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Asparagus Pasta Salad

It's spring and asparagus abounds.  I love asparagus.  I have memories of stopping at the road side with my mother and picking wild asparagus.  She had some in the garden, but that never seemed to be enough.  All the asparagus I ever ate as a kid and young adult came from the wild or from her garden.  It wasn't until I was on my own that I actually bought asparagus in the store.  I noticed the difference right away. 

So it's been my desire to scatter the asparagus seeds along the back fence of our new property.  I know, I will share it with the deer, the bunnies and the occasional cattle that roam; but there will be enough for us all, I am sure.

We had a carry-in lunch at work yesterday and one of the nurses' brought in an asparagus pasta salad, which I had never had before.  It was wonderful.  Of course, that got the ideas flowing and away we went with our own version.

Roasted Asparagus Pasta Salad with Lemon and Crumbled Goat Cheese

1 lb Penne Pasta
2 T Olive Oil
2 Gallons water

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until tender (al dente).  Drain well.  Lightly toss with olive oil.  Set aside to cool.

1 lb Fresh Asparagus

Place the asparagus on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Do not overcook.  You want the asparagus still firm and cruncy to hold up in the salad.  Remove from oven when done.  Remove asparagus from hot sheet pan (to avoid furthe cooking) and cool completely.  TIP:  Can blanche the asparagus as well, if you dont want to heat up the oven or the house).

1-1/2 t fresh Garlic, mashed
2 T white balsamic vinegar (champaign or white wine vinegar works nicely)
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 T Dijon mustard
3/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 T fresh lemon zest
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper (if you want a kick - add crushed red pepper - 1 T)
3/4 c (one small container) crumbled goat cheese
1/2 c thinly sliced proscuitto (can substitute crumbled cooked smoked bacon)

In a bowl, combine the garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, pepper and mustard.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify the mixture.

To a large bowl, add the colled pasta, colled asparagus and toss.  Add the dressing mix to the pasta and asparagus, along with the cumbled goat cheese and the prosciutto (or bacon).  Toss together.  Chill in the fridge before serving.

To add a crunch to the dish, add toasted nuts (sliced almonds, pecans or walnuts would work nicely).


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