There are a few dishes that bomb every time I try to make them. One of them is pasta salad. Try as I might, I always end up with something heavy that isn't quite right. So with forgiving pasta-loving friends coming for dinner, I thought I would try again, and I perused the net for helpful hints.
The first lucky hit was an article by Sheela Prakash at Epicurious called The Italian Secret to a Great Pasta Salad. When she was in Italy, she learned that instead of chopping garlic and putting it in the salad, the wise Italians use essence of garlic by slicing a garlic clove in half and rubbing it on the bowl! Brilliant! I've read that technique before but it never occurred to me for pasta salad.
Then I stumbled upon Rochelle Bilow's article for Bon Appetite, How to Totally Ruin (Or Upgrade) Your Pasta Salad. She gives seven great tips. A couple of them stood out to me because they were things I always do.
Don't rinse your pasta under water! Instead, drizzle it with olive oil and toss. What a great tip! Less work and you're already dressing the pasta while keeping it from sticking together.
The other thing that I did in my disastrous pasta salad past was add corn or peas. Ixnay! Rochelle is so right. They're too small and they end up left over in the bottom of the bowl.
So, armed with this information, I set out to make my own pasta salad. Feel free to use whatever items speak to you. This is a matter of mixing a few things that are fabulous together, like olives, red peppers, bits of cheese, zucchini, or nuts. Be creative! I'm thinking baby spinach and kale leaves next time!
I used 4 slices of Applegate Farms' Good Morning Bacon with more meat and 60% less fat. Your favorite bacon will work fine. I happened to have Italian Herbs from Penzeys, which is a blend of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. I sprinkled it over the top liberally, added a dash of salt and a good bit of pepper and tossed it all together. Don't skip the herbs. They infuse the dish with flavor. This is very much a taste-and-see kind of dish. Go with what tastes good to you.
The best news? This is the first time in my life that I didn't drown the poor pasta in mayonnaise. It was delicious and light.
Simple Pasta Salad
1/2 pound fusilli pasta
4 slices bacon
1 garlic clove
good quality extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces cherry tomatoes
generous sprinkle Italian spice mix
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Cook the bacon. Slice the garlic clove in half and rub the two sides all over the inside of a large bowl.
When the pasta has cooked, do not rinse with water. Drain and flip into the garlic-infused bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss the pasta to coat. Crumble the bacon into the bowl. Cut the avocado into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl. Toss to blend. Generously sprinkle the herbs across the top of the pasta, add a little salt, and pepper to taste. Try the pasta and add more olive oil or herbs or salt if needed. Toss and serve.
|Toss with olive oil while warm so it won't stick together.|