This asparagus pasta salad is best made when asparagus is in season in your area and at its finest in flavor.
Wash the asparagus and chop of the tough ends.
Fill a large pot that is big enough to cook the pasta about half full with water. Add the salt and bring the water to a boil.
Before you cook the pasta, we will use this pot to blanch the asparagus, so one the water is boiling place the asparagus in and cook for about 3 minutes, until just tender.
Turn off the heat and use a slotted spoon to remove the asparagus from the water into a bowl. Run the bowl under cold water. This will help to keep the asparagus nice and green and stop the cooking process.
Drain the asparagus well and using a sharp knife cut each one to about 1 inch long pieces, leaving the tips whole.
Bring the water back to a boil and put the penne to cook. Cook to al dente, so the pasta is still firm, but cooked and tender. Remove, drain the water and run the pasta under cold water, drain again.
Gently stir together the cooled pasta and asparagus, in a large salad bowl.
In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest,chopped basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the salad and gently using a spatula, stir to coat.
Add the tomatoes, gently stir in.
This salad is delicious served at room temperature. Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator.
Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese once the salad is served if using.