One of my favorite dishes to make in the summer is pasta salad. It instantly makes any summer dinner feel like a picnic or cookout, and the possibilities for combinations are essentially endless. You can use whatever you have in your fridge, along with some staple pantry ingredients (and, in my case, fun pantry finds). Pasta salad also matches with any dinner’s theme–with a couple changes in ingredients, you can serve a Mexican pasta salad, Mediterranean, Italian–it all works.
Last night, I adapted a recipe for an asparagus pasta salad with what I had on hand. Luckily, when I found out we didn’t have tomatoes, I found a little jar of sun-dried tomatoes in the pantry. This, along with jarred pesto and roasted red peppers, is a great pantry ingredient to keep on hand. What I ended up with would’ve been lacking without that salty, rich tomato flavor, not to mention the bright spots of red the sun-dried tomatoes made.
Here’s my recipe for the exact pasta salad I made, but use it as a base or a springboard for your own ideas! Substitute lime juice and Mexican seasonings in the dressing and sub in black beans and peppers for a Mexican pasta salad. Add feta and olives for a Mediterranean salad. Use whatever veggies you have on hand, and I promise–it’ll be delicious.
Asparagus Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Ingredients (which can (and should!) be adjusted to taste)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil from sun-dried tomato jar
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt & pepper
1 1/2 cup macaroni pasta
1 pound asparagus
4-5 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1/4 red onion
Directions: Boil pasta according to package directions. When al dente, drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Set aside. Chop asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces and steam until cooked but retaining a bit of snap/bite. Run under cold water to cool. Dice sun-dried tomatoes and red onion. Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl and toss.
To make dressing, combine all ingredients in a mason jar, put the lid on, and shake. (Whisking in a bowl works too, but the shake method is more fun!)
Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss. Taste for seasonings, and add as necessary. Chill in fridge for about an hour before serving.