One of the best things that summer brings besides vacations and days relaxing by the pool is delicious summer menu choices. When fruits and vegetables are at their best and there is many choices of ingredients, there is no better time to try some new dishes like summer pasta salads. Adding a new healthy and tasty dish to a family meal is so easy. Following are a few tips on how to have the best results from a great pasta salad recipe.
The Right Pasta
Although it may seem like pasta is pretty standard everywhere, this is not the case at all. It differs based on taste, ingredients, shape, and best usage in a dish. While technically any type of pasta can be used for any dish, using something different adds a new look and texture of a recipe, making it that much more appealing. The shapes and sizes are endless.
For best flavor and effect in a pasta salad, use a medium-sized type. Skip the plain elbow macaroni and use one a little adventurous with corkscrews, wagon wheels, orecchiette (little ears), bow ties, shells, and any other type that has curls, twists, cups, or a shape designed to catch dressing and other ingredients. For those trying to limit wheat intake, try gnocchi (potato pasta) or rice noodles, which are now available in various traditional shapes and sizes.
Whether using fresh or dried versions, do not overcook them as that makes it soggy and limp. Take the pasta out of the water when al dente or slightly firm, as it is more palatable and works better in salad cuisine. Toss it with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together and to add a hint of flavor. Then toss with spices that compliment the dish to infuse some flavor.
Just like any other dish, pasta recipes always look and taste best when made with fresh and colorful ingredients. Regardless of the season, there is usually a good selection year round, although summer produce right out of the garden or straight from the farm stand is usually more fresh and sweet. When possible, serve the vegetables raw or grilled, which provides good color, crunch, and more vitamins.
Non-processed cheeses from the cheese counter taste best, as does fresh grilled or roasted meats when added to these dishes. A pasta salad can be truly a great meal, not just a side dish, when made with fresh, marinated steak, chicken breast, tuna, or other types of meats.
Toss fresh, chopped herbs into the mixture once all ingredients have been added to add some bright color and bold flavor. This should be done just before serving to preserve the delicate nature and flavor of the herbs. As an added surprise, toss in some sesame seeds, pine nuts, chopped peanuts, or other complimentary flavors.
Even when prepared fresh, many meals lose some of that balanced flavor after sitting too long. Pasta salads are one such dish, especially if sauces or dressings are left to pool in the bottom of the bowl. For the best tasting dishes, mix ingredients as close to serving time as possible – or at least leave the dressing off until just prior to serving. This can prevent noodles from becoming soaked and soft. Refrigerate before and after serving to help ingredients stay their freshest.
With these tips, anyone should be able to put together a main or side dish pasta salad that will delight the family and make them look at this tried and true dish in a different light. The only question remaining at this point is – are you hungry yet?