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Balsamic Asparagus Pasta Salad

One of the first road trips Rob & I ever took was less than a year after we first started dating.

We went down south, way down south, to the most southwestern point of Oklahoma: McCurtain county. We were there to go to the Museum of the Red River and see an Oklahoma-found dinosaur, the Acrocanthosaurus. Dinosaurs are Rob’s thing, but I gladly follow wherever his obsession leads him—under one condition: we must satisfy my obsession along the way.

That obsession? Food.

On our drive back from McCurtain county, we detoured off the main highway to go to a place I had to try. It’s a tiny town in Pittsburg county called Krebs. That’s the Little Italy of Oklahoma.

I bet you didn’t know Oklahoma had a Little Italy, did you?

In Krebs, there are three Italian restaurants that are institutions in the town. They’re all known for their pasta and their lamb fries (that’s lightly breaded, pan-fried cow testicles, by the way). There’s also a little market with a red, green, and white awning called Lovera’s.

Inside Lovera’s you can find a tantalizing assortment of homemade cheeses, fresh cut deli meats, and hand stuffed sausages. I fell in love with their traditional caciocavera cheese. Caciocavera is only made in this tiny town in rural Oklahoma, 2 hours away from the largest metropolitan city.

Lovera’s has been making the cheese for decades. It’s got a hint of mozzarella, a hint of gouda, and is sold in gourd-shaped rounds the size of your face. When I left Lovera’s that time many years ago, I thought I would never have a chance to try caciocavera again. Boy, was I wrong.

Over the last year or so, Lovera’s has really started to branch out. I started spying their jarred marinaras in the local farmer’s market in OKC. Then, the grocery store. Now, I can find just about everything they sell in their store in Krebs inside my grocery store in Moore, Oklahoma…more than 100 miles away.

My most recent Lovera’s find at Crest was a soft, small-batch goat cheese speckled with fresh cracked pepper. It came in a little pouch and cost less than $5. I grabbed it as soon as I spotted it without any idea of what I was going to actually do with it.

This recipe was born from my pure imagination. I wanted a pasta salad, I wanted some fresh veg, and I wanted to use my prized cheese possession. I threw that all together and ended up with a sweet & fresh pasta salad that sparked my memory and joy of my time in Krebs so many years ago.

Enjoy!

Balsamic Asparagus Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Fresh veggies tossed with penne, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 oz.) package penne pasta
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 bunch broccolini, chopped
  • 1 TBS. olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until slightly tender, 3-4 minutes. Add asparagus and broccolini, salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water to pan and cover. Steam until asparagus and broccolini are crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes. Let cool.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss pasta with veggie mixture. Pour over vinaigrette and toss again. Refrigerate until chilled.
  4. Toss pasta salad with goat cheese before serving.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until slightly tender, 3-4 minutes. Add asparagus and broccolini, salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water to pan and cover. Steam until asparagus and broccolini are crisp-tender, about 5-6 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss pasta with veggie mixture. Pour over vinaigrette and toss again. Refrigerate until chilled.

Toss pasta salad with goat cheese before serving.

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