They say that if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. What about dreams where the cooking accident is so huge that it welds pieces of cookware to the stovetop? Yea, now you know what happened in my sleepy head last night.
That dream does scare me and frankly, now that I have said it out loud for all of Stokes County to hear, it probably scares my friend Julie who has invited me over to cook in her kitchen in a few weeks!
The good news is that from that horrendous dreamy accident, came the idea for this wonderful column. When you leave here today, you are going to have a recipe for one of the best pasta salads you ever put in your mouth! The best part? It is easy, involves only a small amount of cooking and, you can change it up every time you make it to tailor it to the group you will feed (even if that group is just you – come on, I know I am not the only one who cracks the pasta salad open, stands in front the fridge door and scoops out spoonfuls in the middle of the day).
We will start with the basic recipe and then I’ll tell you how you can switch out ingredients to make a slightly different salad each time.
The Basic Everything Pasta Salad Recipe:
1 lb corkscrew shape pasta cooked al dente per package instructions
2 cups cubed pepperoni or salami
2 cups cubed mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sliced black olives (small can)
1 cup garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained) (about one can)
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
1 bell pepper chopped small
1 Red Onion, chopped small
2 sticks celery, chopped small
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
2 packages of Italian Dressing mix
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
Mix the cooked pasta and all of the salad ingredients together well.
In a small bowl, using a fork, mix the dressing packets and the olive oil and lemon juice together well and pour over the salad ingredients. Toss well and serve cold or at room temperature.
Now the fun begins!
This salad is so versatile. You can cut the recipe in half for less people. The full recipe easily feeds 10 people a large serving. You can substitute the pepperoni for any cured and precooked meat – kielbasa, summer sausage, smoked sausage, ham, precooked bacon, etc. Have fun!
The cheese can also be substituted. I’ve had this salad with a smoked gouda – oh man! So delicious! Cheddar, colby, muenster – all good. Blue cheese would be wonderful too!
If you aren’t a fan of garbanzo beans, just leave them out.
Use any color of bell pepper that you like. Use the small bell peppers and make a beautiful rainbow of bell pepperdom!
If you like more or less herbs – leave them out or add them. It is entirely up to you.
Substitute green onions/scallions for the red onion to give a different twang.
You can add in other veggies (you might want to blanch them to soften them – and remember veggies usually need more salt added) – broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, asparagus – all great!
So, here are some ideas for what might go together:
Bacon, smoked Gouda, red bell pepper and add roasted garlic.
Ham, cheddar or American cheese with green bell pepper.
Smoked Sausage, Jack cheese, tri color peppers and add cucumbers.
See how fun this could be? The great thing is – I bet even your holiday guests would enjoy this one!