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Cold Pasta Salad: A Great Picnic Recipe
Pasta salad is an excellent side dish to make for summer potlucks or for picnic outings. The colorful noodles and vegetables are refreshing and complement dishes like BBQ chicken, ribs, or any other grilled food. I often eat this pasta salad on its own for lunch.
Which Pasta to Choose
Choose a pasta with grooves or a coiled shape to help enhance the flavor. Rotini pasta is a good choice because the coiled pasta shape helps hold onto the Italian dressing. Pasta shells, cavatelli, farfalle (bow tie pasta), fusilli, and campanelle are all great choices for this salad.
With a few minutes of preparation, this easy recipe is ready to serve. Simply boil the pasta, cut up the vegetables, and add the Italian dressing and sunflower seeds for a delicious accompaniment to your meal. Punch up the health benefits of this recipe by using whole grain pasta and fat-free Italian dressing. This is an easy way to get a rainbow of vegetables into your diet!
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Makes 1 large bowl of pasta salad.
- 1 (12-ounce) package multicolored rotini pasta
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle Italian dressing
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 3 medium carrots, cut into coins
- 1/4 cup seasoned sunflower seeds
- Cook the tri-color rotini pasta in salted, boiling water for approximately 10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.
- Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water. Add the drained pasta to a large mixing bowl.
- Cut the bell pepper into small pieces, discarding the seeds and inner membranes. Add the bell peppers to the bowl of pasta.
- Peel the carrots and cut into coins approximately 1/4 inch thick. Add the carrots to the bowl of pasta.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and add them to the bowl.
- Add 1/4 cup of seasoned roasted sunflower seeds to the pasta salad.
- Add approximately 2/3 bottle of Italian dressing to the pasta salad. Stir the salad to combine all ingredients, and taste to determine if more dressing is needed. Do not drench the pasta, but ensure enough dressing is in the salad to evenly flavor the ingredients.
- Cover the bowl with saran wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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Pasta Salad Preparation Photos
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Make Your Own Italian Dressing
Instead of purchasing commercially prepared Italian dressing, you can make your own. Simply combine the following ingredients in a blender:
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Blend the ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Personalize the Salad With Substitutions
This salad is versatile, and the vegetables may be changed to suit individual taste.
- If you like olives, add them for an Italian touch.
- If you like, use sliced radishes in place of the tomatoes.
- A popular variation of this salad includes the use of multi-colored cherry tomatoes and cubes of mozzarella cheese.
In addition, the type of salad dressing may be altered to affect the taste.
- Try using a Parmesan-flavored Italian dressing or a creamy Italian dressing.
- For a mozzarella cheese-tomato pasta salad, try using a gourmet sun-dried tomato dressing.
The possibilities are endless!