10.04.2009

Hopeless romantic

Every time I am struggling to find something to make for dinner or a party, I lean towards pasta salad. But I soon remember that every time I have pasta salad I end up disappointed. Oh, maybe this one will be better. This sounds interesting; it's not like the others. But in the end, it really is. Pasta salad is just so bland!!! I think I’m just on a life-long quest to find a good pasta salad. So, I've recently tried again and think I'm am getting close. I found a new recipe for pasta salad in one of my Cooking Light magazines. It wasn't bad, but I ended up adding my own twist to make it pretty darn good.

Note: The magazine said you could make this dinner in about 20 min. It took me about 30 min to make it with my husband helping.



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(picture from Cooking Light magazine)

Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad
6 oz acini de pepe pasta
2 1/4 cup diced plum tomato
1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained (just to remove some salt)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup sliced pickled banana peppers - I used pepperoncinis
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano - didn't use
1/8 tbs salt
2 oz cubed monterey jack cheese
16 oz canned navy beans, rinsed and drained - this bean is pretty bland, I would suggest substituting with a better bean
1 oz salami, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

  • Cook pasta, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
  • Combine all ingredients and toss well.

So, this was an Ok recipe to start. I thought it was a little better than most because I liked the unique, little pastas and a lot of my favorite condiments are in this salad (pepperoncinis, capers, salami, and cheese). But, it was still a little bland. We tried to add some flavor by adding sea salt and some pear vinegar. They both helped, but not enough.

The leftovers sat in the fridge for a few days until I had a great idea on how to add flavor - Cesar dressing with bacon flavoring (a Kraft product)! I've had this dressing sitting in the fridge for a while because I don't really like it on my salads. But WOW. I put that on this pasta salad and it tasted so much better. I fully understand though it can't really qualify anymore for a "cooking light" recipe. But I really don't care. :-)

Pasta Tip: It was a little hard to know when the pasta was done. I can usually tell by the look or the feel of it in the pot. But this time I had to taste it a few times. I knew it was done when it didn’t stick to my teeth anymore. Also, be sure to use a large pot for this. You should always use a big pot when cooking pasta, but these small noodles can be deceiving.

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