Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pasta Salad - Peas, Artichoke Hearts, Broccoli & Wheat Pasta

After the last two months of chowing down on every kind of meaty taco there is, as well as fried chicken, it's time to air out the arteries. If you have been with me throughout my Taco Month and a Cheap$kate Fried Chicken Challenge between the Ludo Truck and KFC's Chicken Littles, you are probably as ready as I am for some simple carbs and veggies. And I have the perfect vegetarian entree: Pasta Salad with Peas, Artichoke Heats and Broccoli.

Made deli-style, I use oil and vinegar for tartness and lusciousness. I quick parboil some crunchy veggies for texture, and added green peas and marinated artichoke hearts, to healthy wheat pasta.

This recipe is easy to make your own. Whatever crunchy fresh veggie on sale can be added, including: cauliflower, zucinni, Italian squash, bell pepper, green beans, corn and carrots. You can use them uncooked, or blanched for a minute.

I'm always on the lookout for marinated veggies on sale at my local 99c only Stores. I've found asparagus, roasted peppers, heart of palm, black olives and artichoke hearts. If they are stored in salted water then drain them. If it's a marinade, taste it and if you like it, then pour over the cooked pasta.

 The 99 Cent Chef's Pasta Salad with Peas, Artichoke Heats and Broccoli is a good recipe to start with -- and when you have it figured out, make the recipe your own and add any favorite seasonal veggies you find on sale from your local farmers market or grocery store.

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
  • 1 package tube, spiral or bow tie pasta - about 12 to 16 ounces (1 pound). Almost any type of pasta, really. I used wheat, but you can use regular macaroni or gluten free pasta as well.
  • 3 - 4 cups of chopped veggies - Again you can use any type you have on hand, frozen (any combo blend) or fresh, including: carrots, bell pepper, cauliflower, zucchini, corn and green beans. I used 1 cup frozen peas and 3 cups of fresh broccoli.
  • 1 to 2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts - I used one 6 ounce jar. You can use any type you like. Drain if artichokes are in water. If in a marinade then add it all to the pasta salad -- extra flavor!
  • Other canned or jarred veggies to include or substitute: black olives, asparagus, roasted bell peppers, beans, etc. Whatever you find on sale, just store it until ready to use in a Pasta Salad.
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil - or any flavorful oil. Okay to use less for a lighter salad.
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar - I used white, but you can use apple, red wine or rice vinegar. Since vinegar is such a strong flavor that I add it last, about a couple of tablespoons at a time to desired tartness.
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic - optional
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped herbs - including any combination of parsley, basil, oregano or sage. Okay to use a teaspoon of dried herbs.
  • Salt and pepper to taste - should not need too much salt if you use canned black olives, or any pickled veggies.
Start a large pot of water boiling (see pasta package directions.) Roughly chop veggies: for broccoli I just broke off florets, peeled and chopped the stem (same if using cauliflower.) For carrots, zucchini or bell peppers, roughly slice or chop. Add these crunchy veggies to boiling pasta water for about a minute. You just want to slightly soften them. Of course, if you like your veggies raw, that's okay too -- no need to cook them all.

Allow frozen pre-cooked peas to defrost. You can use canned peas, although they are mushier, but do drain them.

With a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the veggies from water and set aside. (Okay to just steam the veggies, or use a defrosted frozen veggie blend.)

Add pasta to boiling veggie water. (No sense throwing out that flavorful veggie broth, right?) Cook according to directions. I usually shave off a minute or two for al dente.

When pasta is done, drain and rinse with water to stop cooking.

Now time to put it all together. Add drained pasta to a large bowl. Mix in cooked, raw and marinated veggies. Add marinate from jarred veggies, too. Sprinkle in a tablespoon favorite chopped herbs, or a teaspoon of dried Italian-style herbs.

Drizzle on 1/4 cup each of oil and vinegar. Okay to use less oil for a lighter Pasta Salad. Salt and pepper to taste.

Mix it all together well. Liquid marinade will sink to the bottom so be sure to coat pasta and veggies well.

Allow Pasta Salad to sit for about an hour to reach full flavor. You can chill it or serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator if serving later or the next day.

I've had may types of pasta salad. The common flavoring is oil and vinegar. You can adjust the veggie-to-pasta balance to suit your taste -- heavier on the vegetables if you like.

You can also add spinach, but I would only add it at the last minute, as it will discolor and wilt if sitting too long in the acidic marinade.

My Pasta Salad also heats up nicely in the microwave oven. And for more protein try adding a favorite sliced cooked sausage, a can of drained tuna, or some roasted chicken from your local grocery chain store.

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