It’s finally spring — and it feels like summer.
No, Meredith; stop right there.
I made a promise to myself when I was wearing my winter coat in April that I would not complain about high temperatures until July. After the winter that wouldn’t end, Mother Nature deserved a break.
But does it have to be this warm this soon?
I don’t know about you, but when it’s warm outside, the last thing I want to do is cook. Even with central air conditioning, standing in front of a hot stove makes me grumpy, no matter what I’m making. And you can forget baking. My stove pretty much stays off from the moment new buds appear on my trees until they turn orange in the fall.
Luckily, my husband likes to grill. Dinners this time of year usually consist of me staying in the cool house, occasionally opening the door to the back deck to ask how much longer, while he stands in front of the grill, drinking a beer and listening to music that prompts our teenage daughter to make age jokes.
She has no appreciation for actual music.
The only downside of this plan is that I get sick of grilled food quickly. I only eat red meat once a week and while I love chicken and enjoy experimenting with marinades, even that can seem repetitive.
Pasta salads to the rescue.
Growing up, my mom always had an oversized bowl of pasta salad in the refrigerator. It was the classic recipe — tri-colored rotini pasta in an Italian dressing with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The salad would usually last a couple of days, as everyone would take a spoonful here or a bowlful there, adding ingredients based on what else was available: sandwich meat, leftover chicken, red onions, Chinese noodles, etc.
I continued the tradition in college, though my pasta salad relied on the box mix because I couldn’t afford all of the ingredients to make it from scratch. Still, one box kept me fed for several lunches and dinners. Sometimes I had enough money to add baked chicken or one of my roommates would come back from a visit to their parent’s house with fresh vegetables from their garden.
That’s the only reason I finally started eating green peppers. They were free.
I continue to make and consume pasta salad because it is one of those dishes that is easy on the wallet. It’s also a good excuse to use fruits and vegetables in the crisper that aren’t looking so pretty, but are still good to eat.
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And, as I learned from mom, it’s a time saver. You make it once and it lasts ... Well, the number of days and meals it lasts depends on the number of people consuming it. Plus, now that we’re officially in picnic season, pasta salad is a great recipe to bring on outdoor excursions — just be sure to use a non-mayonnaise recipe.
Pass the pasta — and maybe a hand-held fan, too.
Bow Tie Salad with Salami and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Make 8 to 10 servings.
- 1 pound bow tie pasta
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, patted dry, and minced
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 8 ounces salami or pepperoni, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
- 8 ounces provolone, cut into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks
- 1 1/2 cups baby spinach
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until tender. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water, and drain again, leaving pasta slightly wet.
Meanwhile, whisk the sun-dried tomatoes, oil, vinegar, basil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Add pasta and salami to vinaigrette and toss to combine. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Before serving, stir in the provolone, spinach, and olives and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Source: Adapted from: “Pasta Revolution: 200 Foolproof Recipes that Go Beyond Spaghetti and Meatballs” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen; 2012)
Turkey and Fruit Pasta Salad
Makes 6 servings.
- 1 cup dried gemelli pasta or 1 1/3 cups dried rotini pasta
- 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked turkey, chicken, or turkey ham (about 8 ounces)
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1/3 cup lime juice or lemon juice
- 1/4 cup salad oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- 2 medium nectarines or large plums, sliced
- 1 cup halved strawberries
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain again. In a large bowl combine cooked pasta, turkey, and scallions; toss gently to combine.
For dressing, in a screw-top jar combine lime juice, oil, honey and thyme. Cover and shake well. Pour dressing over pasta mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours.
Just before serving, add the nectarines and strawberries; toss gently to combine.
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Source: “Pasta: Cooking for Today — Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen Cookbook Cook Book — Saucy Favorites, From the Oven, Simmered Specialties, Main-Dish Salads, Homemade Pasta and More” by Better Homes and Gardens (Better Homes and Gardens; 1994)
Southwest Pasta Salad
Makes 12 servings.
- 2 boxes classic pasta salad mix
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 to 2 tablespoons red pepper sauce, if desired
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 can (15 ounces) black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with jalapenos, drained
- 1 can (11 ounces) whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, drained
- 1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
- 1/2 cup chopped red, yellow or green bell pepper
- 1 medium avocado, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 8 ounces pepper Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 cups)
- Romaine lettuce leaves, if desired
Empty Pasta mixes into 4-quart saucepan 2/3 full of boiling water. Gently boil uncovered 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, in large bowl, stir together seasoning mixes, cold water, olive oil, vinegar, cilantro, pepper sauce and cumin.
Drain pasta; rinse with cold water. Shake to drain well. Add pasta, beans, tomatoes, corn, olives, bell pepper, avocado and cheese to seasoning mixture; toss gently to coat. If desired, serve on a platter lined with lettuce leaves. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until serving.