Chilled Penne Pasta and Spinach Salad

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Chilled Penne Pasta and Spinach Salad
Serves 8
Choose your favorite pasta shape and GO FOR IT! For the Pesto in this recipe, our own Basil Pesto recipe is a marvelous choice. And don't be concerned what to do with any left over pesto you may have, just spoon it into an ice cube tray, freeze, pop them out and store in a zip-lock container.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups Penne Pasta, uncooked
  2. 4 cups Sweet Onion, cut 1/2" x 3"
  3. 2 Tbsp. Garlic Cloves, cut in 1/2" to 1/4" pieces
  4. 4 cups Mushrooms, slices 1/4"
  5. 1 each Roasted Red Peppers (15 oz. jar)
  6. 1⁄4 cup Pine Nuts, Whole, toasted
  7. 1⁄4 cup Pistachio Nuts, Whole
  8. 1⁄2 cup Pesto
  9. 1⁄3 cup Mayonnaise
  10. 1⁄3 cup Sour Cream
  11. 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice, Fresh
  12. 1 each Baby Spinach, Fresh (10 oz bag)
  13. 8 cups Water, Salted
  14. 1⁄2 cup Green Onion, cut in 1/2" segments
  15. 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  16. 1 cup Sun Dried Tomatoes, sliced 1/4"
  17. 1⁄2 cup Parmesan Cheese, Fresh grated
  18. - Kosher Salt, to taste
  19. - Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  20. 1⁄8 tsp. Hot Sauce (Tabasco)
  21. 4 drops Liquid Smoke
  22. - Ground Black Pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook penne pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Rinse in cold water, drain well and reserve in a large bowl.
  2. In a medium size, non-stick frying pan, add 2 TBSP olive oil and saute sweet onions unitl soft. Add green onions and garlic pieces to the partially cooked onions and continue to saute until onions are golden brown and garlic pieces are also soft and cooked through. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Add to cooled pasta.
  3. In same pan, add 2 TBSP olive oil once again , then add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are soft, then golden brown. Remove mushrooms from the pan, allow to cool and add to pasta.
  4. Add roasted peppers, pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese to the pasta bowl and toss all ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Toss again.
  5. Mix together pesto, mayonnaise, sour cream, and hot sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Toss this pesto dressing into pasta as desired to bind and flavor mix.
  7. Add 1/2 of baby spinach and toss into salad. Reserve remaining 1/2 of spinach to use as a bed on a serving platter.
  8. Portion and serve.
Nino Salvaggio http://www.ninosalvaggio.com/