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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Italian pasta salad

Hey Ocean was amazing!  I had so much fun at the concert.  The opening bands were great as well.  The first band was The Plainview, then Pocket Dreams played (they were really awesome, I was super impressed), and right before Hey Ocean was We Are the City.  I missed Bailey, but it was a really fantastic night.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Easter is almost here (eek!) and I am not even close to ready.  In fact, the only thing I have done so far is buy eggs, but that's because my Nana bought them for me on sale last week (4 dozen of them, like I need 4 dozen eggs for Easter) when they were 4/$5 at Kroger.  I'm still looking for a dress for Bailey and I haven't bought any groceries for Easter dinner.  Being the end of the month I'm almost completely out of most of my groceries.  I will need potatoes and flour for sure.

Interestingly enough, I've never eaten potato salad or deviled eggs.  I don't happen to like them.  I'm not exactly sure why I don't like potato salad.  Maybe it's the texture of a cold potato that I don't like.  The reason I don't eat deviled eggs is because I don't like egg yolk.  The only way I will eat eggs is scrambled hard (very well done).  Fortunately, the fact that I don't eat them doesn't make it any harder for me to cook them.

Last year for Easter I made potato salad, deviled eggs, pasta salad, and salted double chocolate chunk cookies.  The deviled eggs disappeared, there was only a small amount of potato salad left, and I think if there had been any cookies left I would have scarfed them down before they made it to the car to go home.  But my favorite part of the meal that I actually got to make (because the ham is pretty darn tasty and Aaron's Mom makes it) is the pasta salad.

I used to work for a fast food Italian restaurant when I was in high school and my pasta salad recipe is an adaptation of theirs.  It's an Italian pasta salad so there's no mayonnaise in it which is always a plus for me, and you can load it with whatever veggies you happen to like.  I usually use broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, and black olives.

The original has strips of salami in it, but I prefer chicken in mine.  My Dad can't eat Parmesan cheese so I skip it when I make it for him.  Basically, you can make this with whatever you want as long as you have two main ingredients:  pasta and fat free Italian dressing.

I like to make a half recipe of this to keep in the fridge for snacks and lunches.  It goes well with most leftovers (as long as they're not pasta leftovers obviously) and tastes great on its own too.  With the chicken and veggies in it, it makes a meal all by itself.

Italian Pasta Salad

16 oz rainbow rotini pasta (or any pasta you like, though I think the twirly pasta picks up the dressing best)
1 bottle fat free zesty Italian dressing
1 cup shredded or matchstick carrots
1 cup broccoli slaw or shredded broccoli stems
1/4-1/2 cup sliced black olives
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb cooked chicken, chopped or shredded

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Drain the pasta but don't rinse.  Pour the pasta into a large mixing bowl.  While the pasta is still steaming hot add the dressing.  (It's important that the pasta is hot because the dressing soaks up into the pasta infusing it with the flavor of the dressing.)  You can start with 3/4 of the bottle, but I just add the whole thing.  The steam from the pasta will smell very strongly of vinegar.  If this bothers you, cover the pasta with plastic wrap.  Set the pasta aside and allow it to cool completely.

Once the pasta has cooled, add the Parmesan and mix well.  Then add the carrots, broccoli slaw, and black olives and mix well.  Finally, add the chicken and mix well.  Put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Serve chilled.

I like to serve this pasta salad over Romaine lettuce.  The Italian dressing is infused with the pasta so I don't even need to add salad dressing to the lettuce.  It's also good over a Caesar salad or all by itself as a side dish or for lunch.

Other optional ingredients that I have added in the past are diced bell peppers (red, yellow, or green), chopped broccoli florets, or strips of salami or pepperoni.  It might also be good with fresh diced tomatoes or diced onions.

It keeps in the fridge for up to 4 days and serves about 8-10 as a side dish.

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