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Pasta and lettuce salad

india Updated: Jul 31, 2010 23:49 IST

The trick to making a successful pasta salad is to undercook the pasta slightly so that it doesn't become soggy if you don't serve the salad right away.

What you need
1 large red bell pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pureed
Salt to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar,
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh peas or 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and broken into 2-inch pieces
500 gm fusilli
1/3 cup freshly grated or slivered Parmesan
200 gm baby lettuce, rinsed
and dried

What to do
1. Roast the pepper. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and slice thin. Combine in a bowl with one of the garlic cloves, salt to taste and 2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Set aside while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use a pasta insert if you have one.

2. To peel the tomatoes, drop them into the water after it comes to a boil and leave for 30 seconds. Transfer the tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. (Do not drain the water from the pot.)

Peel the tomatoes, and cut in half across the equator. Place a strainer over a bowl, and squeeze out the seeds over the strainer. Rub the seed pods against the strainer to extract the flavourful juice, and discard the seeds. Chop the tomatoes very finely, and add to the bowl with the juice.

Add the peppers, balsamic vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, if possible. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Bring the water back to a boil, salt generously and add the peas or green beans. Parboil for four or five minutes until just tender. Remove from the water with a skimmer (or lift out with the pasta insert) and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and add to the tomatoes.

4. Bring the water back to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente and firm to the bite. Drain and toss with the tomato mixture. Add the basil and Parmesan. Toss again. Line a platter, bowl or individual plates with a bed of arugula. Top with the pasta and serve.

Advance preparation
You can make the dish through step 3 several hours before serving. You can cook the pasta and toss with the tomato mixture up to an hour before serving, but make sure to undercook the pasta slightly so that it doesn't become soggy.

If you want to cook the pasta the night before, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil (reduce the olive oil in the tomato sauce by 1 tablespoon) and refrigerate.