Thursday, July 28, 2011

A plethora of pasta salads

7/20/11 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Pasta salads are a perennial summertime favorite in most households. But gone are the days of the same old macaroni salad dressed with the same old mayonnaise dressing. Today, the sky’s the limit when it comes to combining pastas with fruits, vegetables, meats and a variety of dressings.

We’ll start off today’s recipe assortment with a basic corkscrew pasta salad that can be served as a side salad or fortified with some chicken, tuna or shrimp as a main dish. This is my go-to summer salad that I can prepare in advance for dinner the next day. It’s very versatile. You can add and subtract ingredients according to what you have on hand or your family’s likes and dislikes.

Recently, in a search for a light luncheon salad for guests, I came across an elegant and unusual shrimp, fruit and pasta combination. The creative cooks at Southern Living added a juicy nectarine, ripe red raspberries and cool cucumber chunks to this salad. They bind it together with a zippy lemon dressing that has just a hint of spice from crushed red pepper flakes. Prepare this salad just before serving.

One thing to remember about pasta salads: they soak up dressing. If you’re serving the salad immediately, it’s not a problem. But if you’re serving it the next day, it’s a problem! I have gotten into the habit of marinating my ingredients overnight in just a small amount of dressing. The next day I stir and taste and add extra dressing and whatever else is needed. Enjoy!

Corkscrew Pasta Salad

16 ounces corkscrew pasta
1/2 cup red onion, minced
2-3 stalks celery, sliced in ‘moons’
1 bell pepper, diced
1 cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise and diced
1 small zucchini, sliced as above
1-2 carrots, cleaned, shredded, rinsed and squeezed dry
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1-2 jars artichoke hearts, drained and reserved
1 can black or Kalamata olives, drained and reserved
1 cup cheddar cheese cubes
Vinaigrette style dressing recipe follows

The day before serving, cook the corkscrew pasta in boiling water, drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Cover and refrigerate the artichoke hearts, olives and cheese cubes

 Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and add the cooled pasta. Mix with a large spoonful of dressing until barely coated. Cover and marinate overnight. At serving time, add the reserved items and stir. Add more dressing as needed. Serve on a lettuce leaf and garnish with whatever’s handy.

All-purpose Vinaigrette

1/2 cup Canola oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Shrimp, fruit and Pasta Salad

Southern Living, August 2009

8 ounces uncooked medium-size shell pasta
1 pound peeled, medium-size cooked shrimp (31/40 count)
1 large nectarine, cut into thin wedges
1 cup chopped seedless cucumber
Dressing recipe follows
Garnishes: fresh raspberries, arugula

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and place in a large bowl.
Add 1/2 cup dressing, tossing to coat. Stir in shrimp, nectarine, and cucumber. Serve with remaining 1/4 cup dressing. Garnish, if desired.

Lemon-Herb Dressing

1/3 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Whisk together all ingredients until blended.

Chicken Tortellini Salad

1 (19-oz.) package frozen cheese tortellini
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup sliced green olives
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence/Italian seasoning
1/4 cup canola oil
Salt to taste
Garnish: fresh parsley sprigs

Cook tortellini according to package directions; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and place in large bowl. Stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients.

Whisk together mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, and herbes de Provence. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Pour over tortellini mixture, tossing to coat. Stir in salt to taste. Cover and chill at least 25 minutes. Garnish, if desired.

Note I: The recipe calls for frozen tortellini. I see no reason why you can’t use boxed or bagged pasta.
Note II: For Tuna Tortellini, substitute 1 (12-oz.) can albacore tuna, rinsed and drained well. Prepare recipe as above.

Confetti Pasta Salad

Southern Living, October 2005

8 ounces uncooked small shell pasta
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette (any dressing recipe above)
1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Toss pasta with tomatoes and remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 8 hours.

Peppery Chicken Pasta Salad

Cooking Light, June 2004

3 cups uncooked farfalle (about 8 ounces bow tie pasta) 
2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/2 pound)
 2 cups chopped cooked, skinless, boneless chicken breast
2/3 cup (1/8-inch-thick) diagonally cut celery
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Italian Herbs

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Add green beans during final 5 min. of cooking. Drain and rinse pasta and beans under cold water. Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Drizzle dressing (recipe follows) over pasta mixture to just coat.

2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons commercial pesto
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk all ingredients together and refrigerate until needed.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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