Vegan Broccoli Pasta Salad with Fresh Italian Herb Dressing

When I was a kid, my mom would let me pick a pasta salad from the deli counter at our local grocer every week.  I always looked forward to it, and I almost always picked the same pasta salad.  It had broccoli, sliced black olives, and a tangy vinaigrette.  While I was coming up with this recipe for pasta salad, I couldn't help but think of "my salad".  

Fresh basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley bring a freshness to this sun-dried tomato-balsamic dressing.  It tastes like summer, and perfectly complements a pasta salad with broccoli, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and sliced olives.  Whether you top it with vegan parmesan or not, this pasta salad has delicious, herbaceous flavor!

This pasta salad works well as a side for a cookout, as a hearty lunch or as a tasty summer meal!

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Vegan Broccoli Pasta Salad with Fresh Italian Herb Dressing

Dressing:

2 garlic cloves, sliced in half

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup olive oil

6 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), oil drained off

2 Tbsp fresh oregano

¼ cup flat leaf parsley

½ cup fresh basil

2 sprigs of thyme, just the leaves (toss out the stems)

½ tsp dijon mustard

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Pasta Salad:

3 cups fresh broccoli florets

1 16 ounce package of farfalle pasta

1 5 ounce can of sliced black olives, drained

1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Vegan parmesan, optional - to top

Blanching Broccoli

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water is at a rolling boil, submerge the broccoli florets for 15 seconds, then remove and rinse with very cold water.  Add to a large mixing bowl.  Use the same pot of boiling water to prepare the pasta.  Follow the directions on the pasta package, drain, rinse with cold water, and allow it to cool.

Fresh Italian Herb Dressing

2.  In a skillet, add garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper flakes over high heat.  As soon as it starts to sizzle, turn it down to low and allow the garlic and red pepper flakes to infuse the oil.  Cook over low heat for 1-2 minutes.  Do not allow the garlic to brown or burn.  Add it, and everything else listed under "Dressing" to a food processor or blender.  Blend until very smooth.  Taste, and adjust seasonings (Salt? More balsamic? etc).

Broccoli Pasta Salad with Fresh Italian Herb Dressing

3. Add everything EXCEPT the farfalle pasta to the large mixing bowl with the broccoli.  I like to coat the vegetables and get the dressing into every nook and cranny.  Once it is well-combined, add the pasta, and stir around a bit.  Serve topped with vegan parmesan.

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