Snap Pea Artichoke Pasta Salad

Here's a big yummy salad to bring to your spring barbecues.  Cut the recipe in half for your family or small groups (except use all of the artichokes in two jars of marinated artichokes). The sugar snap peas are cooked for 3 minutes in the pasta water to bring out their sweetness and then shocked in ice water to keep their color.  Between the marinated artichoke hearts and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese, the salad has lots of flavors and doesn't require much dressing.  Use your favorite balsamic vinaigrette recipe or just simply use olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crushed garlic as directed below.  For even more flavor add fresh basil, red onion and/or fresh chives.  I use a high fiber or whole grain pasta to boost the nutrition even more.  Enjoy!  
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Salad Ingredients

1 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed 12 oz penne pasta or any similar size pasta of your choice 2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in halves 3 jars marinated artichoke hearts, mostly drained and chopped 4 cups baby spinach, washed 1 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese fresh basil, fresh chives, red onion sliced thin and chopped to taste (optional)

Salad Directions

1) Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Add the sugar snap peas to the boiling water and set a timer for 3 minutes.  While the peas cook, fill a medium bowl halfway with ice and then fill up with cold water.   As soon as the timer goes off, remove the peas from the boiling water with a large slotted spoon and place into the ice bath for a couple of minutes to shock the peas and preserve their bright green color.
2) Bring the cooking water back to boiling and add the pasta, cooking according to the  directions on the package.  
3) While the pasta is cooking, cut the grape tomatoes in half with a sharp knife.  
4) Drain the cooked pasta and pour into a large bowl to cool.  While cooling, chop the marinated artichokes on a cutting board.  Scrape the artichokes and marinade oil from the cutting board into the cooling pasta.  It is good to keep some of the marinade from the artichokes to prevent the pasta from sticking and to add flavor. Repeat until all of the artichokes have been chopped and added to the pasta.
5) Add halved tomatoes, snap peas, spinach and cheese to the pasta mixture.  Also add torn fresh basil, chopped fresh chives and/or chopped red onion if desired for more flavor, and toss together until well combined.  Add some balsamic vinaigrette just prior to serving and toss.  Add vinaigrette as the bowl empties as needed, but go easy on the dressing.  Enjoy!

Balsamic vinaigrette Dressing Ingredients

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 2 cloves crushed garlic (optional) 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1/2 tsp dijon mustard salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic vinaigrette Dressing Directions

1) Combine vinegar, garlic, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a container with a lid. Put the lid on and shake vigorously.