Zachary’s current school has a great lunch program, but in the summers the kids are responsible for bringing lunch every Friday. OK, sure, that’s not bad, right? Except I found myself occasionally filled with dread on Thursday nights, trying to figure out lunch. For one thing, it’s almost Friday. I’m just DONE by Friday. For another, we grocery shop on Saturday so by Thursday/Friday there’s not a lot of remaining decent produce to pack much of anything. If my irritation once a week for one summer is a good indication, I better work on this whole lunch thing before public school starts.
You’re probably starting to get the connection here that pasta salads are a great idea for kid lunches. They pack well, you can load them with vegetables or protein, and they are forever adaptable. You certainly don’t have to just use pasta, either. Other grains like quinoa, rice, farro, and bulgur all work equally well. Pesto is a favorite of mine because I feel like it can be eaten at any temperature and be delicious. Z is a huge basil fan, so it works for him, too. The kids can’t take nuts to their school, so I often make it nutless (or just separate a small batch before adding the nuts) and it’s still great.
Zachary, however, has recently decided he doesn’t care for asparagus (his former second favorite vegetable) any more unless it’s basically charred to a crisp. Green beans (his current favorite vegetable) make an excellent replacement for (or addition to) the asparagus in this salad. But really, just use whatever you want. My plan for this summer is basically to eat a lot of pasta/grain salads for dinner on Thursday nights and reap the benefits when it comes to packing Friday lunches. 🙂
Tortellini Salad with Pesto, Asparagus, and Tomatoes
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends trimmed, and the rest cut into 1.5″ pieces
12 oz. tortellini of your choice, cooked according to package directions
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pesto, storebought or homemade
shaved Parmesan (optional)
Bring water to a boil in a 3 qt. saucepan. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water, and the asparagus pieces. Cook for just 2 minutes, until asparagus is tender-crisp but still bright green. Drain or remove with a strainer and immediately plunge into the ice water.
Toss the cooked tortellini, tomatoes, pesto, and asparagus together. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add shaved Parmesan if desired. Serve cold or at room temperature.