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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Delicious Bountiful Pasta Salad

 This is one of my favorite summer time foods, it is fresh, tasty and perfect for picnics as it will hold up pretty well. You should make this the night before for optimal taste and flavors to mingle and marry.
  • 8 oz Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta
  • 4 oz 1/4" diced cubes of Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 oz 1/4" diced cubes of Colby Cheese
  • 4 oz 1/4" diced cubes of Monteray Jack Cheese
  • 1/2 of a head of Fresh Cauliflower
  • 2 small heads  or 1 med head of Fresh Broccoli Flowerettes
  • 4 oz thinly chopped Fresh baby carrots {Usually get 5-6 pieces out of each baby carrot)
  • 1- 1 & 1/2 bottles of fresh zesty Italian Dressing
  • Palmful Fresh Basil leaves, chiffinade
  • Fresh grated Parmigiano Regginao to taste
  • Cracked black Peppercorns
Optional Add-ons:
  • 2-4 oz of hand sliced pepperoni 1/8" thick   
  • 2 oz black olive slices cut into small pieces.
  • Variety of Red, green, yellow and Orange peppers, dice in smaller bite size pieces, I would use no more than a palmful of each variety.
  • Palmful of grape tomatoes and golden tomatoes {Must add a few hours before picnic & eat that day if adding tomatoes will make salad to soggy if keep longer}
  1. Cook Pasta just a tad under al'dente` in WELL salted water and chop and dice the rest of ingredients. Rinse pasta under cold water and allow pasta to dry before adding to salad. 
  2. Once pasta is room temperature toss with rest of ingredients up to salad dressing. Add dressing in small 3 oz increments, can always add more dressing, if not enough up to the whole bottle, reserve the other bottle in case it needs more tomorrow.
  3. Allow to set for 12 hours or overnight
  4.  Taste again in the morning and add more of the reserved dressing if salad is to dry-it's not unusual to add an entire bottle of dressing and a bit more of the next bottle. I just think some pasta brands or different shapes of pasta just needs more flavor.
  5. Sprinkle in Fresh Basil you have chiffinade, a few twists of fresh cracked pepper and grate Parmigiano Reggiano right before serving

Tips and Hints:
  • Cooking a tad under al' dente` prevents pasta from being soggy
  • Seasoning the water is a MUST this enhances the flavor and though you are essentially marinating in Italian dressing when you are boiling the pasta it is the prime time to flavor it, if you miss this opportunity it could be the difference between good tasting pasta salad and GREAT tasting pasta salad
  • Cutting the Cheese {ok LOL u immature ppl!} and veggies in smaller pieces is a drag I know I it, honestly the the key to the success of my version of pasta salad in that you get all the veggie goodness in one bite
  • Don't be freaked out over raw veggies like broccoli and cauliflower they will soften and flavor up over night, some times I will even add raw asparagus tips, and blanched artichoke hearts.
  • I personally don't care for the flavor the olives and greasy pepperoni gives this salad but my extended family demands it they like the zest, I don't agree, but will add it on top for their tastes as garnish but try to not put too much in I think the strong olive overpowers and the pepperoni is too greasy makes it more unhealthy.
  • Try different veggies, pasta shapes, brands of Italian dressing {Better yet MAKE your own FRESH version!!} and cheese combos... 
  • BUT DON"T BUY THE PRE-MADE KITS!!! ...Honestly it takes just as much time to make it fresh as it does to make those pre-made kits in my opinion. Plus it costs more in the long run and fresh just tastes better, is better for you and even looks more appealing!
  • I typically make a full, lush and varied cheese and veggie board with the rest of the cheeses and veggies, so it really makes 2 sides in one. 

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