Happy Spring everyone!
While I’m typically not super into the seasons that bring really hot and humid weather to the mid-atlantic (which can happen in the spring as evidenced by it being 78 on Saturday), this year is a bit different. Later this spring we will be welcoming our new baby boy into our home, so I’m not mad at the thought of getting to spend most of the warmer months at home with him – obviously in the air-conditioning.
But, every year when the weather gets warmer I start to gravitate more toward lighter meals because as much as I dislike heat, I dislike feeling super bloated due to a heavy meal when it’s warm outside even more. I can get cranky when I’m hot, and having a really full belly, which makes me tired, just makes me tired and cranky, which I promise, is not a good combo for me.
Pasta salads are usually a great go-to lunch or dinner in the warmer months because you get that joy of eating pasta (which is always delicious) without the heaviness of it being in a hot, thick sauce.
Don’t get me wrong, I will also willingly eat a good plate of spaghetti during the summer, but I’m almost always super hot by the middle of it, which isn’t super pleasant. The food is delicious, but the experience loses a bit of it’s charm when it’s hot outside, for me.
This pasta salad is a great alternative because you get to fulfill your pasta craving, but in a cold salad form which will help you stay cool as the temps increase.
This also makes a perfect meal prep for lunch because the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it tastes. I will warn for my fellow celiacs, though; Gluten-Free pasta will start to harden after about 3 days, so you may want to do smaller batches if you are in need of a GF alternative. I wish I could figure out how to get that to NOT happen, but I haven’t figured it out yet, if you have any tips, please let me know!
When it comes to gluten-free pasta salads, the texture of the pasta matters to me, a lot. As someone who was able to eat “traditional pasta” for so many years, I have a hard time eating gluten-free pasta that is really chewy (like brown rice or veggie pasta) in pasta salads – it just doesn’t feel right and I don’t like it.
For me, Barilla’s gluten-free pasta was the best choice. To me, it tastes and has the texture of traditional pasta, so you don’t notice that it’s gluten-free. Again, all gluten-free pasta has a shorter refrigerator shelf life, but the taste is absolutely perfect. So, if you can find it in your store, definitely grab a box of the penne for this. You won’t be sorry.
The other must-have you should grab from the store for this is McCormick Salad Supreme. It’s the seasoning blend I used here and it’s one I have used for years. In fact I remember this Spaghetti Supreme salad my grandma made that had this in it and I couldn’t get enough. This seasoning just adds a depth of flavor to the salad, that I can’t seem to replicate in any other way. It adds a bit of salt, with a good amount of spice/flavor without adding a lot of heat. Adding this to a really good Italian dressing give you a perfect combo of flavor that will keep you coming back to the bowl, even when you know you shouldn’t eat anymore.
Pasta salad is one of those really easy meals and this one can easily be prepped and ready to go in less than 30 minutes which makes it a perfect meal for a quick lunch or dinner, or the perfect thing to prep on the weekend for the upcoming week when you don’t have a lot of time.
Italian Pasta Salad
Easy and delicious pasta salad – perfect for Spring! Can easily be made gluten-free for my fellow Celiacs by using your favorite Gluten-Free Pasta (I used Barilla's GF Penne here).
- 12 oz short/tube pata I used Barilla GF penne
- 10-12 oz Italian Dressing You will need more than you think if you use GF pasta
- 2 tbsp McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning
- 1 English Cucumber halved and sliced
- 1 pint Cherry or Grape Tomatoes halved
- 1 medium Red Onion diced
- 4 oz Hard Genoa Salami sliced thinly
- 4 oz Pepperoni halved
- 6 oz Mozzarella pearls
- 12 oz Roasted Red Peppers Sliced
Cook pasta in boiling/salted water according to package directions; then rinse in cold water. If using GF pasta cook it about a minute longer than you would if you were making a hot pasta dish as rinsing it in cold water can cause it to harden back up a bit.
Once the pasta is rinsed, transfer it to a large bowl and toss with 1/2 of the dressing and Salad Supreme seasoning until the pasta is fully coated.
Add the veggies, meats, and cheese to the bowl. Also add the remaining dressing (or enough to your taste) and toss gently until all ingredients are combined.
Can be served immediately, but is best to refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours prior to eating to allow all flavors to meld together.
*If making this with Gluten-free pasta for meal prep – pasta can start to dry out after about 3 days in the refrigerator. You can bring a little extra dressing with you to help combat this. Regular pasta will hold up well to about 5-6 days in the refrigerator.
*Rinsing the pasta will help to cool it down so that you don’t melt the cheese or heat up any of the other components. However, don’t rinse it until it’s fully cold. Keeping the pasta slightly warm will help the dressing adhere and absorb into the pasta and will give it the most flavor. So only rinse briefly to cool slightly/stop the cooking process.