I have been in total spring cleaning mode this past week.
Actually, make that spring cleaning-out-anything-and-everything-unnecessary-in-my-home mode.
Ever since I sold about half of my belongings and moved from a 3-bedroom house (plus a basement) to a 1-bedroom loft in downtown Kansas City, I have made it a point to try and keep things pretty minimal at home. And for the most part, I think I do a decent job. But somehow some extra “stuff” still has a way of slowly accumulating, mostly in those pesky closets that are so good at hiding junk. So I’m taking full advantage of spring cleaning season to clean house and get back to the absolute basics. From clothes, to home decor, to dishes, to camera equipment, to books, to dog toys, to makeup, to jewelry and more, I keep taking my friend Michelle’s advice and asking — “do I looooove it?” If not, it’s sayonnara, stuff!
My cleaning streak has also extended to the fridge, where it was high time for a little minimizing and (ahem) cleaning out. And as tends to happen, sometimes the randomest ingredients in there lead to the most delicious meals. Case in point? This fabulous asparagus pasta salad that I whipped together with some leftover ingredients that were about to go bad. It was like one big ode to my favorite Spring produce, and ended up being so tasty that I might intentionally buy the ingredients again to make another batch. And you might want to too…
The rockstar of the salad, of course, was a bunch of asparagus I had sitting in the fridge that was about to go bad. (Note some of the stalks going a little yellow and sinewy on the bottom!)
I tend to get a little over-excited about the arrival of fresh asparagus season in the spring and buy asparagus every single time I go to the grocery store. I don’t consider this a problem…except when a busy week somehow gets in the way of using it before it goes bad. I saved it in the knick of time though, and chopped it into some bite-sized pieces and then sauteed it up with some garlic and olive oil.
I always keep my pantry stocked with my favorite whole-wheat pasta, so I cooked up a batch to go with the asparagus. And then since it was warm outside and the windows were open, I decided to rinse it with cold water afterwards and go the pasta salad route.
I had some leftover arugula in the fridge (that was also on the verge of biting the dust), as well as some lemons (which I always keep on hand for lemon water), feta cheese, and a bit of fresh basil. So I tossed them all together and decided to see what happened.
Well, let’s be real, I had a pretty good guess of what would happen. This asparagus pasta salad was a total winner!!
All of those spring ingredients — asparagus, arugula and basil — tied together perfectly to give the salad a deliciously fresh and peppery and savory flavor. The lemon juice (and peel) gave it a bright kick of citrus. And the feta cheese was wonderfully creamy and tied everything together perfectly.
(Although if I make this again, I might add in a bit of red wine vinegar and use goat cheese for an even tangier edge. Or Parmesan if I’m feeling extra Italian. Oooh, and if you have some pine nuts on hand, I would also recommend toasting a few up to add in! This recipe is clearly just the starting point for all sorts of directions you could go!)
Plus, all of that green made this seem like the perfect salad to celebrate spring. :)
So cheers to spring cleaning, and surprise recipes that have a way of making your day!
juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice, 1-2 tablespoons zest)
1 tablespoon olive oil
(optional) 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 large handfuls fresh baby arugula
2/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (or Parmesan cheese)
1/4 cup loosely-packed julienned (or torn) fresh basil
freshly-cracked black pepper
(optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts)
Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
In a large stockpot filled with (generously-salted water*), cook pasta al dente according to package instructions. About 3 minutes before the pasta is done, stir the asparagus in with the pasta. When the pasta reaches al dente, pour the pasta and asparagus into a strainer (or strain out the hot water). Then rinse the pasta and asparagus with cold water until cooled.
Return pasta to the stockpot and toss with lemon juice and zest and olive oil (and red wine vinegar, if using) until combined. Add in arugula, cheese, basil, and a few pinches of fresh pepper (and pine nuts, if using), and toss until combined. Taste and season with additional black pepper, if needed.
Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
*It’s very important to be sure that your pasta water is well-salted, because this is the only time in the recipe that you can add salt.
I remember seeing this goodness on Instagram.
And thinking man, there is NO way that my fridge cleaning out would make something so delicious. Your fridge > My fridge.
But I love how “Spring” this feels! The perfect light lunch or dinner! Pinned!
This looks beautiful and so much like spring! I also can’t seem to help buying asparagus whenever this time of year comes around — it’s way too good to pass up!
I love this salad. I make a similar one with pepper and Parmesan cheese, sans asparagus all the time (once in a while with fresh cherry tomatoes). So easy healthy for a last minute side dish to like any meal.
Thanks, I’m glad you like it! : )
yum! Looks like this will be my lunch salad this week! Thanks!
Thanks Brittany, I hope you enjoy!
This is totally going on my list of things to eat this week! I’ve been hoarding asparagus lately as well, and have some that needs to be used in the next couple of days – perfect timing!
this looks perfect. as soon as it starts to feel spring-y, i instantly want spring veggies+pasta. i made one the other day (check out my blog if you’d like!) and then i made your orecchiette with brussels and sausage for my family this weekend. (er…orecchiette is one on my favorite pasta shapes).
anyway, i’m diggin’ this.
Thanks Tory! And your pasta (and those bagels – oh my) look relish! Cheers!
Yum! Looks delicious! I love how you used all food you already had on hand. That’s my favorite way to cook!
I love asparagus, and this recipe looks awesome! Your photos are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thanks Jess, I hope you enjoy!
This pasta salad looks so fresh and I love the bite of feta/goat cheese! Asparagus and arugula are such great spring veggies :)
Thanks Medha, I love me some spring veggies!
Oh I love everything you put in there, sounds wonderful!
So light and fresh! I love how springy this is…perfect for the (finally!) warm weather :)
I am coming over for lunch…or you can come clean out my fridge and make me lunch:)
Oooo love that lemon zest!!! Sounds like the perfect combination!! Pinned!
I saw this when I landed in foggy Seattle today, and it made me SO ready for summer!
this looks delicious and refreshing yumm
I love a fresh pasta salad. This one will be added to my list!
this looks so easy and delicious! great recipe
You have to love a simple, springy pasta like this! I definitely need to cram the crisper full of asparagus immediately. :)
This looks so good. What a great use of your produce in your fridge. I’m terrible at spring cleaning. I can’t seem to actually get it all done, but we’re trying. Looks like making this may trump my cleaning list though. haha.
This looks fantastic! My fridge won’t be helping me with this right now. I’ll have to make a trip to our indoor farmer’s market. Fresh asparagus! Can’t wait to try it!
Will you come clean out my fridge? This is perfection.
Oh my word! I love everything about this salad!!!
Love it, love it, love it! I’m inspired, I have some asparagus in the fridge and now I know what I;m going to do with it.
Thank you Celeste, I hope you enjoy it!
I appreciate the recommendation on a whole wheat pasta. It’s something I want to incorporate more into my diet but there are a lot of bad ones out there! I love that you don’t have any crazy ingredients and yet it is a completely original, delicious recipe. Well done!
Thanks Meggan, I hope you enjoy it!
this looks amazing and I cannot wait to try t out! I do have a quick question regarding the asparagus, the recipe is calling for 2 pounds, is that correct?
I substituted the red wine vinegar for lemon juice and it was fantastic!
That sounds great Michael, and I’m glad you liked it!
You have asparagus listed twice in the recipe. Is it one or two pounds?
Oops, thanks for catching that, yikes! It’s just 1 pound.
Made this tonight and in the spirit of cleaning out my fridge I added about 1/4 cup of diced red onion, half a diced tomato, and I crumbled a few slices of crispy prochuitto on top. Topped each serving with sliced chicken breast to make it a filling meal- I also think it’d be delicious topped with a poached egg.
Love these kinds of salads!
That’s awesome, Suzanne! Sounds yummy! : )
I made this the other night and absolutely LOVE it! The arugula & basil add such great flavor to it, and I was surprised at how well it kept for lunch the next day. I topped mine with grilled chicken breast. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Kate, we’re so glad to hear that, and grilled chicken is an awesome addition! :)
This recipe is featured in a BuzzFeed post, check it out here! https://www.buzzfeed.com/threeolivesbranch/15-amazing-asparagus-recipes-to-jump-into-spring-26qy9
Thanks for sharing with us Kim! :D
Easy and tasty recipes!
Absolutely amazing. I used the Red Wine Vinegar and Feta Cheese. This has been saved to my favorites!!
This is one of my go-to recipes for a few years for pasta salad. I think when most people see pasta salad, they aren’t expecting something this fresh and light, and they are pleasantly surprised! People always rave and ask what’s in it, and delight in the simplicity when paired with heavier cookout/potluck offerings.
I will say, however, I do consistently have to almost double the amount of lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil added to this salad if there is at all a chance it will sit longer than 5 minutes before serving it. The pasta seems to soak everything up so quickly, resulting in a dry pasta salad. ALSO — I usually roast the asparagus in the oven/on the grill instead of boiling it. It brings a nice roasty layer to the dish that compliments the light, lemon flavor well.
Made this tonight. Doubled the olive oil, lemon juice, zest and red wine vinegar. Used goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. Excellent! Next time I will use more asparagus as there did not seem to be enough . Not a fan of arugula but used it anyway. Everyone loved the finished product.
I added garlic and twice the veggies , then it was a 5!