CONTEST WINNER: Spinach Pasta Salad with Lemon Balsamic Dressing
- 1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta
- 1 sm. onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bag of spinach leaves, washed and drained
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 med. size seedless cucumber, lightly peeled & diced
- 2 6-oz. containers fresh "Ciliegine" Mozzarella, drained and cut in half
- 1 10-oz. container sweet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 12-oz. jar roasted red peppers in oil, chopped drained and reserve oil
- 1 full bulb of garlic - roasted and cooled (directions below)
- 1/4 C. chopped roasted red pepper
- juice of 2 fresh lemons
- 1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 C. fresh chopped basil leaves
- 1 tsp. fresh ground sea salt
- 1 tsp. fresh ground cracked pepper
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbs. honey
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 C. olive oil
- 1/4 C. roasted red pepper oil
Wash spinach and set aside to drain well (tear apart large leaves and remove thick stems).
Roast 1 bulb of garlic in a 400-degree oven. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the bulb cut side up on a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, drizzle with about 2 Tbs. olive oil making sure to cover each clove and then bring the sides of the foil up and seal all around. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until cloves are soft and caramel colored. Let cool until you can touch it with your hand and squeeze out each clove into a cup or dish…let cool while you make the salad.
Make pasta according to box, cook to “al dente” about 12 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water to completely cool the pasta and stop the cooking process. Turn out into a large bowl, add cucumber, tomatoes, onions, shredded carrots and roasted red peppers, add the spinach and the fresh mozzarella and toss lightly.
Mix all of the dressing ingredients together in a blender EXCEPT the two oils, combine the two oils together and then slowly drizzle in the oil mixture while the blender is running and blend completely. Pour dressing over pasta salad and toss well to coat.
Chill overnight to serve the next day this will allow the flavors to blend and will slightly wilt the spinach.
Serve along side grilled chicken, fish or as a light lunch with fresh crusty bread.