Pasta Salad with Shrimp and Asparagus

This recipe is loosely based on the Asparagus and Red Peppers pasta salad in the Cook's Illustrated "The Best Recipe" cookbook. 

1-1/2 lbs asparagus, tough ends snapped off
6 large red bell peppers
(or mix red and yellow peppers; I end up using maybe 5-1/2 peppers)
3 lbs shrimp
4-5 tsps minced garlic
2-3 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup juice and 1 tspn grated zest from 3 or 4 lemons
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 pound short, bite-sized pasta such as fusilli, farfalle, or orecchiette (a spiralled pasta works best
15 large fresh basil leaves, shredded (I use a lot more)
1/3 cup (1.2 oz) grated parmesan cheese

Roast the asparagus and bell peppers (see Note 1 below). Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces, and the roasted peppers into 1/2-inch squares.

Peel and devein shrimp. Combine minced garlic, the 2-3 tbls olive oil, and salt in medium bowl. Add shrimp and allow to marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Bring large pot of water to boil (with shrimp boil spice mixture if desired). Add shrimp, return to boil and let boil about a minute. Immediately drain and submerge shrimp in ice water. Cut shrimp into two pieces (depending on size).

The above steps can be completed day before. Refrigerate asparagus, roasted peppers, and shrimp until the next day.

For dressing, whisk lemon juice and zest, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1-1/2 tsps salt, pepper, and 1 cup olive oil in bowl.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain, whisk dressing again, and add about 1/2 - 2/3 dressing to hot pasta. Add asparagus and roasted peppers. If pasta is still hot, allow to cool. Add parmesan cheese, basil to taste, and shrimp. Toss and add more dressing if desired.


Prepare asparagus either by grilling or broiling as follows:

Grilling - light the grill.  Brush the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium heat, turning occasionally, until streaked with light grill marks, 6 or 8 minutes.

Broiling - Preheat broiler.  Toss the asparagus with olive oil on rimmed baking sheet and line up spears in a single layer.  Place plan about 4 inches underneath broiler.  Broil, shaking pan occasionally to rotate spears, until tender and browned in some spots, 5 to 7 minutes.

(Note:  Asparagus cooked in either of these methods is MUCH better than simmering in water or steaming)

Prepare the bell peppers either by grilling or broiling as follows:

Core, seed, and cut the peppers into relatively flat pieces. If using a grill, preheat grill and grill peppers SKIN SIDE DOWN over high heat until the skin side is completely blackened. If using broiler, arrange on baking sheet protected with aluminum foil and broil SKIN SIDE UP until skin is completely blackened; you may need to turn the pan or rearrange peppers. Whether grilling or broiling, don't worry, the skin side is supposed to be totally black. Place peppers in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool for 15 minutes. Peel off charred blackened skin.


The Cook's Illustrated "The Best Recipe" cookbook has a basic recipe for pasta salad for which they provide several variations. My version is based on their "Asparagus and Red Peppers" variation; I have added shrimp and replaced the chives with basil.  I also doubled the dressing, but I don't necessarily use it all - I eyeball the salad while I add the dressing until I think there's enough.  The salad is a fair amount of work to create because some of the ingredients require individual prep, and in fact I generally make it over two days, but it is absolutely terrific and I really love it.