Making Your Own Pasta Salad

Pasta salads makes a great side or main dish. Perfect for any season, they can be put together quickly. Don’t bother with the pre-mixed versions, they have a high amount of sodium and one box isn’t enough for a regular family. Instead, make your own, at-home version for a tasty difference. All of the salads can be made up to a day ahead of time and kept covered in the fridge. Pasta does not freeze well as a salad, when thawed it will become mushy.

Bacon Ranch Chicken Version

You’ll need:

4 cooked chicken breasts, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 pound bacon, cooked, drained, chopped fine

1 pound pasta, spiral or shells cooked, drained, chilled

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine

1 bottle (or a bit more) ranch dressing

Place the pasta into a large bowl and dump all of the ingredients, except the ranch dressing, into the bowl. Stir carefully to incorporate the ingredients without breaking up the pasta. Once all additives have been evenly distributed, pour half of the ranch dressing over, stir until everything is coated. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve. Just before serving, pour the other half of the ranch dressing over, mix again to coat well. (Adding all of the dressing early will cause it to be soaked up by the pasta)

Variations: Add fresh chopped tomato, finely minced onion, chunks of your favorite cheese, or top with a little Parmesan.

These pasta salads don’t have to be perfect, just tasty!

Mozzarella and Pepperoni Italian Pasta

You’ll need:

1 large pepperoni stick, diced small

1 pound block mozzarella, diced small

1 can black olives, drained

2 roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup chopped basil

1/2 cup chopped parsley

Oregano to taste

1box pasta, rotini, shells, or ‘wagon wheels’, cooked, drained, and chilled

1 bottle Italian dressing

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, but use care to not break the pasta. Place in the fridge until it is well chilled. Just before serving, pour some of the dressing into the bowl and mix until all pasta and other ingredients are coated. Too much can be overpowering, so use a light hand with this dressing. Bring the dressing to the table so guests can add more if they wish.

Variations: Top with Parmesan, Romano, omit the seasonings and add a 1/4 cup pesto.