Lauren’s Pasta Salad – Updated!

This pasta salad is a family and friend favorite.  In particular, my in-laws tend to go nuts for it.  I am officially in charge of providing the pasta salad for all of that side of the family’s gatherings.
Lauren's Pasta Salad | A Nerd Cooks

It’s delicious and couldn’t be easier to throw together!  Just chop some veggies and cheese, boil some pasta, and there you have it.  It’s also easy to double or triple the recipe for feeding large crowds.

I blogged about this pasta salad almost 4 years ago, and felt like it was time to give it a face lift.  In fact, this was only the second recipe that I ever blogged about!  The original blog post can be found here.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box short cut pasta (I like Rotini)
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4-5 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar, cubed
  • 16 oz. bottle of Italian dressing
  • 2-3 tbs McCormick Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme Seasoning

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Once it comes up to a rolling boil, add the box of pasta and salt, and cook according to directions on the box.  After the pasta is cooked through, drain in a colander, and run some cold water over it to cool things down.

While waiting for the water to boil/pasta to cook, add the bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery, and cheese to a large bowl.  Add the cooled pasta and toss everything together.

Add about half of the bottle of Italian dressing and 2 tbs of the Salad Supreme Seasoning.  Mix it all together and taste.  Add more of the seasoning if you think it needs it.

Reserve the remainder of the salad dressing.  The pasta salad has a tendency to dry out after a while, and adding some more dressing can really refresh things.

Lauren's Pasta Salad | A Nerd Cooks


Joy’s Greek Pasta Salad

I know that people probably associated pasta salads with summer time – and summer time in Maryland it is not, especially since we just had another snow storm earlier this week.  But why limit pasta salads to the warmer months?

We enjoyed this alongside some salmon baked in foil.  Admittedly, I’ve also been snacking on this straight out of the bowl while standing at the kitchen counter.  No shame.

 Joy's Greek Pasta Salad | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe was adapted from Joy the Baker’s “It’s Not Summer Yet Greek Pasta Salad”.

You’ll need:

For the pasta salad – 

  • 16 oz. orzo pasta, cooked
  • 2 cups cucumber, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

For the dressing – 

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbs minced shallot
  • 2 tbs dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp honey
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the salad.  Toss together to evenly distribute everything.

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients for the dressing together.  Just before serving, pour dressing over the salad and toss everything together again.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Tri-color Orzo Pasta Salad

Every now and then there will be a recipe that I’m sure that I blogged about before, and when I search through my past posts for the recipe, it’s nowhere to be found.  This is one of those recipes.  This is a Giada De Laurentiis recipe that I make fairly often.  It’s great during the summer (though I make it year round), or when you’re in need of a side dish to feed a crowd.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb. orzo pasta
  • 3 tbs olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
  • 2 cups arugula (or spinach)
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese (or ricotta salata)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup dried cherries (or dried cranberries)
  • fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts), toasted
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Boil a large pot of water.  Add the orzo and boil for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain the orzo and place it on a large cookie sheet.  Drizzle it with 3 tbs olive oil, toss to combine, and allow the pasta to cool.

Once the pasta is cool, put it in a large serving bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Basil Tuna Pasta Salad

Hi everyone!  We survived Hurricane Irene this past weekend.  Thankfully things weren’t as bad as they were initially made out to be in the Baltimore area.  We never even lost power (phew!), and other than being stuck inside all day on Saturday, nothing noteworthy occurred.  I know many people were actually affected by the hurricane, and my thoughts go out to them!

We did stock up on some (okay, way too many) non-perishable food items before the storm hit, just in case we were without power for a few days.  So we’ve been trying to eat through most of those, and we haven’t had a chance to hit up a grocery store this week, so ingredients for blog-worthy recipes are at a premium.  However, I’m working from home today, and can’t bear to eat another can of soup.  I found this recipe (posted by guest blogger Sawsan from Chef in Disguise) on the blog Eat Yourself Skinny a few days ago and bookmarked it.  When I realized that I had all of the necessary ingredients on hand, I knew I just had to make it.  Btw, if you haven’t been to Eat Yourself Skinny, please check it out!  Even if you aren’t trying to lose weight, her recipes are pretty darn tasty looking.  The recipes on the blog Chef in Disguise aren’t too shabby, either ;).

You can find the original recipe here, and the recipe with my modifications can be found below:

1 box pasta (I had some radiatore lying around)
1 can tuna
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup corn
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
10 or so basil leaves, chopped

1 tbs mustard (I used Dijon)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box, drain and allow to cool a bit.  In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, oregano, and salt.  Drizzle the olive oil in while whisking, until incorporated.  Add the tuna, olives, corn, beans, and basil to the pasta.  Add the dressing and toss.

Not the world’s greatest photography, but you get the idea.
It’s really quite good!  All of the flavors meld together well, and the basil flavor is wonderful.  Please enjoy!


Lauren’s Pasta Salad

My husband’s side of the family will certainly recognize this one.  I made this pasta salad last summer for my father-in-law’s birthday party, and have since been informed that I will be making this for all future family get-togethers.  It doesn’t really have a name, and there’s no official recipe written down anywhere, but it came into being when I combined two different pasta salad recipes: one made by an old college roommate and one that my mom throws together every now and then.  Feel free to jazz it up any way you see fit.  This is how I usually go about making it.
You’ll need:

1 box short cut pasta (I generally use rotini)
1-2 bell peppers, depending on size
1 small red onion
A few ribs of celery
1 8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese
1 16 oz. bottle Italian Dressing (usually the Kraft Zesty Italian, either low- or full fat will do just fine; and don’t worry, you probably won’t use the whole thing!)
McCormick Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme seasoning, to taste
It’s pretty simple.  Just boil some water, add the pasta, and cook according to directions on the package.  While the water boils and the pasta cooks, you can get started chopping the add-ins.  
I like to give my bell peppers, onions, and celery a large dice before tossing them into the bottom of a large bowl/serving dish.  You’ll be thankful you used a big bowl when it comes time to toss everything together.  Cube the cheddar and toss it into the bowl as well.
Once the pasta is cooked, I like to put it in a colander and cool it off a bit by running some cold water over it.  That way the cheese doesn’t start melting immediately upon contact with the noodles.

Once the noodles are cooled (or at least not steaming anymore, if you’re like me and can’t wait any longer), add them to the bowl on top of the veggies and cheese.  Toss everything up from the bottom to make sure that everything is well-distributed throughout.

Next add about half of the bottle of Italian dressing to the salad.  Toss it up a bit, and then add the the Salad Supreme seasoning and toss again.  The bottle of seasoning says to add like 1/4 cup, but I never measure.  Usually I just add a bit, mix it up, and taste as I go until it’s where I’d like it to be.  

Make sure to hang onto that leftover salad dressing.  If you leave the pasta salad sit for any length of time (in the fridge or otherwise), the noodles tend to soak it all up, and you’ll need to add more to make sure it isn’t so dry just prior to serving.  Feel free to throw some more of the Salad Salad seasoning in there before serving, too.

And there you have it!  Though this pasta salad is especially good during the summer months with picnic-y food, it’s great year round.  It’s also really easy to adjust the recipe, depending upon how many people you’ll be serving.