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.

(picture from Cooking Light magazine)

Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad6 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 bean1 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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