Friday, June 19, 2009

Mangiare Bene: Wake up your holiday cookout with yankee-doodle pasta

By Joanna P. DelBuono

Each year we open the summer season with a Memorial Day BBQ. Like most families, that means hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and salads.

But I’m Italian and pasta has to be featured on the menu -- no, not elbow macaroni salad, but pasta. If it’s not on the agenda, the meal isn’t complete and I don’t feel like we had a celebration of anything.

A holiday feast, even if it’s an all-American one, without pasta is just another cookout. Whether cold or hot -- doesn’t matter, as long as it’s there.

For the past two years, the family ‘Q’ has been at Mary and John’s house. Basically they open their pool before I do and their house is bigger. When I asked Mary what to bring, other than my husband’s birthday cake, she said, “Pasta salad, maybe tricolor, something different.” Okay, tricolor pasta salad it is.

I looked through my collection of recipes and I came up with this easy tricolor pasta and cheese salad. It has no mayonnaise in it so it’s safe for outdoor parties or picnics, can be served warm or cold, it’s relatively inexpensive to make, feeds a horde, and can be made two to three days in advance. In fact, the longer it sits the better.

I’m always open to new dishes so drop me a line at

Easy tricolor pasta & cheese salad

1 pound of rotini pasta
1 pound of mozzarella cheese, cubed into 1/4 inch pieces
1 stick of pepperoni, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound of cooked string beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ purple onion diced (soak in cold water for about 10-15 minutes (it takes out the bite), drained well
1 jar roasted red peppers in water, drained and sliced thin

Vinaigrette dressing
¼ cup of white or red wine vinegar
¾ cup of olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
Justa pinch (½ tsp) salt
10 grinds of black pepper from the pepper mill
½ tablespoon of good mustard, (Dijon preferred) or ¼ tsp of Coleman’s dried mustard
1 tablespoon honey.

Cook the pasta according to instruction (al dente - it holds up better to the dressing). Put about 2 inches of water in a skillet, bring to a boil. Add string-beans, cover, bring back up to a boil, then lower to a simmer for about five minutes or until tender (in a pinch you can use frozen beans, heating them up in the microwave). Drain pasta and string beans, rinsing both in cold water to stop the cooking.

In a large bowl, put cubed mozzarella, pepperoni, diced onions, and sliced roasted red peppers. Then add the cooled pasta and beans.

Dressing - in a jar - add the white wine vinegar, dried basil, salt, pepper, mustard and honey, slowly whisking in olive oil until emulsified. Pour dressing over the salad, mixing well. Chill two to three hours before serving and mangiare bene!


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