Udon Noodles Primavera with Tomato Vinaigrette

Here's a fusion cuisine that you won't often see on a menu - Nipponese meets Italian Cuisine. I wanted to make a udon noodle salad to take to work and found myself inspired to make an Italian primavera salad instead. Really, the idea was born out of wanting not to waste the bit of basil oil/pesto I made in my blender that I was too lazy to scrap out to get every last drop. This is what comes from cooking in batches, I was prepping veggies, making basil oil and cooking the udon noodles pretty much at the same time when all the different meals melded together into one dish. Waste not want not. With the basil oil sludge remaining in the blender, I thought to make a vinaigrette. I didn't want to use more oil in the vinaigrette but I needed to make enough to dress the salad. Upon opening the cabinets to see what I had on had, I discovered a can of no-salt diced tomatoes. I used the juice and half of the dice tomatoes, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, the basil oil that was left in the blender - about 2 tablespoons, salt, pepper, and dried Italian Herbs and a pinch of sugar to make the dressing. Voila! What was going to be Asian turned out to be Italian. Marco Polo - thanks for bringing the noodles to the Mediterranean, without you, I'm nothing! While you can use any pasta noodle for this dish, surprisingly, the udon noodles worked great. They are more tender than regular spaghetti, giving the pasta salad an almost homemade pasta taste. Feel free to substitute fettuccine, linguine or some other long pasta noodle of choice. Basil Oil does not have to be used - but since that's what I was making, I used it. Whiz in a few fresh basil leaves and some good olive oil into the vinaigrette. Eventually, I'll post photos and a how-to for making basil oil this summer. It's so easy!

Udon Primavera Pasta with Tomato Vinaigrette Ingredients:
For Salad -
  • 1 Package Uncooked Udon Noodles - cooked according to package directions, drained, rinsed & cooled
  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus - woody stems cut off, and pieces cut into 1/4 inch lengths
  • 2 Medium Carrots - Coarsely Grated
  • 2 Celery Stalks - small dice
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 Medium Zucchini - small dice
  • 1 Medium White or Yellow Onion - small dice
  • 4 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste

For Vinaigrette:
  • 1 - 14-16 ounce can no-salt Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Italian Seasonings (or a combination of Thyme, Parsley, Oregano or Marjoram, Basil & Pinch of Rosemary)
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sugar
Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. When water reaches the boil, add in a tablespoon of kosher salt. Cook udon noodles according to package directions - about 10 minutes. About 1 minute before the noodles are done, add in the asparagus pieces to blanch Drain, rinse and cool the noodles/asparagus. Toss noodles with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking and set aside.
  2. Grate the carrots and dice the celery and add them to the udon noodle/asparagus mixture.
  3. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the diced zucchini and saute another 3-4 minutes, or just until the zucchini is knife tender. Season lightly with a pinch of kosher salt and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. Set the sauted vegetables aside to cool.
  4. While the sauted veggies are cooling, make the vinaigrette.
  5. In a blender or food processor, combine the juice from the diced tomatoes, half of the diced tomatoes (reserving the rest for the pasta salad), Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasonings and basil leaves. Puree on high speed until all ingredients are incorporated - about 45 seconds. While the blender or food processor is on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify. Season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and pinch of salt. Adjust seasonings accordingly. If the vinaigrette is too acidic, whiz in more a bit more olive oil, another pinch of sugar and a few more of the diced tomatoes.
  6. Add the reserved diced tomatoes, along with the cooled sauted vegetable mixture to the udon noodles. Toss gently to combine. Pour the tomato vinaigrette over the noodle/vegetable mixture and again, toss gently to combine. Makes 8 servings. Can be eaten at room temperature or well-chilled.

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