Sunday, May 29, 2011

Perfect Pasta Salad Recipe

Pasta Salad Recipe: Five Steps to Perfect Pasta Salad Follow the five steps outlined here for a stunning, irresistible pasta salad.
Step 1. Pasta
Step 2. Key ingredients
Step 3. Intense flavors
Step 4. Onions & herbs
Step 5. Dressing

Step 1:
Cook 1 pound of pasta. Select a 16-ounce box or bag of bite-size pasta. I recommend farfalle (bow ties), fusilli (corkscrews), penne, ziti, rotelle (wagon wheels), macaroni or small shells. Cook the pasta in a gallon of boiling water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt (that's right, 2 tablespoons!) until just tender. Drain but do not rinse the pasta. Instead, dump it onto a large-lipped cookie sheet to cool and dry. Don't worry if the pasta sticks together. The dressing will break it up.

Step 2:
Prepare 2 pounds of key ingredients. These are the salad's major add-ins: cooked and raw vegetables, poultry, seafood, canned beans and mild cheeses, for example. Some need little or no preparation before going into the salad. Others can be cooked in the pot of water along with the pasta. Still others are best sauteed or grilled. Choose at least 3 major flavorings. It's good to let one ingredient lead (for example, 1 pound of asparagus with 8 ounces each of sliced mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, for a total of 2 pounds).

Options for cooked vegetables

These can cook right along with the pasta in the pot of boiling water. Add them to the cooking pasta during the last minute of boiling. Drain and cool them with the pasta for that just-right, tender-crisp texture.

    Broccoli or cauliflower, florets cut into bite-size pieces, stems peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick coins
    Asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size lengths
    Carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch coins
    Green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size lengths
    Snow peas or sugar snap peas, strings removed
    Zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Options for no-fuss vegetables

    Canned artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered
    Bean sprouts
    Celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
    Mushrooms, thinly sliced
    Cucumbers, quartered lengthwise, cut into bite-size pieces and lightly salted
    Fennel, trimmed, halved, cored and thinly sliced
    Avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces (add at last minute to prevent darkening)
    Zucchini, halved lengthwise if small, quartered lengthwise if large, then thinly sliced
    Cherry tomatoes, halved and lightly salted
    Bell peppers, cored and cut into bite-size strips
    Tomatoes, seeded and cut into medium dice and lightly salted
    Frozen green peas, thawed

Options for grilled or broiled vegetables
All of these vegetables should be brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper before grilling or broiling.

    Eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds; cut into bite-size pieces after grilling
    Fennel, trimmed, halved, core left intact, and cut into wedges; cut away tough core after grilling
    Large whole mushrooms; slice or quarter after grilling
    Bell peppers, cored, seeded and quartered; cut into bite-size pieces after grilling
     Zucchini, cut on the diagonal into slices 1/2-inch thick

Options for sauteed vegetables

Asian-style salads taste best with lightly sauteed vegetables, particularly celery and peppers.

    Celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
    Bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into bite-size strips

Options for other major add-ins

    Canned beans, drained and rinsed
    Chicken breasts, grilled, sauteed or steamed and cut crosswise into thin bite-size strips
    Italian sausage, steam-sauteed and sliced thin on a slight bias
    Cooked lobster
    Cooked and peeled shrimp
    Canned tuna, drained
    Mild cheeses (e.g., mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    Crabmeat (pasteurized lump), picked over for shell
    Ham, sliced 1/4-inch thick and cut into bite-size strips

Step 3:

Choose intense flavors. Stronger- tasting than the major add-ins, these ingredients should be used more sparingly. Pick at least one representative from this category, but feel free to use two or three--roasted peppers, pine nuts and feta cheese, for example, will give the salad a Mediterranean feel. If making an Asian-style salad, stick to nuts and seeds.

In most cases, add about 1/2 cup, unless otherwise noted.

    Feta, crumbled
    Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler
    Goat cheese, crumbled
    Capers, drained (1/4 cup)
    Olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
    Peperoncini, drained and thinly sliced
    Roasted peppers, cut into strips
    Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into small dice
    Bacon, fried and crumbled (8 ounces)
    Prosciutto (8 ounces), thinly sliced, cut into small dice
    Smoked salmon (8 ounces), thinly sliced, then cut into thin strips (other smoked fish and shellfish are possibilities as well)
    Pine nuts, toasted
    Roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
    Roasted or honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
    Toasted sesame seeds (1/4 cup)
    Sunflower seeds

Step 4:
Add onions and herbs. No matter what else is in your pasta salad, always add three large green onions, sliced, or half of a small red onion, diced. The types of onions are completely interchangeable, although I tend to use green onions for Asian-style salads.

Then mince 3 tablespoons fresh herbs and/or grate 2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest (the peel minus the bitter white pith).

For Asian-style pasta salads, consider cilantro, basil and/or the citrus zests. Dill and mint are usually compatible with creamy-style salads. Because rosemary and tarragon are such strong flavors, use just 1 tablespoon of either herb combined with 2 tablespoons of minced parsley.

And if you're ever in doubt about which herbs to use, you'll never go wrong with good ol' chopped fresh parsley.

Step 5:
Make a dressing. Whether you prepare one of the following dressings or choose another, you'll need 1 cup to coat the salad. The key is to make sure the dressing is thick and emulsified; otherwise, the pasta absorbs the vinegar while the oil clings in droplets to the pasta's surface. Stick with milder rice wine vinegar or lemon juice. Balsamic vinegar, while flavorful, turns the pasta an unattractive brown, and stronger vinegars make bright green vegetables drab.

Each of these recipes makes about 1 cup. You can prepare the ingredients in advance, but toss the salad and dressing only 15 minutes before serving.
Share this article


Post a Comment

Copyright © 2014 News Update • All Rights Reserved.
back to top