Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pasta Primer Principles!

I Love Pasta Salads!!

Pasta Principles
(Recipe Below)

Now don't take this the wrong way, but I usually love mine best! Oops, I did it again. Sorry, but some people aren't keyed into the "Pasta Primer Principles."
And mainly that's cause I'm just writing them down right now for the first time, but here we go....

Principle #1 - Cook those vegetables... or grill them, or blanch, or steam… But to bite into a raw, very crunchy, chewy, or hard vegetable, well it's just too much hard work. This is a picnic or a side dish, it's supposed to be easy. Let's make it easy to eat. So whether it’s a red or yellow pepper, or onions, or broccoli --Let's get them heated up, and cooled down, to soften them up before adding them to our pasta. I love, love, love grilled vegetables in my pasta. But don't overdo-it either. Grill, steam, or blanch to al dente. Save some bite for the pasta.

Principle #2 - Hold the mayo... It's fatting. It's dangerous at outdoor events, and it’s too heavy of a taste. (I know I'm going to get sued.) This is all just my opinion. Pretend I'm writing 'in my opinion' at the beginning of every sentence so 'Best Foods' doesn't come after me, please. As a sauce for your pasta I recommend using olive oil and an acidity of your choice. 'Acidity' can be a flavored vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, salsa... I don't suggest balsamic vinegar (which is normally my fav. for everything), it will discolor your pasta and is too heavy of a flavor. But make the ratio of oil to acidity lean much more heavily to the oil. It will be a softer flavor!

Principle #3 - I use whole wheat pasta. When I say 'whole wheat' I actually mean the kind where it says made with '100% whole wheat.' Not 'whole wheat blend' or any of those tricky things they are doing these days to make it look like you are getting whole wheat. In my local grocery for the type of pasta shape I wanted to use, in the 'alleged' whole wheat variety there were 6 choices. Only one (1) was actually 100% whole wheat, non-enriched flour, pasta, and it was the store brand pasta. Which is just great with me, to save myself reading all those labels again, I bought several boxes. I know I'm going to be making pasta salad a few more times over the summer.

Principle #4 - It's always better with cheese. Usually that's a soft cheese. I like goat, but feta is good. Many others work also. I'd keep it a soft crumbled or cubed cheese. Some of those come ‘seasoned’ and I'm not opposed to those. ‘Feta with herbs,’ etc. It's a great way to add flavor to the pasta.

Principle #5 - Do not overcook your pasta, and be sure it stops cooking when you think it does. I cook it till the minimum amount of time allotted on the box. It's really important to shock it with lots of cold water to stop the cooking process. Really! I feel all the way through the pasta to make certain it is all cold to the touch and there is no warmth left at all. Seriously, if the pasta gets wimpy now, the rest of the salad is going to be sad, sad, sad. Then I kinda pat the pasta dry and put it in a larger temporary bowl (meaning a bowl other than the serving bowl) for mixing.
*Edit - My husband says I have to explain this - well at least I know he reads this, right? To 'pat the pasta dry' yes, I use very clean paper towels, sometimes several. But I buy the most reputable of paper towel brands (Brawny) and am assured of their purity and lack of shredding for this purpose! Alternately, one could use clean, dry, absorbent dish towels and achieve the same result. Which is, I want DRY pasta for this step:

Next step is to add the olive oil. I do that and mix it well before adding any of the other ingredients. I also salt and pepper at this juncture, this way you know you are seasoning your pasta well, before the rest of the assembly gets in there. Don’t overdo the rest of the ingredients, I like to keep it simple. Here is my current favorite pasta recipe.
I promised my friend Amy, I’d post it:

Betsy’s Favorite Pasta Salad
1 box (12 oz) 100% Whole Wheat Pasta – Rotini
1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, chopped
1 small can chopped black olives, drained. (Omit if my sister Kathy is there)
1 jar roasted Red Peppers, drained and chopped
Handful fresh basil
Olive oil
Lemon Juice
Salt (I use coarse kosher salt, always)
Pepper (I use freshly ground)
Crumbled Goat Cheese, about 9 oz.
Cook pasta to al dente and shock it so it stops cooking. Drain well and pat dry. Coat with olive oil, season with S&P, sprinkle generously with lemon juice. Stir. Adding remaining ingredients except basil , and stir. Check for seasonings. Adjust as needed. If you will be serving in the next few hours, add basil. If making ahead, wait to add the basil until an hour or two prior to serving. Take out of refrigeration an hour before serving, stir and possibly add more olive oil, noodles tend to absorb oils as they rest.
I add cooked chicken, tuna, or salmon to this for a great lunch also!


Susan said...

Yum! Thanks, Betsy!

Betsy5 said...

Oh your welcome. Did you mean to leave that comment for this blog post or the one above? :-)