Friday, July 18, 2014

Our favorite pasta salad

I spent the better part of seven hours today making modifications to our chicken coop ... I'm really happy with all that I got done: doors fixed, nesting boxes built, extra roosts installed ... but that's a whole 'nother blog post. Point is when I got home after 5pm tonight I was EXHAUSTED! And along with the rest of my family — HUNGRY! The baked potatoes & toppings I had planned to make/prepare were going to take WAY.TOO.LONG. The fresh garden tomatoes begging to be eaten with Welsh Rarebit was also going to take too much effort. Then my daughter said, "What about Pasta Salad?" 

With only the pasta cooking time and an extra 2 minutes for prep time, I went right to it. Pasta dumped in a pot of boiling water, then make dressing, cut tomatoes, grab a bag of frozen corn & open a can o' beans while it's cooking ... 

Tonight's was the basic version (speed was a factor), but there are so many ways to change it up. My family devour this, especially the kids, often asking for seconds (depending on how heaped the firsts were!) This is also my go-to recipe for pot-luck dinners, and picnics.

RECIPE: (generously serves 4 as a meal, or up 10-12 as a side)
  • 1 box (12-16oz/475g) of your favorite rotini pasta (I like tricolor veggie rotini)
  • 1 packet Italian dressing mix (dry), 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • (or 1 cup pre-made Italian dressing)
  • A handful of fresh herbs - chives, oregano, marjoram, parsley, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme
  • 8oz/250g frozen sweet corn kernels, or 1 15oz/475g can sweet corn kernels, drained
  • 1 15oz/475g can dark red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 pint/punnet of cherry or grape tomatoes

Optional extras:
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Diced onion
  • Diced sweet peppers
  • Diced ring bologna
  • Pepperoni slices
  • Sliced Kielbasa (grilled first!), 
  • Diced cooked/grilled chicken 
  • You get the idea ...

Toss the whole box of pasta (minus the box) into a pot of boiling water.
Meanwhile ... pour dressing mix, oil, vinegar, & herbs stripped from stems into a blender jar and whiz until smooth & pale green. (Alternatively use 1 cup of pre-made dressing and whiz with fresh herbs.)
Cut cherry/grape tomatoes into halves or quarters & prep any optional extras.
Open, drain & rinse kidney beans.
When pasta is cooked to your liking, drain & rinse with cold water for a few seconds.
Empty pasta into serving bowl (or back into the pot) and add frozen corn kernels (the remaining heat of the pasta defrosts them & they cool the pasta more!)
Add tomatoes, beans and any other optional extras.
Pour dressing over the whole lot and stir to coat everything & distribute ingredients evenly.
Serve immediately or refrigerate (NOTE: pasta will soak up dressing the longer it sits).