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Celebrate summer with pasta salad

Summer’s in full swing in the Ocean State, with company arriving, picnics, porch parties, and so many reasons to make some great salads. They’re cool, refreshing, and they can serve as the main dish or as an accompaniment to your main course.

What’s more, they are usually easy on the budget, made with readily available ingredients such as pasta, rice, or couscous. You can be creative and use what you have in the shelf or fridge to add to the basic starch ingredient. With fresh veggies coming available in the garden and at farmers’ markets, there are some good and colorful choices to mix in, such as green or red peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, cukes, spinach, and lettuce. To turn a side salad into a vegetarian main dish, just add some hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters, or grilled tofu, for example.

When it comes to pasta, it’s fun to try out some new shapes. Instead of the same-old/same-old elbows, why not cook up some colorful bow ties or spirals.

Here are some ideas for winning salad combinations:

- Grilled tofu, brown and wild rice, celery, onions, blanched broccoli flowerettes, and vinaigrette

- Tortellini, black olives, celery, red onions, and cherry tomatoes in a garlic Italian dressing

- Fresh spinach, cubes of feta cheese, and cooked black beans in lemon-juice vinaigrette dressing

Pasta Salad with Grilled Zucchini & Olives

1-1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped

½ cup chopped red onion

Dash garlic salt

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing zucchini

1-1/2 pounds zucchini, diagonally cut into ½-inch slices

1 pound dried penne or other tube pasta

2/3 cup kalamata olives

6 ounces ricotta or feta cheese, diced

3/4 cup torn fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

In large bowl, stir together tomatoes, onion, garlic salt, vinegar, and ¼ cup olive oil. Lightly brush zucchini with olive oil; grill 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to small bowl.

Cook pasta until just tender; drain. Add hot pasta to tomato mixture; toss well. Cool slightly; stir in zucchini, olives, cheese, basil, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temp. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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