pasta salad

Summer barbeques just don’t feel right without a big bowl of tasty pasta salad. Don’t worry about your waistline when chowing down on this dish: It’s sans mayonnaise or high calorie dressings. Simple, fresh ingredients combine to create a savory side dish that perfectly compliments grilled meats.

For you pasta lovers, the cool ingredients in this dish make it a great way to get your pasta fix without adding to the summer heat. Watch out though, it’s pretty filling. Sometimes I even eat this pasta salad as a meal.

Make this dish your own. Several ingredients serve as the base of this pasta salad, but it’s versatile. Change it up to fit your tastes. You can add as many or as few of the ingredients as you wish and it will still taste scrumptious. Feel free to get creative.

For some eco-friendly eating and to get the best flavors, try to buy as many local and organic ingredients as possible. Get ready to load up your plate with this delicious pasta salad.

Ingredients:

1 package organic rotini pasta (I like the colored kind for this dish.)

2-3 fresh tomatoes

1 large cucumber

1 red onion

1 green pepper

1 cup cubed cheddar cheese

Parmesan cheese to garnish

1½-2 cups Italian dressing (see below for recipe)

Making it your own: You could also add carrots, cauliflower florets, broccoli, black olives, zucchini or mozzarella.

Directions:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta. While the pasta cooks, dice the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and green pepper.

2. After the pasta is cooked, let it cool. Don’t skip this step. I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself when making this recipe before and the cheese ended up melting because I didn’t let the pasta cool down enough. Nothing ruins the look of this dish like gooey melted cheese (although it sounds scrumptious). Once I drain the pasta, I usually stick it straight into the fridge to speed up the cooling process.

3. When the pasta has cooled, toss the vegetables and cheese (either buy it in cubes, or cut up a block yourself) with the pasta in a bowl. Add the Italian dressing. Mix well. Finally, garnish the dish with Parmesan cheese. You may also want to add some fresh chopped basil for another layer of flavor.

Italian dressing recipe

Mix together 1 cup each of olive oil and vinegar. In a separate bowl combine 1 tablespoon each of garlic salt, onion powder and red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, black pepper, dried thyme, dried basil and dried parsley. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together right before you serve.