Years ago, I used to buy pasta salad in the box for a quick side dish. Unfortunately, once you strain the pasta, the “vegetables” fall through the strainer and you’re stuck with teeny tiny veggie particles and a bunch of plain pasta. I can’t stand that so I’ve always thrown whatever I have in the fridge into pasta salad. Guess what? I was getting ripped off. I’d pay a couple bucks for a kit that had noodles and some seasonings so I set out to make the perfect pasta salad.
Here’s the thing-perfect is subjective, right? Everyone has different tastes. So, I’ve come up with a graphic with my favorite pasta salad essentials to get you started. The only thing that stays the same for me is salad dressing. Lots of times I use Italian but you can always use an Asian inspired dressing and change the ingredients. It’s up to you.
First, I pick my noodle. There’s no science in this- I just choose whatever I have in the pantry that will hold the dressing. This weekend, I chose a veggie-based rotini because I’m trying to get Rosie to eat more veggies. Yes, even when you have a teen you may need to be a little sneaky.
Next, pick your protein because that often determines the flavor. This week, I put salami on the side because it’s not everyone’s favorite. If I had a can of kidney beans, I would’ve thrown those in too but I didn’t so I moved on to cheese and veggies.
Here’s what I had in my fridge- zucchini, orange pepper and cherry tomatoes. I also had some Gruyere cheese which isn’t Italian, but honestly, any kind of white cheese works well. Italian dressing and seasoning is friendly to any cheese. I cut all four into small cubes and put 1/2 cup of each in my pasta salad. Other ingredients I love- artichoke hearts, black olives and pimentos.
The result? An easy to make, cheap alternative that’s family friendly. Want it as a meal? Just load it up with more ingredients. It’s delicious and has no preservatives like the kind you find in a box.
- 3 cups of vegetable Rotini
- 1/2 cup chopped Gouda cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
- 1/2 cup chopped orange pepper
- 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
- 3/4 cup Italian salad dressing
- 1 tbs Italian seasoning
- Cook noodles according to package directions and drain.
- Prep ingredients and add them to pasta.
- Add the salad dressing and seasoning.
- Toss all ingredients and serve.