Pasta Salads

Prepare very satisfying salads with pasta shapes and little more. Great to use leftover cooked meat or stretch a few vegetables. Versatile, serve cold pasta salads, ideal to enjoy pasta during the summer months, or devise your own warm salads for the cooler seasons.

Recipe for Pasta Salads

For long mothers have known hearty pasta dishes, such as macaroni cheese or spaghetti with meatballs in tomato sauce, are nutritious, simple to cook and easy on the purse. It has been more recently they realized pasta can give much more game. Equally easy, cheap and healthy are pasta salads.

A few vegetables lost in the depths of the fridge, some cooked ham from yesterday can turn into a gourmet dish if combined with pasta, some cubed cheese, virgin olive oil and a generous hand with aromatic herbs -or other flavorful dressing.

Nourishing Pasta Salads

You may not have though of pasta as of a salad before, but small pasta shapes with a dressing and mixed a few nuts and vegetables, become a very satisfying side dish for a meat or fish main, and, in larger amounts, a main course in their own right.

Ingredients

The ingredients for a pasta salad are easy to find.

Pasta

Small shapes are the best for a salad -bows, shells, and ziti. Does it mean to give up hope of a pasta salad if the only thing available is lasagna? No, it does not. Those just need some trimming. Estimate 2oz dry pasta per person, about 3oz if the salad will be the main course.

Vegetables

Anything able to enhance other type of salad is also good for a pasta salad:

  • tomatoes, cut up
  • lettuce leaves, torn or shredded
  • peppers -red, yellow or green- cored, seeds removed and cut into strips
  • sliced onions, green onions
  • celery, cut
  • carrots, grated
  • watercress
  • mushrooms, sliced, raw or cooked
  • peas or green beans, either fresh or frozen, cooked
  • corn kernels.

Estimate half the amount of vegetables than pasta.

Fruit

Apple and pear -sliced or cut into cubes- with a little lemon juice to prevent discoloration, orange or tangerine, pomegranate, pineapple, raisins, dried apricots, prunes.

If added besides vegetables, estimate one quarter of the amount of pasta.

Nuts

If wished. Toasted and chopped for the crunch factor. Hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pine kernels, almonds, all are good. Estimate one level tablespoon for every two people.

More Crunch Factor

Crispy bacon or croutons can add some crunch. These combine especially well with creamy dressings.

Substance

If the salad will be served as a main course, it will be good idea to add some cooked meat -grilled chicken, leftover roast gammon, grilled beef strips- fish -canned or grilled tuna- eggs -hard boiled- or cheese -cubed.

Dressing

Every salad needs a dressing. The easiest option is simple vinaigrette or any of the variations, anything with flavored oil or herbs will do very well in a pasta salad.

Mayonnaise -especially garlic or flavored mayonnaise- or a creamy dressing are also suitable.

Procedure

Easy

  1. Cook the pasta al dente in plenty of boiling salted water. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Cool the cooked pasta under running water -this removes the starch that would make it sticky- and drain.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix, pour the dressing even if the pasta is still slightly warm, stir until all ingredients are well coated.
  3. Chill, wait 25-30 minutes for the flavors to mingle.

Tips

If using mayonnaise, it is better to wait until the pasta is completely cool before adding.

Variations

Niçoise pasta salad - combine cooked pasta shells, canned tuna, flaked, chopped tomatoes, sliced onions, chopped anchovy fillets, add vinaigrette and garnish with black olives.

Provençal pasta salad - combine the cooked pasta shapes with vinaigrette while still warm. Add hard boiled eggs, sliced, sliced tomatoes, anchovies and green olives, both chopped and mix. Place into a large bowl lined with lettuce leaves.

Ham and pineapple pasta salad - combine cooked ziti with shredded lettuce, cooked ham, and pineapple, both cubed, pour the vinaigrette flavored with mustard and some of the pineapple juice.

Cooking your way

You can adapt the ideas given for mayonnaise or a creamy dressing. Which ingredients would you use with ranch dressing?