COOK'S CORNER: Pasta can make cool salad meal

Published 8:50 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
Although the first day of summer is still a couple of weeks away, it's hot enough to go ahead and call it summer in my book.
When summer arrives, I find that a good pasta salad can add a wonderfully cool touch to a meal. It really doesn't matter what the rest of the meal is or how it was prepared, a summer pasta salad is always a refreshing meal.
With some of the possibilities of things to throw in with the pasta, the salad could actually be the meal. When you consider throwing in a little chicken or other type of meat coupled with items such as broccoli, sugar snap peas and such, you really could make a meal on just a pasta salad.
The type of pasta used in a salad is pretty much a matter of taste. There are so many different types of pasta available at the grocery store there is bound to be one or more that you'd like.
Some of the recipes that I've found for pasta salads call for a specific kind of pasta. I can't imagine how much difference the shape of pasta would make in a salad, but I guess I'll just have to give some of them a try and find out for myself.
Besides the hundreds of choices for shapes of pasta, there a many, many choices of color and dimension in pasta as well. If you take a look on the grocery shelf, you'll find some pasta come in a variety of colors like green, orange and several shades of yellow, cream and white. Although some pasta is colored to suit a specific brand or theme, most are colored because of the ingredients used to make them.
Green pasta usually is made with a certain amount of spinach or other green herb while orange is an indication that carrots were used as an ingredient when the pasta was made. Some colors are used just to make the pasta more appealing to particular groups of people. I've seen orange pasta in an Auburn University bag, red pasta in an Alabama University bag and green pasta in a Florida Gators bag. At any rate, pasta can make a meal fun and interesting for just about every age eater.
Just to give you a small lesson in pastas and their shape, I'll try to explain a few of the choices available on the market shelf.
Farfalle is what is commonly referred to as bow tie pasta. Fusilli is known as corkscrews. Penne and ziti are tube shaped pastas and rotelle refers to wagon wheel shaped pasta. There are many varieties of macaroni from small to large, crooked and straight. Shells also come in a variety of sizes from the tiny shells to larger ones suitable for stuffing with wonderful ingredients.
Basically, you can choose a size and color that suits your needs. However, when preparing for a pasta salad, always choose shapes and sizes that are bite-sized. The size will be important as the salad is served and consumed.
I've found a few recipes that I can pass along to you that will give you some ideas on a great summer meal. I hope you'll take the time to try a few.
Basic pasta salad
1 (16 ounce) package fusilli pasta
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
2 (2 ounce) cans sliced black olives
1 cup cubed Genoa salami
3/4 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. milk
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, rinse under cold water and drain. In a medium bowl combine mayonnaise, sour cream, milk and Italian dressing mix. Whisk together until smooth, set aside. In a large salad bowl combine cooked and cooled pasta, peas, olives, salami, green onions, celery and parsley. Mix in dressing last, reserving 1/2 cup. Let sit over night in fridge. Stir before serving. Add extra dressing if pasta appears dry.
I have never really understood how a pasta salad could be called antipasto, but I guess we'll just go with that and make a good salad anyway. Actually, when you think about it, it doesn't really matter what you call a dish as long as it tastes good.
Antipasto Salad
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt
6 ounces macaroni
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups broccoli florets
4 ounces sliced pepperoni sausage
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. In large bowl, stir together oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, and salt and pepper. Toss with warm macaroni to coat well. Toss with Parmesan. Cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours. Add broccoli, pepperoni, and tomatoes; toss well. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and serve.
There are a lot of pastas, fresh and frozen, that come already filled with wonderful ingredients. Cheese seems to be the most popular filling and if you decide to use that kind of pasta, you could certainly call it a meal if you use that variety.
This next recipe calls for a cheese-filled pasta and really sounds good. It should be good for you and even Popeye would like this one.
Spinach and Pasta Salad
1 (9 ounce) package cheese-filled tortellini
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 (2 ounce) can sliced black olives
1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian-style salad dressing
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, rinse under cold water and drain. In a large bowl, combine the tortellini, spinach, cheese, tomatoes and olives. Add enough salad dressing to coat. Toss and season with salt and pepper.
To make any kind of pasta salad more of a meal, you can simply add items such as chicken, pork, beef, tuna, pretty much any kind of meat or cheese you prefer.
This next recipe would probably be a crowd pleaser even if your crowd includes children.
As a matter of fact, my son has a theory that anything is good if you have a little Ranch dressing to go with it. I guess Ranch dressing is the new ketchup for many folks, young and old alike. When you throw in the fact this recipe has two different kinds of cheese, I don't think you could go wrong with this one. The ranch, cheese and bacon bits will make even the pickiest of eaters enjoy the olives and onions.
Ranch Pasta Salad
16 ounces pasta
1 (6 ounce) can black olives, drained and chopped
1 (5 ounce) jar stuffed green olives, sliced
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons bacon bits
1 (16 ounce) bottle ranch-style salad dressing
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and reserve. In a large bowl, combine black olives, green olives, Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, bacon bits, dressing, onion, ground black pepper and pasta; mix well. Cover bowl, refrigerate to chill for one hour, and serve.
The last recipe I'll share with you today is for a good shrimp and pasta salad.
Pasta and Shrimp Salad
1 (7 ounce) package small shell pasta
3 celery ribs, chopped
5 ounces frozen, small, cooked shrimp, thawed
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup French dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped onion
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Lemon-pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, celery, shrimp and peas. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour over pasta mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
I hope you enjoy these recipes. Let me know what you think about them. You can reach me at 867-4876 or by email at
Until next week, Happy Cooking!

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