So I have a weird confession to make: Although I’m not a picky eater by ANY means, I’ve always hated pasta salad. Early on, the pasta salads I’d been exposed to were gross – way too sweet, or salty, or the pasta was too firm, or the sauce was too bland. Up until very recently, I’ve completely avoided pasta salad since I was probably about 12 years old or so.
Recently our friend Trevor (Who you may know as “Mr J” – and if you don’t, you probably should!) brought a tub of deli macaroni salad to one of our potluck parties. My first – completely internal, as I was NOT raised by wolves! – instinct was “blech.. macaroni salad!” (Sorry, Trevor!)… until I noticed that it had cubed cheese in it. I’d never seen that before. Curiosity piqued, I tried a bite.. and it was actually pretty good!
Flash forward a few weeks, to earlier this week. My “stress cooking” reflex was triggered, and I was right in the mood for more of that pasta salad. I decided to make pasta salad for the first time in my life… loosely based on that deli one, but tweaked to be a bit more to my tastes.
First off, I ditched the macaroni for Rotini, simply because it’s more fun to eat it. I couldn’t remember what all was in the salad, so I went with celery for crunch, red pepper for colour, and green onion because I love it.
I based the dressing off of my awesome coleslaw, making sure to not let it get too sweet. Oh, it was GOOD. We went through the whole batch embarrassingly quickly.
A few notes:
1. For the best pasta salad, you want the pasta to actually cook to soft, not just al dente – this allows the pasta to better absorb the flavours from the dressing.
2. Aside from the pasta, this recipe is gluten free. To make a gluten free pasta salad, I recommend using brown rice pasta, and carefully watching it as it cooks – don’t let it get to the point of falling apart!
3. My husband thinks it would be even better with peas added to it. I think that triggers my “macaroni salad is gross” instinct, but who knows… I’m not exactly a connoisseur of pasta salad! If it sounds good to you, go for it!
Marie’s Pasta Salad Recipe
1 lb uncooked Rotini pasta*
3 stalks celery, chopped
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 oz mild cheddar cheese, cubed
1 1/2 cups mayo
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery seed
3/4+ tsp pepper (to taste)
Cook pasta according to package directions, but adding a few minutes to the boil time. Drain, and rinse well with cold water until cool. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine celery, green onion, pepper, and cheese, tossing to mix well and break up any cheese cubes that are stuck to each other. Add cooled pasta, gently toss to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except pepper. Pour over pasta salad, gently toss to completely coat. Season with pepper to taste.
Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
* This amount of dressing is perfect for Rotini, which has a lot more surface area than most pastas. If you’d like to use a different pasta, you’ll likely need less dressing. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing this makes, and add more if you like!
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