Growing up I think we always had pasta salad at least once a summer, usually on a camping trip. It was a nice easy thing to pre-make a big batch of and not have to worry about warming it up or creating a lot of dishes. These days, especially as the weather gets hot, it seems like I always have to follow tradition and make myself a big batch to lunch on over the course of several days.
There’s lots of variations you can try, according to your own family’s preferences. For example, my mom usually put in green peppers, probably because we usually had some on hand from the garden. Now, I like green peppers in general, but something about them in this was never my favorite. The last couple summers I’ve put in green peppers too, because that’s just what you do with pasta salad, but this year I had the brilliant realization that if I didn’t like them in this I didn’t have to have them in, duh! So I subbed celery, chopped small. It still gets the a thumbs up for fresh factor and the nice crunch, but it’s a flavor I like, so tada, hooray for being an adult and adjusting things to preference. :)
My basic recipe!
Mix together –
- 1 cup each of frozen peas, chopped celery, chopped olives and canned green beans(rinsed and drained)
- 1 chopped tomato
- 1.5 cups each of chopped ham and cubed cheddar cheese
- 28 oz of rainbow spirals, cooked and rinsed with cold water until cool. Don’t overcook!
For a dressing you can use some Catalina or French type dressing or I did 1/4 c. ketchup, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp vinegar and 1 Tbsp of Italian herbs(your pick) and salt and pepper to taste. I just wanted something to get the herbs spread around evenly. The salad stays fresh(read: not soggy) if it’s not overdressed in the fridge, so go lightly and feel free to use whatever salad dressing you like on individual servings. I added about a tablespoon of ranch to my dinner-size serving of salad and it was just right.
There’s lots of room for variation. Use a combo of your family’s favorite veggies. Use Swiss cheese or colby jack or pepper jack or whatever instead of cheddar. Use chicken instead of ham. Use a different kind of pasta. Use different dressing. Make it a salad bar where each person does their own special blend of favorites. Pretty much whatever you want goes, so give it a try and let me know what you think!