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Classic Pasta Salad

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I grew up going to family cookouts on a regular basis. We were a really close family, so close that many of us lived within walking distance of each other. We were the kind of family where everyone gathers at grandma and grandpa’s for Sunday breakfast each week. That means I spent almost every weekend with 4-6 of my eight cousins.

Now that almost all of us cousins are grown up, we actually contribute more than noise to the family cookouts. (Ok, truth told we probably contribute more noise now.) We are almost all above the age of 21, we don’t live that close together anymore, and everyone is always so busy. That means these days when we have cookouts; it’s a pretty big deal.

Recently, we were having a pig roast, and I thought pasta salad would be the easiest thing I could make. I’m not a super great chef, so I was convinced pasta salad was safe enough it would be difficult for me to screw up. After all, pasta salad is a cookout classic; if I messed it up, you can be sure someone would notice.

Thankfully, I did not screw up the pasta salad. I did accidentally leave out the tomatoes and didn’t dress it again before serving, but there weren’t any complaints from the family.

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Since I was feeling innovative, I also made an alternative to this pasta salad. It was in addition to the standard pasta salad of course; you don’t want the natives to throw a fit when you show up with pasta salad, and it’s not what they were expecting. If you are a little more daring than my family, you can find the recipe for the Southwestern Pasta Salad here.

Classic Pasta Salad
This summer cookout classic is sure to be a hit at your dinner table.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 10 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 box of pasta of your choice
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 block of sharp cheddar, cubed
  • ½ cup Italian dressing (start small and add more later)
  • 1 can black olives, halved
  • 1 large cucumber halved
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta to your liking.
  2. While pasta is cooking, cut up all of your veggies and the cheese.
  3. Mix all ingredients
  4. except the dressing
  5. in a bowl.
  6. Stir until everything is well mixed.
  7. Slowly add dressing to your liking. You can always add more; you can’t take it back.
  8. Chill pasta salad for at least 30 minutes.
  9. Stir, add more dressing if necessary, and serve.

Southwestern Pasta Salad

DSC_0008My family doesn’t do anything small, especially when it comes to holidays. This past Fourth of July we had a family pig roast. One of the poor little piggies a family member had been raising found itself on my dinner plate. They smoked it, baked it, brined it and roasted it. You name it; we probably had pork prepared that way that day. They managed to get 75 lbs of meat from little Pinky. (Don’t worry, he was mean, and frankly dangerous. It was time for him to go and we made sure he didn’t die in vain!)

For this particular picnic, my grandparents supplied the pork, and the rest of us brought sides dishes to share. Since pasta salad is a staple of summer cookouts, I volunteered to make it. I knew I had to make the classic version of pasta salad, but I also wanted to try something new.

Like every other girl my age, I get all of my recipes these days from Pinterest. After hunting through some weird pasta salads, (cheeseburger pasta salad? Really?) I settled on a Creamy Cilantro Lime Southwest Pasta Salad from Mom on Time Out’s blog. There were a few others I’d like to try eventually, but since I was already making two pasta salads for one party, I pinned the other to my recipe board to try somewhere down the line.

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I settled on the Southwest Pasta Salad because it sounded fresh and flavorful and had a few of my favorite ingredients like corn, black beans, and avocado. I was a little worried my family wasn’t going to like it, but it was a hit! I made a few substitutions either out of personal preference or sheer forgetfulness.

Mom on Time Out’s original recipe has cilantro, pepper jack cheese and grilled chicken in it. I’m not a huge fan of cilantro, so I added extra green onions instead. (I LOVE green onions on everything – especially deviled eggs and tacos.) The cheese was another ingredient that got axed due to personal preference. I don’t like pepper jack, so I replaced it with Colby Jack. (You could easily substitute your favorite cheese cubes or even go with a shredded cheese. That way every bite has a little cheese in it.)

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Funny note, I bought a rotisserie chicken from Walmart for this recipe, but I totally forgot to add it into the bowl. I don’t think anyone missed it, but the chicken would have made it a heartier dish.

This Creamy Cilantro Lime Southwestern Pasta Salad recipe is a perfect crowd pleaser for parties, BBQs, or just for your family. A little change from the norm does everyone good. Check out this fresh recipe for a great alternative, or addition to your classic pasta salad.

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Southwestern Pasta Salad
This Creamy Cilantro Lime Southwestern Pasta Salad recipe is a perfect crowd pleaser for parties, BBQs, or just for your family. A little change from the norm does everyone good. Check out this fresh recipe for a great alternative, or addition to your classic pasta salad.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree, Side
Serves: 10 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 16 oz pasta, cooked, drained, cooled
  • ⅔ cup Hidden Valley Ranch Cilantro Lime Dressing
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken (grilled, rotisserie, etc.)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced (I added extra)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 6 oz Pepper Jack cheese, cubed
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 15.25 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
Instructions
  1. Combine the cooked pasta and dressing in a large bowl, tossing until the pasta is coated.
  2. Fold in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Top with additional cilantro, sliced green onions, tomatoes if desired.