Ingredient SpotLight

Nothing says summer like pasta salads. Okay, maybe grilled foods and cold watermelon ... but pasta salad says it too! These fun concoctions featuring chilled pasta, chopped other tid-bits ranging from vegetables to cheese to meat, and delightfully tangy dressing are standard fare at backyard barbecues, company picnics and other summer gatherings all over.

Are there any "rules" for pasta salad? Not really. But there are a few tips that will give you a great result:

  • Try to avoid adding too many ingredients. Cooked, chilled pasta and a few other ingredients will probably do it.
  • Feel free to be aggressive with your dressing. A strong dressing with lots of flavor will carry the day. Often the pasta and other ingredients in the salad don't have a lot of bold flavor on their own, so the dressing takes on that role instead.
  • If you make a pasta salad in advance, make extra dressing. Most pasta salads will absorb additional dressing when they rest overnight in a refrigerator, so it's a good idea to have more on hand to mix in before serving.

And now, without further hesitation, I offer you two recipes of my own to try and enjoy. Happy summer!

Summer Pasta Salad

  • 1 (16 ounce) package penne pasta
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 (16 ounce) bottle French salad dressing
  • 1 cup Italian-style salad dressing
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 (2 ounce) cans sliced black olives
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped baby carrots
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; rinse and drain.

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil. Boil for one minute.

In large bowl, combine vinegar mixture, Catalina dressing and Italian dressing. Mix well. Add pasta, cucumber, olives, tomato, onion, carrots, and bell pepper; toss. Season with celery salt, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until serving.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Curried Pasta Salad

  • 1 (16 ounce) package corkscrew pasta
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup nonfat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small minced shallot or garlic clove

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; rinse and drain.

Combine the pasta, peas, carrots, raisins, shredded cabbage, finely chopped onion, celery and sliced almonds in a salad bowl.

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes