From our Food Godddess, TaMara:
In my email this morning there was a nice recipe for pasta salad and suddenly I had a craving for a veggie filled summer pasta salad. Pasta salads can be served cold, warm or hot, depending on what you’re looking for and what style of ingredients are added. The featured recipe tonight is a warm pasta salad using garden fresh vegetables and melted cheese.
This appealed to me because one of my clients has given me a big hunk of the most amazing cheese. I have no idea what it is, except it’s clearly a very sharp white cheddar in a black rind. It’s a creamy and salty, best I’ve ever had and goes great with apples and strawberries. It melts beautifully and crumbles like feta on salads. I’ll be sad when it’s gone. But…
I live within walking distance of a great cheese shop, it has an entire room that is basically a walk-in refrigerator. They even lend you jackets to wear while shopping. It’s fun to stop by there on a hot summer day and spend a half hour in the fridge and sample cheese from around the world and from local farms. I think I’ll see if they can help me identify or duplicate the cheese. Side note: I’ll miss everything that is within walking distance when I move. Right now I live near downtown and can walk to bank, post office and any number of great restaurants. But it’s the trade off for more space and a functional bike path.
On to the recipes.
First up, Chipotle Macaroni Salad (recipe here), which takes cold pasta salad up a notch and has become my go-to cookout salad.
One of the keys when making a good cold pasta salad is to cook the pasta al dente, drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and then drain again, but let the pasta stay wet. This allows the pasta to absorb whatever flavors are added, but not absorb all the moisture from the dressing. Don’t toss with dressing until just before serving. Taking these steps will keep the salad moist and flavorful, avoiding the mushy pasta, dry salad problem that makes many pasta salads unappetizing.
What’s on your menu for the first day of summer? Have any favorite salad recipes (pasta or otherwise)? I am crazy about salads, so would love to have a few new varitions to add to my recipe box.
Tonight’s featured recipe is adapted from an American Test Kitchen recipe. I’d link to the original, but it’s behind a firewall. Sorry for that.
Summer Vegetable Pasta
The beauty of this recipe is you can substitute whatever vegetables are fresh and available.
12 oz of favorite pasta (penne, large shells, rotelle, etc)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 to 3 tsp crushed garlic (depending on your preference)
2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 small summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 ounce package Garlic & Herb Boursin cheese – or any creamy cheese, flavored or you can add your own fresh herbs to it instead – I actually used the cheddar mentioned above because it melts so well, and is really creamy, not like typical cheddar.
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (more as desired)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil, chopped
Parmesan cheese as garnish
Dutch oven or large saucepan
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (this is a still chewy texture). Reserve 3/4 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta (the easiest way to do this is to ladle pasta water into a measuring cup and then drain the remaining water).
Wipe out the pan, add oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, summer squash, and ¼ cup reserved pasta water and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta, and cheese, remaining 1/2 cup pasta water, tomatoes and basil until pasta is heated through.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan. Serves 4.
Have a great weekend – TaMara