“Fancy” Pasta Salad

I grew up in the south.  Well, as south as North Carolina can be.  Which, depending on the area you’re in, can get pretty southern.  I love to tell people that in North Carolina the humans are outnumbered by pigs.  I don’t think this is actually true anymore, but when I was a kid it definitely was the case.  And man do we know how to cook em.  If you’ve never had North Carolina pulled pork barbecue, you’re missing out.  And if you want to really immerse yourself in it, go to a pig pickin.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  You usually see them with the big oil drum grills.  And sometimes in the summer people set up their grills on corners and sell barbecue.  Ah, the south and your wanton disregard for presentation.

My family never held a pig pickin, but we definitely had our fair share of barbecues.  And block parties.  And potlucks.  Generally, any kind of party where everyone brings food, we’ve been to it.  And my mom usually made her pasta salad.  It’s super easy, can be made in ginormous portions, and is absolutely delicious.  Over the years the “recipe” has been upgraded to include ingredients that people from the Deep South would consider fancy, but to us they’re just yummy.

I say “recipe” because there is no one way of making it.  You can use any kind of ingredients you like as long as there is pasta, vegetables, and salad dressing.  My recipe below is my favorite way to make it.  I make up a relatively small batch, stick it in Tupperware and take it to work.  That’s lunch for the week.  Not the healthiest thing in the world (a lot of carbs) but definitely way better for you than anything you could get at a fast food place!

“Fancy” Pasta Salad
This pasta salad recipe is tried and true.  But you can adapt it any way you like.  Use it as a guideline for your own creation.  Follow the proportions here and change it to what’s in season or to your specific tastes.
1 lb tricolor rotini (usually 2 boxes)
1 16 oz bottle Newman’s Own Low-Fat Sesame Ginger salad dressing
1 small jar of marinated artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper
1 bunch green onions
1 small head of broccoli
Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, chop your vegetables into bite size pieces.  Retain the oil from the marinated artichokes.  Drain the pasta and return to the pot.  Pour the bottle of salad dressing over the pasta and mix.  Add the vegetables to the hot pasta and mix.  Cover the pot and let the residual heat cook the vegetables a bit.  Leave the pot, covered, until the pasta salad reaches room temperature.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least overnight.
This pasta salad is best served at room temperature.

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