Asparagus Pasta Salad with Garlic-Preserved Lemon Dressing

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Being a person who doesn't lean into cooking repetition, I have moments where I forget different types of meals even exist. That is, until I remember, and I then spend a few weeks obsessed. Take, for example, this asparagus pasta salad. I had forgotten that pasta, in what we call a 'salad,' was a thing. That is until I was grocery shopping, desperately hungry, and picked up a premade version from the cold case. And thus, my current pasta salad obsession was born. 

Close-up side photo of a asparagus pasta salad with chickpeas and farfalle pasta

Asparagus pasta salad

I'm known to add various vegetables to my pasta salad. However, this time of year, when spring and summer overlap, is for asparagus. This asparagus pasta salad features one of my favorite combinations. There is the tail-end of the asparagus season and the beginning of basil. While I shared a hot pasta dish, I figured it was time to share this combination in a cold dish as well! 

The two are a great flavor combination, both assertive in their own way. Of course, if you look at the recipe, you'll see I've used a few assertive flavors in the overall recipe—this pasta salad is multifaceted! 

Asparagus Treatment 

The key to using asparagus for pasta salad is focusing on texture. I like the asparagus to be tender but still hold shape and have just a bit of bite—no mushy asparagus, please!

To do this, I recommend a hot grill or broiler. The high heat creates nice browning on the outside without completely melting the asparagus. I also like to treat the scallions in the same way, creating crispy bits of onion flavor to accompany the asparagus pieces. 

The Pasta

In terms of pasta, I like shapes that are easy to eat in a single stab of a fork, grab onto any dressing, and have nooks available for vegetable pieces. These desires are why I typically reach for farfalle, otherwise known as bowtie. The pleats of the pasta make it perfect for capturing dressing and asparagus pieces.

As a bonus, if you're looking for a fun project, you can try making this shape. We're not picky here; if you already have a pasta shape you like on hand, use that. 

Wide photo of a asparagus pasta salad with chickpeas and farfalle pasta

Garlicky-Preserved Lemon Dressing

Regarding the dressing, I prefer something luscious that coats the noodles well. I don't skimp on the olive oil when I go for a more acid-based dressing, like the one featured in this recipe. 

For this dressing, the olive oil absorbs the garlic and preserved lemon flavor and evenly distributes it to the pasta, asparagus, and chickpeas. If you don't have preserved lemon, use a solid squeeze of lemon juice and a good amount of zest.

Chickpeas + Asparagus Pasta Salad = Love. 

When I eat a pasta salad, it's typically a whole lunch. As such, I like to round out the dish with protein. This way, I can pack it in a cooler, take it on the road, and have a filling lunch after a hike. 

Beyond this role, chickpeas help add just a bit of texture. Compared to beans and lentils, chickpeas have more structure. This bit of firmness helps add just enough contrast to the pasta, creating a layer of textures to keep things interesting.

Close-up side photo of a asparagus pasta salad with chickpeas and farfalle pasta
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Asparagus Pasta Salad with Garlic-Preserved Lemon Dressing

4 servings
This late-spring, early summer asparagus pasta salad features charred asparagus, a garlicky-preserved lemon dressing, and a cast of secondary characters to make it a complete pasta salad meal.
  • 8 ounces asparagus (226g)
  • 2-3 scallions (60g)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil (60ml)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced preserved lemon
  • 1 tablespoon champagne or other light vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher Salt (if needed)
  • 8 ounces pasta (226g)
  • 1 cup cooked and drained chickpeas (165g)
  • 2 ounces of crumbled feta (56g)
  • ¼ cup loosely packed basil (8g, plus more for serving)
  • Coarsely cracked black pepper (for serving)
  1. To prep the asparagus: Preheat your broiler on high.
  2. Trim the ends from the asparagus and scallions. If the asparagus and scallions are thicker, run your knife down the length, cutting each stalk in half. Then slice both, on the bias, 1 ½" to 2" long pieces–a size similar to the length of the pasta you are using.
  3. Place the sliced asparagus and scallions on a sheet tray. Drizzle with olive oil, add the salt, and toss until well coated. Place under the broiler and cook until the asparagus and scallions are beginning to char, 2-3 minutes (but watch carefully—the time depends on your broiler and how far away the tray is from the heat source). Remove and let cool slightly.
  4. To make the dressing: Measure the olive oil into a small pot over medium heat. Add the minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in preserved lemon, vinegar, and sugar. Taste and add salt as needed.
  5. To assemble the salad: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl. Add the broiled asparagus, chickpeas, feta, basil, and dressing. Toss well to combine and let rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. Finish with more basil and black pepper.
Salt in the dressing will depend mainly on how much salinity your preserved lemons bring to the dressing. Taste and adjust as needed. If not using preserved lemons, swap in 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and around ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
Close-up side photo of a asparagus pasta salad with chickpeas and farfalle pasta

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Welcome to my little internet nook. On this site you'll find over a thousand vegetarian recipes, pantry knowledge, and more. I'm ever obsessed with food from gardening, cooking, and preserving. I hope you'll find endless inspiration on these pages and visit often. 

Virtual hugs, Erin (aka: e.l.l.a.)

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