All Simple Vegetable Recipes

Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

Cold salads made of pasta exploded on the American culinary scene in the 80's and never left. From a time when every restaurant offered its version as a side dish to a time when a restaurant that serves it seems hopelessly retro, pasta salad is still a favorite for picnics, light lunches and suppers, and potluck meals. Like chili, every cook has a recipe for pasta salad.

My favorite version is a classic lazy compromise that uses a small selection of fresh vegetables, quickly blanched in the same water in which the pasta cooks, but dressed with a good-quality bottled Italian dressing (although it certainly tastes best with a fresh, homemade vinaigrette, if you have the energy). I like to use broccoli and carrots, which don't become mushy (asparagus is also terrific if it's in season). These vegetables also keep well in the refrigerator, unlike fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, which become watery and limp if you store the salad for a few days-or even overnight. It makes a good brown bag lunch if you have a refrigerator at work.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound tricolored rotini (or any short, round shapes such as macaroni or penne)

  • 1 medium bunch broccoli

  • 1 large carrot

  • 1 bottle good-quality Italian salad dressing

  • 1/4 cup green olives (optional)

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese (optional)

  1. Cook the pasta in a large quantity of salted boiling water according to package directions. Don't overcook-if there was ever a time for al dente pasta, it's now.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, trim the broccoli into bite-size florets. (Ideally, you should peel and slice the stem, but hey, it's easier to throw it away.) Peel the carrot and slice it into thin disks, about 1/8 thick.

  3. Just before the end of the pasta's cooking time, add the carrots and broccoli to the cooking water and return it to a boil. Let it cook less than 2 minutes until the vegetables soften just slightly and the pasta is al dente. Dump it into a colander and run cold water over all. Drain well.

  4. Place the pasta and vegetables in a large bowl and add dressing. Start with about half the bottle and add more if desired. Toss lightly to coat. If using olives, slice them and add to the pasta with the Parmesan cheese. You can eat it now or chill for a couple of hours. Store it tightly covered in a glass or plastic container in the refrigerator.

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