½ pound whole grain bow-tie pasta or rotini or penne
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes (10 ounces), sliced into thin rounds
1 ear fresh corn, shucked (about ½ cup fresh corn kernels)
½ to ¾ cup crumbled feta or diced avocado
Jalapeño herb pesto
1 cup lightly packed fresh parsley
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro or basil
1 to 2 medium jalapeños, roughly chopped (remove seeds and membranes for less heat), optional
1 medium lemon, juiced
1 medium garlic clove, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) or slivered almonds
½ cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about a cup of cooking water. Drain and return to pot. Set aside.
Toast the pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are making little popping noises and turning lightly golden on the edges. Set aside to cool a bit.
To make the pesto, combine the herbs, jalapeño, lemon, garlic and salt in a food processor. Pour in the pepitas. Pulse a few times and then run the machine while drizzling in the olive oil until the mixture is well blended, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
Pour enough pesto into the pasta to lightly coat it once tossed (you might not quite need all of it). Add a small splash of pasta cooking water and toss well. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and add the drained black beans, sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh corn and feta or avocado. Stir until combined. This salad tastes best after it's had a chance to marinate for about 30 minutes, but you can serve it right away if need be.
Make it vegan/dairy-free: Omit the cheese and use diced avocado instead.
Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free pasta.
Make it nut free: Be sure to use pepitas, which are seeds, rather than almonds or another nut in the pesto.
Storage suggestions: This recipe keeps well for several days in the refrigerator, covered. Leftovers are great served warm or chilled. If you want to change it up/stretch it out, add some fresh, leafy greens and a drizzle of lemony dressing.