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Pasta salads make me happy.
I love coming home for lunch in the summer and eating a bowl of pasta salad filled with seasonal vegetables from colorful bell peppers to cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
Over the years, I’ve made many kinds of pasta salads, none of them complicated or fussy. Often, the ingredients that go into my salad depend on what’s in my refrigerator. In other words, it’s not always necessary to make a trip to the grocery store to make pasta salad.
I keep lots of pasta shapes on hand in my pantry, and I always have an extra bottle of fat-free Italian dressing on hand. That means I can usually make pasta salad whenever I want.
There was a time when I did all of my pasta salads the same: tri-color pasta, green bell pepper, cucumber, chunks of cheddar cheese and Italian dressing.
Over the years, I’ve adding more ingredients to my salads, including different dressings, multi-colored peppers, a variety of cheeses and uncooked zucchini. Sometimes I add turkey pepperoni. I love adding new tastes and textures to a favorite recipe.
This past weekend, I had a delicious pasta salad at a graduation party. My cousins Betty Russell and Martha Cayton are to thank for that delicious recipe that included garden peas and broccoli. I was so surprised when my husband told me how much he liked the salad because he is not a fan of garden peas.
I’m including a few pasta salad recipes that we enjoy at my house. Give them a try. And feel free to substitute different pastas, vegetables and cheeses to make the recipe your own.
Easy Pasta Salad
I don’t have precise measurements here because I don’t measure for this recipe! Just add to suit your tastes.
1 16-oz. box tri-color rotini, cooked and drained
Assorted bell peppers (green, red, orange, yellow) cut into strips
1 uncooked zucchini or cucumber, sliced as desired (I like moon-shaped and half-moons depending on size)
Chunks of mozzarella or cheddar cheese (sometimes I use grated Parmesan cheese instead)
Turkey pepperoni slices (if desired)
Fat-free Italian dressing, start with 1 cup (I use Wish Bone)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing as desired. If you are not eating immediately, you might need to add more dressing before serving.
Pasta Salad with Ham and Green Peas
This copycat recipe might look familiar to those of you who get the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday. I haven’t made this in a long time, but we love it!
1 pound box rotini pasta, cooked and drained
3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise (I use olive oil mayonnaise or avocado oil mayonnaise now)
3/4 cup ranch dressing (reduced fat is find)
1 1/2 cups green peas, thawed (not cooked)
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped ham
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Cook pasta and drain.
In a large mixing bowl combine mayonnaise and dressing. With a spoon, mix in remaining ingredients and stir in pasta. Chill before serving.
Pasta Salad Primavera
My cousin Martha Cayton made this delicious pasta salad last week for her daughter’s graduation party. She got the recipe from her sister, Betty Russell, but adapted it using bottled salad dressing.
1 pound box bow tie pasta
1 bunch broccoli florets in bite-size pieces
1 red pepper cut into thin strips
1 yellow pepper cut into thin strips
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 10-ounce box frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Light Italian dressing, she used Wish Bone (around 1 cup; add more if needed when you serve)
Cook pasta according to directions on box. In the last 3 minutes of cooking time, add in carrots, broccoli and peppers. Place peas in colander and drain pasta and vegetables over peas. Cool quickly by pouring cold water over mixture.
Add pasta and vegetables into large bowl with dressing, cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to cover ingredients with the dressing.