It's been ridiculously, unseasonably warm this week, such that by the end of the day, the last thing I wanted was anything hot for dinner. Hello, pasta salad!
I started making pasta salad in the first few months of E's life when it was high summer and we had no air-conditioning. By dinnertime, it was probably at least 90 degrees in the house and eating hot food was out of the question. In addition to being a great summer meal, pasta salad also has some huge positives to recommend it for new parents. It makes a massive quantity of food, and as we know, leftovers are key for new parents. It can be prepared in stages throughout the day, in those 5 and 10 minutes chunks that you find yourself calling "free time". And because it's meant to be served cold, you can serve it one-handed straight from the fridge if need be. (Place your plate next to platter on the shelf, and then use one hand to fling a couple of scoops of pasta onto the plate. Place serving spoon back on plate, lift plate, and use hip to close fridge door. Lunch. Done. While nursing.)
As a brand new mother, I could prepare this dish for dinner and have everything cleaned up by the time J got home, which made me feel like superwoman. Hence, Superwoman Pasta Salad. However, the "super" designation applies to anyone preparing this recipe under new parent conditions, so it can be referred to as Superman Pasta Salad, or alternatively, Superperson Pasta Salad, which admittedly has a nice alliterative element and circumvents the gender issue. Your call.
For the salad:
16 ounce box rotini or penne
1 package fresh tortellini or 1 can kidney beans (or both, if you wish)
several different colored vegetables - I generally use tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, zucchini, and asparagus. (Steam the zucchini and asparagus.)
fresh mozzarella cut into chunks
For the dressing:
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp honey
Mix the dressing first so the flavors have time to meld. Place all the ingredients except for the olive oil into a small bowl, and then slowly add the olive oil while whisking. Once olive oil is added, continue to whisk vigorously for a couple of minutes, then put dressing in the fridge.
Chop up your veggies and get the pasta going. I cook the dried pasta and the fresh pasta in the same pot, I just add the fresh pasta in once the dried is about halfway cooked. If you are using veggies that need to be steamed, get them into a small pot to cook at the same time as you begin cooking the pasta. In a kid-free world, the veggies and the pasta would be done at the same time, but I don't live in that world, so I have a large serving platter ready. As things are done cooking, place them in the serving platter or bowl. If the pasta is going to have to sit out a bit before the other ingredients are done, stir a little olive oil in to keep it from sticking.
Add the remaining cold, chopped veggies, beans if using, and dressing to the cooked veggies and pasta on the platter. Stir until thoroughly combined, and when cool, add cubed cheese and serve. Or, if you're making it ahead of time, cover with cling wrap, stick in the fridge, and revel in your awesomeness.
Makes about 8 adult sized servings.