Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Easy Summer Pasta Salad

Pasta salad. It's just about everyone's favorite. It's easy to make, easy to transport, and is one of the easiest recipes to switch up and add or take out things you don't like. It can be mayo-based or vinaigrette dressed. Almost any shape of pasta works, it's all up to you.

Myself, I prefer penne pasta when making pasta salad, and I always make a homemade vinaigrette. Lots of people use Italian dressing and that's great too, I just prefer to make my own. I love adding as many vegetables as I have on hand, fresh and colorful, and that can change the way my salad tastes. It can go from herby and fresh with lots of bell pepper, Italian parsley and carrots to spicy and Asian-influenced with edamame, sliced radish and cucumber.

Let's start with the dressing. Everyone should have a basic vinaigrette dressing they can whip up without thinking about it. This is my personal favorite, using Dijon mustard, and it's super delicious.

You will need-

  • 1/4 vinegar- I like Champagne vinegar or red wine vinegar, and sometimes I use half vinegar/half lemon juice
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt, fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of thyme, minced finely
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
Combine everything in a jar, cover and shake well until completely blended.

Now cook your pasta. Like I said, I prefer penne, but you can use anything, even spaghetti if you break it into smaller lengths. Farfalle is nice also and looks pretty with the vegetables. Always cook pasta in lots of salty water- and salty like sea water. This is the only way to season the pasta itself, so make sure you always use salt in the water. Cook to al dente and drain well. Rinse the pasta with plenty of cold water to stop the cooking process. 

In a large bowl toss the pasta with your choice of chopped vegetables. I like to use olives; chopped onion; chopped bell pepper or banana pepper; shredded carrots; chopped cucumber; sliced radishes; chopped fresh herbs; fresh green peas or snow peas; drained canned garbanzo beans; halved grape tomatoes- of course not all at the same time, but whatever I have on hand. Toss the mixture with enough dressing to moisten, cover and refrigerate until cold. Toss again before serving, adding more dressing if you need to. 

Some people like to add cubed cheese, if that sounds good to you, go for it. I like to make BIG batches of it so I can snack and lunch on it for a few days, so I leave cheese out. You can also add cut up Italian meats like salami or pepperoni too. Grilled chicken or shrimp makes it a whole meal, but I think it's just fine alongside a grilled burger, steak or chicken. Simple, and delicious.

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