I had a gathering to attend over the weekend and needed to bring a side dish that would feed a crowd at lunch time. The menu plan was to have soup, sandwiches and salads. I am a big fan of pasta salads, because there are so many different varieties of pasta salads, they're usually budget friendly, quick and easy to make, plus you can make them ahead of time.
To make a simple Italian Pasta Salad, you will need:
Tri-color Rotini (1box)
1/2- 1 Cup of Italian Dressing
1/2 Cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 Cup chopped pepperoni
1/4 Cup Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 Parmesan Cheese
Start off by boiling the tri-colored pasta, until it's al dente. Remove pasta from heat and drain, then rinse immediately with cold water and set aside.
Slice up some peppers. I found that red, yellow and orange worked well with this salad.
Chop the peppers, and the pepperoni slices into bite sized pieces.
At this time, transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl. Add the Italian dressing by pouring it over the pasta. Gently turn the pasta in the bowl, to coat it with the dressing. Next, add the peppers and pepperoni. Repeat the process by gently turning the pasta to incorporate the ingredients. Stirring may cause the pasta to break apart.
My very special helper ladies, and gents- Chef B!
Getting ready to gently turn the pasta to mix the peppers and pepperoni...
Next, you'll want to add your cheeses. I used Mozzarella and Parmesan. If you like a bolder flavor, try Provolone. You can use as many different Italian cheeses as you like, but I would definitely not use a Cheddar cheese with this flavor combination.
Add the cheese and toss!
You may find that you need to add more Italian dressing after you add the other ingredients to the mix. Add the dressing to taste, or, if you just want it a bit more wet, add some olive oil. I would not recommend adding extra virgin olive oil, because that's a pretty distinct flavor that will take away from the Italian flavor in the dressing. In lieu of an Italian dressing, you can make your own with olive oil, a bit of water, Italian herbs/spices and Parmesan cheese.
The Italian Pasta Salad looked great, but I felt that I might need to make another salad, just in case one wasn't enough.
For the second salad, I went with a Greek pasta salad.
I basically followed the same steps for the Greek Pasta Salad. I used one package of tri-colored pasta (this was a different one- Trader Joe's brand, which took less time to cook and had a different shape to it.). I boiled and drained the noodles, and tossed them with the same bit of Italian dressing I used with the first salad.
What really makes this Greek Pasta Salad stand out, is what goes into it. I poured in 1/2 a container of crumbled Feta cheese. I also added 1/2 Cup of black olives (Kalamata olives would be best), and 1/4 Cup chopped red onion. I gave all of that a gentle toss, and voila! A beautiful Greek Pasta Salad for everyone to enjoy!
And back to the Italian Pasta Salad...
The nice thing about these salads, is that I made them the day before I needed them, and kept them covered and refrigerated, until it was time to eat them! Both of the salads I mad would taste great with even more ingredients added in. Chopped cherry tomatoes would be really yummy in these, and I would have put sliced black olives in the Italian pasta, but I felt that it didn't need to be in both. Capers might have been nice, also! You can basically add whatever your own heart desires, or the things your family loves.
Of course, there are so many variations on a classic pasta salad, and a lot of folks like creamy pasta salads. I like those, too- they just don't keep as long as an oil based pasta salad, and you can't leave those sitting out as long. The oil based version is definitely a better idea, if you're headed to a picnic or outdoor gathering.
So, there you have it- two quick and easy pasta salads, from scratch! Why buy the boxed version, when these are so easy to make with thing you may already have lying around the house? That's what I did!
Do you like pasta salad? What do you put in yours?