pasta salad with roasted carrots and sunflower seed dressing

Almost every year, I attempt to set off the summer with a pasta salad that aspires to be everything the underseasoned, swmming-in-mayo pasta salads many of us grew up dreading were not. That is, unsoggy pasta that still has a bite to it, dressings with crunch and acidity, and vegetables that are there for substance, not just flecks of color. But this is the first year I did it by public polling, and by public I mean, my husband keeps reminding me how much he likes roasted carrots, Sara, who helps out behind the scenes here, reminded me how much she likes the roasted carrots at the Dig Inn chain, and many of you have told me over the years about nut allergies and nut-free schools and workplaces, which means it’s high time to give sunflower seeds their time in the spotlight. (Besides, I’d choose sunflower seed butter over almond or cashew butter any day, wouldn’t you?)

sad from the store but taste fine
ready to roast

Look, I don’t know anything about dating or making fashion choices by algorithm, but I think the results of this new-recipe-by-polling were exceptional. Carrots are out at the markets right now, but have also come a long way at the grocery store, where I bought these rainbow pretties, although monochrome carrots work too. While they’re in the oven for a quick, high-heat blast, you grind sunflowers (but not all the way, no powder here) with garlic, parmesan (if you wish), lemon zest, and some carrot greens, and if yours came without, a few kale leaves. The green is important here (and I should have used more) because the natural color of sunflower seeds is a bit gray/beige, not exactly the summery brightness one hopes “sunflower” would impart. You then stir in olive oil, lemon juice, more salt, and pepper, more than you think you’ll need because carrots are sweet, pasta is neutral, and you’re going to want the seasoning to stretch across all of it.

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