Rock Your Next Potluck with this Pasta Salad

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FinalSo your invited to another summer potluck. Skip the pre-packaged veggies and dip and make something interesting. This caprese-inspired pasta salad will leave guests satisfied and make you the undisputed potluck winner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of whole wheat farfalle pasta (bow ties)
  • 2 balls of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 package sun dried tomatoes (12oz)
  •  A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 hard salami
  • Fresh parmesan
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus a little extra
  • Sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

1. Select a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid. Fill ‘er up 8 cups of cold water, a sprinkle of salt, and a dash of olive oil. Secure the lid and bring the mixture to a boil. The salt adds flavor and the olive oil ensures that the pasta won’t stick together. As you wait for the water to boil, begin prepping other ingredients.

2. Cut the mozzarella into 1/2 inch chunks. The cheese is easier to slice with a slight sawing motion–pushing straight down will squish the cheese if you blade isn’t sharp.

3. Slice the sun dried tomatoes into strips. I cut four strips per sun dried tomato as mine were rather large.

4. Roughly chop a generous handful of fresh basil leaves.

5. Once the water boils, remove the lid and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions until al dente. In the meantime, set a timer and continue prepping ingredients.

6. The hard salami is the most challenging item to cut. To make sure the pieces are bite-sized, I like to cut the salami in half lengthwise. Then, cut it lengthwise again so you have four logs. Re-assemble the salami and begin to slice it normally. Thanks to the logs, each slice yields four small bite-sized pieces.

7. When the timer beeps, drain the pasta in a colander and run it under cold water to stop the cooking. Dump a whole tray of ice cubes over the pasta and toss well so it can continue to cool.

8. Combine all of your chopped ingredients (fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and hard salami) in a bowl. Add a 1/2 cup of olive oil and gently fold the ingredients until everything is coated. Add sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste–as a pepper lover, I do about 20 cranks of my pepper grind.

9. Give the pasta a final shake in the colander to remove excess water–the pasta will still be a little wet and that’s okay! Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl. Pour the olive oil-covered ingredients over the pasta and fold the ingredients together with a  large spoon.

10. Finally, using a fine cheese grater pile on a ton of fresh parmesan. I used enough to cover the entire mixing bowl with a dusting of parmesan. Mix again.

11. Don’t forget to bring a serving spoon to your potluck. Serve and enjoy!

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DIY Italian Stuffed Peppers

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This recipe is adopted from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook which is available for purchase in the America’s Test Kitchen bookstore for under $20.

Buon appetito!

 

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 4-6 hours

Serves: 4-5 people, approximate 1 bell pepper per person

 

1. Combine 1 minced onion, 6 minced garlic gloves, 1 T EVOO, 1 T tomato paste, & 1/4 t red pepper flakes in a bowl. Microwave stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until onion is softened.

2. Cut top 1/2 inch off 4-5 bell peppers (red, yellow, & orange only). Chop pepper tops fine but discard stems. Remove core, ribs, and seeds. Rinse and dry peppers thoroughly.

3. Tear 1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread into 8 pieces. Place in a large bowl with 1/4 cup whole milk. Mash bread and milk into a paste with fork or bean masher. Stir in onion mixture from step 1 and chopped pepper tops from step 2.

4. Add 1 small zucchini chopped (1/4 inch pieces), 1lb. hot Italian sausage casings removed, 3 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese, 3/4 cups cooked rice (you can substitute ready rice if you’re short on time), 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1 t salt, & 1/2 t pepper. Mix with your hands.

5. Pack mixture into cored bell peppers with hands. It’s okay if the mixture is slightly overflowing the top of the pepper, the mixture will condense during cooking. Pour 1/3 cup water into slow cooker. Place stuffed peppers in slow cooker. Lean them against each other and the walls of the slow cooker so they stand upright. Cover and cook 4-6 hours on low.

6. Use a slotted spoon to lift peppers out of slow cooker. Tongs will be helpful in maneuvering the tender peppers into a serving dish. Sprinkle with minced basil and additional Parmesan for garnish.