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Can't take the heat? Go cold.

Italian patio

Summertime is the celebrated moment of the year when dining al fresco can happen for many. The patio furniture is cleaned up, citronella candles lit, and many simply choose to dine outdoors any way they can. Right now I envy anyone with a yard, patio, or balcony. My condo just doesn’t have any of that.

The season brings the heat and humidity, and preparing a meal over a hot stove or oven isn’t a very good time when it’s 88° outside. Dishes will not only go lighter but also cooler. Cold pasta salad isn’t anything new to most people. My first experience was the typical American mayonnaise-based macaroni salad. Not bad, but I have elevated lately to the cold pasta salads known especially to Italian delis and cafes all over the world. On its own or as a side dish, you can’t go wrong this summer with a beautiful blend of cold pasta, seasonings, and vegetables.

Today I have two great pasta salads evolved from many ideas I found all over the internet. What you put in your salad is up to you, but I like to put the flavors of Italy when I do cold pasta salad. They’re great as a side with chicken or fish, or even with a sandwich or Panini. It’s a beautiful substitute for potato chips if you brown-bag sandwiches to work.

We’re starting off with a great salad using sun-dried tomatoes. I will forewarn you to be careful when adding seasoning. The first time I tried this one, it ended up a bit salty. I didn’t add salt in the second batch and used less Parmesan cheese. The flavor was perfect.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 10-12 ounces of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 6 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup of basil
  • 1/2 pound of pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup of kalamata olives, seeds removed and sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, place 5 of the sun-dried tomatoes in with the garlic clove, olive oil, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, basil and at least 1 tsp of pepper.
  2. Blend well and set aside.
  3. Dump the pasta in a large bowl with the olives, tomatoes, and 6 more sun-dried tomatoes (sliced)
  4. Pour the dressing from the food processor onto the mixture in the bowl.
  5. Toss the salad well and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Quick Notes

Be aware when you cook the pasta. 1/2 of a pound is generally 1/2 of a package of pasta. Many make the mistake of cooking and using a whole 1-pound package of pasta, and then wonder why the salad seems bland.

Be careful when it comes to the salt as well. I put it on in case you want more in the flavor, but I honestly do not add any at all. The cheese, capers, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes add enough salty flavor to the dish.

Variations

I generally use whole wheat rotini when I do these dishes. Feel free to use any pasta that’s to your liking.

The second cold pasta salad I want to share is light, but flavorful with fresh herbs and vegetables. Not as bold in flavor as the previous one, but definitely a hit for any lunch or dinner you want to serve on the patio. Give it a shot and you won’t be disappointed.

Italian Vegetable Pasta Salad

Italian Vegetable Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp of Italian seasoning blend
  • 1/2 pound of pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup of bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, each sliced in half
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp of Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Using a curet or some container you can cover shake liquids in, combined the olive oil, water, vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning blend, salt, and pepper.
  2. Shake until well blended and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta with bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, green onions, and Parmesan cheese.
  4. Pour the liquid dressing blend over the salad.
  5. Toss the salad until all elements are well blended.

Quick Notes

While I spoke of being careful with salt in the last recipe, make sure you use some here when making the dressing. When I went without salt, the salad was very bland. If you’re worried about overdoing it, then hold off on the salt and add it to the final salad to your liking.

Again, make sure you do not use a whole 1-pound package of pasta here, as the recipe only calls for 1/2.

If you cannot come by cherry tomatoes, then simply dice up 2-3 tomatoes and use that instead.

Variations

This recipe is open to ideas. Use other vegetables if you like, or even change up the pasta. The original inspiration of this recipe was another recipe where the cook did not use Parmesan cheese, but instead used three cheese tortellini as his pasta.

Tags: cold, Italian, pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, vegetable

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