17 March 2013

Confetti Pasta Salad

Confetti Pasta Salad

Hookay so... my Instagram semi-exploded the other day when I posted a photo of my pregnancy-induced pasta salad-a-thon.  I think it's a combination of everyone being giddy with excitement over spring and summer produce breaking us out of our winter rut as well as the fact that pasta is [let's face it] the ultimate comfort food.  It holds a dear place in my heart [and duh, stomach!] simply because it's so flipping versatile.  [ok it doesn't hurt that there are noodles involved too!] I can whip up a bowl with nearly any random combination of fridge and pantry ingredients and it can be ready in a moment's notice.  This is absolutely perfect around BBQ/party/potluck season in the Spring and Summertime and, in true military fashion, I usually find out about most of these events a few hours before I have to attend them.  It's my speedy savior and always an instant hit.  It's also one of those dishes that, when I make it, results in a full-blown husband happy dance.  [which looks a lot like this if you're curious]  I think it's safe to say that I make this a lot =)  I love a good happy dance!

So I have a few plans in the works.  I want to finally sit down and write up my dressing combinations for you kids.  There are a LOT of them.  All quick.  All easy.  Some can even be made entirely with pantry ingredients alone.  Oh and they're all flipping delicious!  I also want to write down all my favorite pasta salad combinations, since this dish can literally be made a thousand and one ways.  I'm happy to do this.  Not because I love you or anything [I do. Dearly] but because I really want an excuse to eat more pasta salad.  

Until then, here's my go-to recipe.  This is the one I've been making non-stop since the temps started getting warmer outside and yes, the very same pasta salad I teased you guys with on Instagram.  Sorry about that!


Confetti Pasta Salad
Confetti Pasta Salad
[feeds a crowd with anywhere from 6-10 servings]

what's in it?
one 12oz box of tri-color rotini pasta
two cups of elbow macaroni [optional]
1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes
1-2 cups of sliced mini peppers or diced bell peppers
1/2 a large english cucumber [less seeds, sweeter skin - love these!]
finely grated parmesan and romano cheese [fresh or the sprinkle kind!]
salt and pepper, if desired

I love the look/texture of combining some elbow macaroni with the rotini but feel free to skip it if you don't have any on hand!  It's more of an add-on than a necessity =)

have a lemon handy?
The last batch I made I added both the zest and juice of a lemon to and LOVED the refreshing twist it added to the salad.  Curious? Test it out by grating a little bit of zest and adding juice to a small serving of the salad and if you love it, add it to the whole batch!

vegansaurus chefs skip the cheesy topping and you're good to to!
t-rex chefs you can add cubed ham/turkey if you'd like but my carnivore husband insists it's awesome without - let your stomach be your guide!

Simple + Speedy Italian Dressing
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 TBSP mrs dash italian seasoning [this blend tastes AMAZING]
1/2 TBSP of garlic powder
1/4 tsp of salt
freshly ground black pepper, if desired, to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and allow to sit.  Giving the dressing some time to mingle will not only infuse flavor into the oil/vinegar but also soften the dry herbs and seasoning. It should keep in your fridge for about a week, if needed.

Want it creamy?  Mix the above Italian dressing recipe with your favorite homemade or [natural!] store-bought caesar dressing.  I'm a bit obsessed with this one and won't buy any other brand.

note: I use the entire batch for the pasta salad and then make a second 1/2 cup of dressing for the following day.  Once the pasta has spent 24 hours marinating in the fridge it has pretty much soaked up all your yummy dressing -- adding more coats the pasta and amps up the flavor.


Confetti Pasta Salad

get cooking!
Bring a large pot of water [about 4 to 6 quarts] to a boil.  Boil for around 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, for al dente pasta.  To prevent sticking, feel free to add a little bit of oil to the pot.  I add a spoonful of my favorite coconut oil and have to refrain from sticking my hand in the pot to eat them prematurely =)  Can't help it!  After 7 minutes has passed, scoop out a noodle and test for tenderness.  Once they're ready, remove from heat and strain in a colander to remove the water.  As long as the noodles are hot they'll continue cooking, if you prefer to add the dressing to hot noodles [some say it helps the noodles soak up the flavor] then cook them more on the al-dente side and less tender.  If you plan on rinsing your noodles with cold water to halt the cooking process, then you can cook them until they reach your ideal tenderness.  Totally a matter of preference!  It seems silly to mention it but the last thing I want is for you to end up with mushy noodles, those are about as fun as a bag of wet mice. [or hungry bloggers]

Sliced Sweet Mini Peppers

While your noodles are cooking, chop your veggies.  I like to slice my mini peppers into rings and halve my cherry tomatoes.  For the cukes, I cut the entire cucumber into quarters and then slice into little triangles.  I get more veggies per forkful this way and I love the way it looks.  By the time you've finished chopping your noodles should be done!  Add your veggies and dressing to the mix and toss to incorporate.  Dust the entire bowl with parmesan romano cheese and dig. on. in.

Feel free to whip up extra dressing so anyone that wants a little extra can drizzle it on their salad.  I add an extra half cup of dressing the following day since the noodles soak up the goodness overnight.  I think it's safe to say that this salad is great the first day, and even better the next!  

Paul likes to mix Caesar dressing in his along with the Italian dressing so if you're a fan of creamy pasta salad - go for it!  It tastes amazing that way too!

Confetti Pasta Salad

so... how was it?
I think I've confessed my love to this pasta salad three or four times in this post so far, so let's do this once more: I LOVE THIS STUFF!  I don't typically make it in the fall or winter so the fact that it's finally "pasta salad season" has me craving it like a madman.  The Italian dressing has a higher vinegar content than most and gives the salad a real kick of flavor while the cheese compliments the zesty dressing and crunchy veggies perfectly.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

in case you're still famished, here are a few more healthy options:

Tortellini Pasta SaladSummery Chickpea & Pepper SaladPesto Tomatoes
Homestyle Macaroni SaladGarlicky Kale SaladVegetarian Taco Salad

What's your favorite dish to dive into once temperatures start to heat up?

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33 comments:

  1. This looks soooo good. Can I just say I cannot WAIT until tomato season?! Spring, get here!!!

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  2. Thanks Laura! These were greenhouse grown and sooooo ripe! I am dying for heirlooms to come into season so I can just eat them sliced and straight up! Yum!

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    1. Omg, heirlooms are the best!! Plop a mega slice between two pieces of bread with some cheese and a bit of mayo (oh yeah, I said it) and I'm in Heavvvvvvvvvvven!!

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  3. Seriously, pasta salad is entirely UNDERrated...and so are those baby sweet peppers! I (finally) found some organic ones at Publix the other day (when I was scootering my way up and down all the aisles looking for old people to run over...hey, Cat told me to! ;)) and proceeded to eat like half the bag once I got home!

    I've had some ideas running through my head for a recipe of my own ever since I went to an award banquet for work a couple of months ago and was served one of the most amazing pasta salads! I was literally taking baby bites of it the whole night, dragging it out as long as I could...I said I was just trying to focus on the flavors so that I could recreate it at home, but really, I just didn't want it to end! Lol

    Your pics are gorgeous (as always) and are seriously making me crave summer! Oh, guess what! The man-friend is going to help me build a garden this year!! I'm so flippin' excited...there is NOTHING like a fresh from the vine, juicy tomato!!

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    1. Thanks schnookums! Gah all I want right now are garden-fresh heirlooms! YUMMMMM!

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  4. Oh my this does look amazing!! It has sleeted, snowed, reached 72 degrees, and poured cats and dogs here this past week...maybe I can make this and just pretend it's spring?!

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    1. Do it!!!! <3 Winter outside - Spring inside! <3

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  5. Yay, you posted the recipe! I saw this on your instagram, and love the colors! I'm such a color-oriented person, and seriously, I can't stop staring. Those peppers/cucumbers/tomatoes are GORGEOUS when mixed!

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  6. It looks very delicious and has me craving para salad at 0650!
    I love making pasta salad and always forget about it as a summer staple, so this year we'll have to change that one temps at least reach 50 degrees consistently. Also, we make ours with veggie pasta. It brings another element of color and makes me feel a little healthier. I am so making some tonight after work...

    Thanks for the reminder of delicious easy yummy food.

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  7. it's TIME for yer ebook :-)

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  8. Yummmm! Jenn I love how colorful that is! It looks amazing!

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  9. I'm with you... pasta salad any day!

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  10. I love the color variety in this dish! Looks yummy

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  11. I think this looks incredible! I am TOTALLY adding it to my weekly meal planning options! I'll let you know how it turns out! Where do you find that Ms Dash Italian seasoning at?

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    1. Nearly ever grocery store I've visited has had it so I'd say your local go-to store should too! Walmart and Target sometimes carry it too but your best bet is probably one of the larger grocery stores in your area! It's DELICIOUS!

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  12. That looks so tasty! I love that it actually is pretty darn healthy, too. I definitely will try this on my next burger night to make the meal a little healthier. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. I want some right now! I'll take some summer sunshine and good barbecue while we're at it. Looks so delicious and colorful with all the veggies.

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    1. Haha thanks Dana! I'm craving the sunshine as well - Hopefully we'll have it back in our lives soon! <3

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  14. WATERMELON! I so want some fresh watermelon in my face right now. We are also big kebab eater. Mmmmm

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    1. YESSSSSSSSSSS WATERMELON! I have been counting the days until the "good stuff" is available!

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  15. Oh goodness I LOVE colorful meals!! The pasta adds even MORE color with the veggies! This will probably most likely for sure go on my friday favorites! ;)

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  16. I will be making this so soon. I love the color but am really excited for the taste with all of the peppers. My husband and I will be living off of this stuff.

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  17. I want to swim back strokes in a giant bowl of this stuff. YUUUUUUUUUUM!!!

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  18. This looks delicious! So glad that you decided to have a pregnancy craving! :) Following you on Facebook now! :)

    Krista @ joyfulhealthyeats

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  19. Celeste @ HealthfulMindBodyandSoul
    I made this and OMG it was good, I added some calamata olives and instead of cheese, I used nutritional yeast to add that cheesy, nutty flavor. I will definitely be using this salad all summer long.

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  20. Just made it and I love it! Thank you!

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  21. I agree with you, pasta is awesome and so versatile.

    I just curated it on the On the Go sub-channel on Bliss.com. Thanks for submitting it. It's a great recipe.

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    1. Ohmygosh thank you Damaris!!!!! <3 eeeee! Heading over to check it out now! =)

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  22. Thank you for this pasta salad recipe! I love it, it is a keeper. I was lucky to find tri-colored cherry tomatoes at my store, which added even more color. I doubled the vinaigrette recipe and used almost all of it, before serving. I made it about 6 hours ahead of time. I also followed your notes and added lemon (love lemon). I added the juice of a whole lemon. It was so good! My friends all commented that they loved it and took left overs. Thanks so much. Best wishes to you :)

    Shelley @ MyShepardsPie.com

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  23. I have a vegan friend and he loved this :) thank you.

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