I love a great pasta salad loaded with fresh veggies and coated with a tasty vinaigrette, but I rarely make it because I had never been completely satisfied with the results – until now. I found an article, Five Steps to Perfect Pasta Salad, on Allrecipes and it lists the five steps you need to create a perfect pasta salad.
The author, Pam Anderson, starts out by saying, “I teach cooking classes across the country, and as often as a possible, I demonstrate pasta salad. Why? Because people make it all the time. (When’s the last time you attended a potluck that didn’t have a pasta salad?) But rarely do these sturdy, colorful, economical salads taste as good as they look. They can be dry, bland, oily, sharp or uninteresting.”
So with Pam’s five steps in mind I created an irresistible, perfect pasta salad using veggies and herbs from my garden.
Step 1. Pasta. I used a box of Barilla Plus Elbows. I boiled it as directed in a gallon of boiling water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt.
Step 2. Key ingredients. She recommends using 2 lbs. of at least 3 major ingredients. I used crookneck squash, carrots, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and left over rotisserie chicken, cut into bite sized pieces. The squash and the carrots needed to be cooked a bit before adding so that they were tender-crisp. She recommends adding the vegetables to the cooking pasta during the last minute of boiling.
Drain but do not rinse the pasta and the vegetables. Pour them onto a large-lipped cookie sheet to cool and dry.
Step 3. Intense flavors. Add 1/2 cup of a strong flavored ingredient. I used grated Parmesan cheese.
Step 4. Onions & herbs. “No matter what else is in your pasta salad, always add three large green onions, sliced, or half of a small red onion, diced.” I added green onions that I had already chopped and were in the freezer. (I was tired of throwing away green onions that would go bad in the fridge because I only needed one or two. Now I chop up all the green onions and what I don’t need I put in a Ziploc in the freezer.)
Also add 3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs and/or 2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest. I used lime zest that I had in the freezer and it added a really fresh flavor, and fresh parsley from my garden.
Step 5. Dressing. Add 1 cup dressing to coat the salad. Although you can prepare the salad in advance, she recommends dressing the salad only 15 minutes before serving. She gives two recipes for dressings, but I was given a bottle of Wish-Bone Bountifuls Tuscan Romano Basil Dressing to try, so I used that on the salad and it was terrific. I looked for it at the grocery store to buy another bottle, but they were out. So I guess I’m not the only one who really liked it.
Thanks to Pam I’m no longer intimidated by pasta salad. She has so many great ideas and suggestions in the article, it really is something that you should print out and keep as a guide. I know I have!
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