Assembling a Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is not only great all year round (in my humble opinion), it's a quick and easy dish to make.
Here's a simple, efficient way to put one (or several) together:
1. Select Your Pasta Choice
A few examples include: Elbow macaroni, farfalle (the bowtie-shaped ones), fusilli (the spirals) or campanelle (they have a tulip or bell shape, to me). And there are many others to consider!
Once you've decided, cook 1 pound in slated, boiling water; drain and toss with olive oil.
2. Choose Up to Three Veggies
Pick from sliced bell peppers, cooked green peas, cooked broccoli florets, chopped cooked green beans, a shredded carrot, cooked edamame, diced celery, a peeled, sliced cucumber or corn kernels. Use 1 ½ cups total.
3. Which Protein do You Want?
A few examples to choose from would be diced cooked ham, chopped chipped ham, chopped cooked chicken or turkey, diced hard-boiled egg, chopped cooked shrimp or flaked canned tuna.
Pick one. Use 1 cup, chilled.
4. A Few Flavor Boosters
The following will add immensely to the taste; try: Toasted almonds, chopped chives, chopped chives, pumpkin seeds, diced preserved lemon, pickled onions, chopped cilantro and grated Parmesan (among others of your own choosing). Select up to 3; use 3 Tbs to ¼ cup each.
5. The Dressing
Are you a big fan of both French and Italian dressing and can't always decide which one to use? Next time, combine a bit of the two! (My mother's been doing this for years, and now I do.) It's truly delicious (and also makes an awesome meat marinade!).
Here's a quick recipe for Herb Vinaigrette:
½ cup of olive oil
¼ cup of white wine vinegar
½ tsp of salt
½ tsp of pepper
1 Tbsp of chopped basil
1 Tbsp of chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped scallion
Toss this dressing with all the other ingredients.
Season the salad with freshly-ground pepper and salt.
Chill or serve right away.
Four Pasta Varieties
Bucatini is a long, thin tube pasta with a hearty taste that can be paired equally well with a light sauce or a rich, meaty one. It's usually sold in large or Italian markets. A good substitute for this: Spaghetti.
Orecchiette-It's oval pasta with a slight bowl shape that will hold little splashes of cheese or sauce. The edges are thicker than the center for a texture contrast. A good replacement: Cavatelli (or other bite-size pasta).
Agnolotti are crescent-shaped, similar to ravioli and can be stuffed with a variety of fillings like cheese, meat and/or vegetables. A good instead of: Ravioli or Tortelllini.
Linguine-This thin ribbon pasta is flat and narrow, which is ideal for a light creamy sauce. A good swap for this: Thin Spaghetti ( you can also use regular, but I'd go with thin first) or Vermicelli.
Sources: “Around the Table: Create Your Own! Use Your Noodle”-Parade magazine, July 7, 2013 and “Pasta Perfect” by Erin Simpson Lozier-Better Homes and Gardens, Sept. 2012