We already know how much I love pasta. It’s incredibly versatile and you can eat it hot or cold which is perfect for those days when you don’t want to cook or just want something quick.
Now that summer is quickly approaching, the weather is definitely starting to get warmer a lot faster than I had anticipated. When it gets really hot the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove or oven, even though we do have an AC unit. That’s where pasta salad comes in. Its something that you can make in bulk and throw in the fridge so that if you’re hungry all you have to do is grab a bowl (or if you’re me sometimes just a fork).
I have been making variations of this pasta salad for years with different kinds of ingredients. It really depends on how much money I want to spend or what kind of taste I have. The recipe I’m posting is my pasta salad in its most basic form with the fewest ingredients. When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add roasted peppers (I’ll post my tips on roasting your own or you can use the kind in a jar), cucumbers (I prefer to use the Hothouse variety because they have fewer seeds), and basil (I buy it fresh and just julienne it). You have options with your cheese size. You could buy a big block and chop it, or use different sized mozzarella that comes in a container. I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use fresh mozzarella. It just really transforms the taste. Any other sort of pre-packaged mozzarella is just too salty and that’s really the job of the kalamata olives. You could probably use just regular green olives but I prefer kalamata based on the color and size of the olive. Don’t use black olives; they have no real taste. You can use either cherry or grape tomatoes, I don’t recommend anything bigger because then you really have to cut them up and there are seeds, and it gets wet and no one likes that. Plus, my boyfriend hates tomatoes so I like to make it easy for him to pick them out.
In terms of pasta, you can use regular rotini if you don’t want to use the tri-color. I feel that we eat with our eyes before our mouth and the more colors in your pasta salad, the better. I really like any sort of spiraled pasta. You could use the wheel shaped (rotelle), or fusilli as well. I tried oriechette (ear shaped) once but it all just kind of stuck together. In previous incarnations of the salad I used to make a balsamic vinaigrette but this time I was going for something a little lighter and used red wine vinegar. If you were going to use the balsamic, taste it after 3 tbsp. Because it’s a little stronger than the red wine vinegar you may not need as much.
Funny story about this particular endeavor of pasta salad making. My sink was full of dishes and I didn’t want to put my giant pasta strainer in to drain my pasta. So I just decided to use the lid of the pot and pour the water out. Seemed like a good idea…and it was until the lid fell off and the pasta spilled into the sink. I was able to salvage some of the pasta and I figured I’d just run the garbage disposal to get the rest. I didn’t realize just how much went down the drain and clogged my sink. It took the poor maintenance guys almost an hour to unclog it. I wanted to buy them a beer afterward because I felt so bad. Without further ado, here’s your recipe.
Tri-Color Pasta Salad
2 boxes (24 ounces) tri-color rotini
1 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup mozzarella pearls (1 8oz. container)
For the Vinaigrette
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
In in large pot bring well salted water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente. Strain and set aside to cool. Stir a few times once strained to relieve heat from the center of the pasta.
While pasta is cooling, chop olives, slice tomatoes into halves and if you didn’t buy mozzarella pearls chop cheese into small cubes. If you choose to add any other ingredients chop those as well.
In a small container, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients.
Mix all ingredients once pasta is cool but still slightly warm so it will absorb the vinaigrette. Place in refrigerator to cool completely. Stores up to three weeks (but it won’t last that long!)
Tips for Roasting your own peppers:
With a gas stove
With a pair of tongs, hold the pepper over medium high flame. Rotate the peppers until the skin turns black. Once they are charred all over, put in a brown paper bag. This will steam the pepper and the skin will come off.
With an electric oven
Turn oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place peppers on baking sheet. Turn a few times to make sure all skin is charred. Remove from oven and place in brown paper bag to steam. Remove skin.