digestion working optimally.
- Far from just an add-on to pretty up your plate, chives contain vitamins A, C and several minerals, including folic acid, iron, potassium and calcium. Like garlic, chives contain allicin, a powerful antioxidant responsible for garlic’s (and chive’s) telltale bite and a support for our circulation and immune systems.
- Kale, along with other leafy vegetables and greens like the spinach and asparagus that also appear in this salad, is a tremendous source of vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting and bone health. (And as a side note, the word kale appears in the Scottish expression “to be off one’s kail”, when someone is too sick to eat. So eat your kale and hopefully you won’t be!)
- Although I was not a fan of green peas growing up—and I’ll be honest, it was largely a relationship of total aversion and avoidance—peas have been growing on me, not only because of their subtle sweetness, but also their impressive nutritional profile, which includes high fibre, high protein, and a rich source of phytonutrients.
- It’s packed with flavour. But of course, you probably guessed that… Right?
In fact, this pasta salad explodes with the bold flavours of some of the best foods that spring has to offer and they are dressed with a somewhat peppery and definitely nutritious homemade pesto of chives, kale, almonds, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Not a traditional pesto, mind you, as it doesn’t contain Parmesan cheese but I like it just fine.
Many of these foods can be found locally too: farm-fresh asparagus is available now; chives are coming into their own and these came from my garden; and kale and spinach are both great to enjoy in spring and fall because they thrive in cooler temperatures.
I have used brown rice pasta in this pasta salad. It is gluten-free, provides protein and fiber and has a chewy texture that I think works well here. Any kind will do, but I recommend shapes like spirals or penne because they do an effective job of catching and holding on to the flavourful and peppery pesto dressing.
As for the dressing, I had at least 1/3 of the recipe left over so I recommend starting with half the dressing and incorporating it thoroughly before you decide whether to add the rest, based on how peppery you like it (this will also vary based on whether you used the full amount of chives or not). You can add more cooking water to keep the pesto loose.
And a quick kitchen tip that might be helpful: to keep delicate herbs like chives from bruising when you cut them, you can use sharp kitchen scissors instead of a knife.
Spring Vegetable & Greens Pasta with Chive-Kale Pesto Dressing
For the Salad
- 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup frozen peas which can be steamed or even added to the pasta pot for a minute or two before the pasta is drained - you just want to warm them
- 6 medium asparagus or barely 3/4 cup, trimmed, lightly steamed and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1-2 slices of red onion minced
- 1/2 red pepper chopped
- 2 cups of brown rice pasta spirals
For the Dressing
- 2 oz . kale or about 1 3/4 cup of packed, rinsed and thick stalks trimmed
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup almonds soaked for 2-3 hours beforehand
- 1 oz . fresh chives - you can use up to half of this if you prefer a more subtle or about 3/4 cup of packed leaves, less pungent spiciness
- 1/2 to 1 garlic clove depending on how peppery you like it
- 1/2 cup olive oil it is worth using a higher quality one!
Cook the pasta until al dente. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water and set aside. Rinse the pasta in cold water and add to a salad bowl.
Add the remaining salad ingredients.
To make the dressing, add all ingredients to a food processor or high-powered blender. Depending on how thick the mixture is, add 3-6 tablespoons of reserved cooking water to thin. The texture should be fairly loose but still thick like a pesto.
Pour the pesto dressing over the salad and mix thoroughly to combine. You can add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of cooking water if the dressing is not mixing smoothly.
So gather your farmstand finds and make this as a light lunch or side salad for dinner one night this week to enjoy some of spring’s powerhouse nutrients. Here’s to spring!
In the meantime, I have to ask: what’s your favourite spring vegetable or food?