Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Under the Tuscan Salad

Under the Tuscan Salad

In the summertime, cold pasta salad is a popular dish, especially when the weather is warm and chilled food is welcome.  A variety of pasta shapes can be used and this salad is often made with a zesty homemade vinaigrette, an assortment of vegetables, cheese, herbs and spices. Steaming hot Fettuccine Alfredo, Pasta al Pesto, and Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce are winners but during July it’s about cold eats.

The first summer I moved to Lake Tahoe, going to restaurants was something I did more than I do now. Blame it on becoming a food author. But back in the day when I was writing articles for magazines, I recall one time at our former Sizzler, a vegetarian’s delight. It was instant gratification time dishing up all types of salad include the noodle dishes—hot and cold. 
That particular hot night it was crowded, probably due to the heat and nobody wanted to cook. Instead of standing in line I played the machine where the big claw grabs a stuffed animal. On a mission to win I must have shelled out dozens of quarters. I complained to the manager. “The machine is rigged. I’m going to order the salad bar.” He opened up the money maker, picked out a big stuffed bear and handed it to me.  I smiled like a kid and thanked him.  I savored the different salads, especially the tangy cold pasta salad while sitting next to the furry prize that I should have won and sort of did. 
These days I make my own pasta salads. And finally, I mastered the art of putting together a cold noodle delight for old time’s sake inspired by the sweet restaurant manager who had a heart of gold for adults who like to have fun like kids do.

Tuscany Pasta Salad
1 ½ cups cooked pasta, whole grain rotini
½ cup all natural Italian dressing (or make your own vinaigrette with olive oil and vinegar)
½ cup tomatoes, chopped
½ cup broccoli florets, cooked
½ cup black olives, fresh, sliced (I used whole ones found at our friendly Safeway deli)
¼ cup bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
Black pepper and sea salt to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, mix pasta with dressing. Add tomatoes, broccoli, olives, bell pepper, and onion. Season well with pepper and salt for more flavors. Chill in refrigerator. Sprinkle with cheese. Serves 6.  Pair with a French bread or baguettes.

I was pleasantly surprised how easy this salad is to make. As a finicky eater I prefer to make my own salads because I know exactly what goes into it, from the type of pasta, ingredients of the dressing, and can pick out which vegetables I like. During the hot days ahead this salad makes a super side dish or can be served as a light meal. Either way it’s a keeper for the season of hot weather and summer adventure.

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