This broccoli pasta salad is a lighter, healthier, seasonal version of the classic. Whole wheat noodles stand up well to a long marinade, and fresh cherries lend a sweet pop to every bite. Fast and easy, it’s ready in under 30 minutes!
There are lots of cliches floating around the interwebs about transitioning from one to two children, and I’m here today to tell you that they are all true.
Yes, you look like you haven’t showered in days (because you haven’t). Yes, you constantly second-guess yourself, even though you’ve done this whole mothering business once before. Yes, your house is even more of a natural disaster than you thought was possible.
Asher was born just a week before Cassian started the first grade, and I feel like I’ve been living in a perpetual state of catching up ever since. So it was with great surprise that I realized that Memorial Day is in fact this weekend. Alrighty then.
This means a few things. (1) The school year is coming to a close. YES. (2) Outdoor party season is imminent. Double YES. (3) I’m gonna need a portable, go-to, potluck party food at-the-ready.
Enter this broccoli pasta salad to save the day. Because when you’re as much of a train wreck as I am these days, ain’t nothing easier than pasta salad.
This isn’t your mama’s pasta salad. As much as I love the Italian dressing-doused slippery noodle variety, sometimes a girl just needs her veggies. This broccoli pasta salad with asparagus and cherries is a healthy, seasonal spin-off of the classic and pretty much perfect for this weekend’s upcoming Memorial Day festivities. Have pasta salad, will travel.
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Broccoli Pasta Salad Recipe Notes
I managed to make this in less than 30 minutes with the aid of my beloved and trusty mandoline slicer. I’ve had this guy for close to 10 years and use it constantly. With vegetable season coming on strong and fast, you won’t regret the relatively small investment.
Perfectly Blanched Vegetables for Broccoli Pasta Salad
I blanched the asparagus and broccoli for just a few minutes, and horror of horrors, I did not dunk them into an ice bath afterwards. (1) Who always has enough ice on hand for such luxuries? (2) Ain’t nobody got time for ice baths.
Blanching vegetables for your pasta salad needn’t be a chore involving multiple vessels and vast sums of ice. To get perfectly tender, yet crisp, vegetables every time, I following an easy method requiring zero extra bowls:
(1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season liberally with sea or kosher salt.
(2) Add the vegetables to the boiling water. Add them in increments if some vegetables will take longer to blanch than others. I added the broccoli first, then the asparagus two minutes later. Here is a super handy printable chart from My Frugal Home with various vegetable blanching times.
(3) Undercook the veggies by 30 seconds and immediately strain. Rinse the blanched asparagus and broccoli under cold running water for a minute or two until chilled. Blanched veggie perfection – no ice bath!
Choosing Pasta for your Broccoli Pasta Salad
I used whole wheat pasta from Severino. This is hands down my favorite pasta brand that can be purchased in a grocery store (I get mine at Whole Foods). I especially love gemelli and use it all the time. Evidence. Evidence.
Gemelli is great in a pasta salad for it’s shape, but you could also use rotini or penne. I prefer whole wheat for nutritional reasons, plus the texture holds up really well (and is even enhanced) after a long marinade in the fridge. No gummy noodles for the win.
Broccoli Pasta Salad Substitutions and Modifications
I added cherries to my salad for a sweet pop, and because….duh. Cherries are amazing. They have a short season, and I’m gonna use ’em while they’re here!
Sliced cucumbers and julienned carrots add lots of crunch, and fun texture.
I used lemon-thyme and if you have it, it’s so, so good. If you don’t have it, regular ol’ thyme is perfectly delicious. You could also use basil, chives, or parsley (or a combo!).
Make it Carnivorous: this would be fab with chicken and/or cured meats like pepperoni or salami
Make it Dairy-lovin’: ricotta salata all the way; if you can’t find it, fresh mozzarella pearls are nice
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Broccoli Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Cherries
This broccoli pasta salad is a lighter, healthy, seasonal version of the classic with whole wheat noodles that stand up well to a long marinade. Fast and easy, it's ready in just under 30 minutes!
- 1/2 pound whole wheat pasta
- 1 bunch asparagus chopped to 2" pieces
- 1 large head of broccoli chopped to bite-sized pieces
- kosher salt
- 1 large carrot julienned
- 1 english cucumber thinly sliced
- 4 scallions thinly sliced
- 2 c. cherries halved
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon-thyme leaves
- 3/4 c. olive oil
- 1/4 c. sherry vinegar or red wine
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
Bring two large pots of water to a boil.
While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the vegetables and cherries. Set the broccoli and asparagus aside, and add the carrots, cucumbers, scallions and cherries to a large bowl.
Liberally salt the boiling water. In the first pot, add the pasta and cook to package instructions.
In the second pot, add the broccoli and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the asparagus and cook both for 1 additional minute. Strain the vegetables and rinse under cool running water for a few minutes. Give them a shake to release as much water as possible, then add the blanched vegetables to the raw vegetables and cherries.
Drain the pasta, run under cool running water to stop the cooking process, shake, then add the pasta to the other ingredients.
Make the vinaigrette. In a small jar with a lid, add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. Shake vigorously until emulsified.
Add the thyme and vinaigrette to the pasta salad, toss to incorporate, and chill for a least 1 hour, and up to 1 day. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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