Easy Peasy Pasta Salad

I’m looking through my blog posts and I realized that I haven’t posted my go-to pasta salad recipe!  This recipe has been a staple in my house for years…it’s a great summertime, BBQ, feed a bunch of people kind of recipe.  What I love most about this pasta salad is its versatility; you can pretty much make this recipe however you like.  I also love the colors in the salad, with the Rainbow Rotini and fresh vegetables…it reminds me of summer and good times with family and friends.  Oh, and did I mention it’s ridiculously easy to make (hence the title)?

 

This is actually my husband’s original recipe.  My husband is not a big fan of cooking…his meals usually consist of Kraft Mac and Cheese, although he has become quite the griller as of late (is griller even a word?? Meh, whatever!).  My Mother-in-Law used to make this recipe when my husband was a kid, and he made it for me a long, long time ago.  We’ve made a lot of variations of this recipe; we’ve omitted the olives and bacon and added jalapenos, cilantro and pepperjack cheese (thanks to my friend Chi Chi for that idea!), and we’ve also added extra vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or cucumber.  You can add whatever you think sounds tasty!  The only requirement for this recipe (according to my husband) is that you MUST use Newman’s Own Italian Dressing. According to him, no other dressing tastes quite the same.  I haven’t tested his theory, but I trust him.  🙂

I make this recipe in large quantities because it makes great leftovers the next day.  If you don’t want to make bucket loads of pasta (okay, it’s not really bucket loads, but it does make a lot of pasta salad), just cut the recipe in half.

 

 

 

 

Here’s the recipe:

2 Packages of Rainbow Rotini pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions

1 Package of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 Red bell pepper, chopped

1 Yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2 Medium red onion, diced or finely chopped

5-6 Slices of bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled (you can also use bacon bits if you don’t have time to cook bacon, but I prefer the real deal)

1 Can sliced black olives

1 Bottle of Newman’s Own Italian Dressing

2 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar (approximately-I just eyeball it)

1 Teaspoon garlic powder

1 Teaspoon seasoned salt

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1/2 Cup (about a handful) of parmesan cheese

There really aren’t a lot of instructions for this recipe; just throw everything into a bowl and mix it up!  I like to chill the pasta salad in the fridge for a few hours in order to serve cold, but it’s also good served room temperature or even warmed.  I sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the pasta salad right before serving.

 

 

 

Cheddar Bacon Ale Dip

As you may already know, football is a national pasttime in my house.  And along with a day filled with couch dwelling and football comes lots of tasty game day recipes.  I found this Cheddar Bacon Ale Dip recipe from another blog I’ve recently discovered… Dinner, Dishes and Desserts  . There’s a ton of tasty recipes!

This dip has three of my favorite ingredients-cheese, beer, and bacon!  You just can’t go wrong if any one of these ingredients are in a recipe, let alone all three!! The original recipe for this dip also uses homemade pretzel bites, which look amazing!  But unfortunately, I’m too lazy  too busy 🙂 to make them from scratch so I just used store bought pretzel bites.

I used a heavier ale for this recipe, and I think it had a little too much beer flavor.  I know, how is that possible, right?! But I think if I make it again I’ll use a lighter flavored ale or maybe a little less beer (3/4 of the bottle instead of the full bottle).

Here’s what you’ll need for Cheddar Bacon Ale Dip:

6 slices of bacon, diced

1 12 ounce bottle ale style beer

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

4 ounces cream cheese cut into squares.  I used light cream cheese in this recipe, although I don’t think it mattered much, since I already have cheese and bacon in the recipe.  🙂

2 cups of sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions: 

Heat a large pan over medium heat and cook the bacon until browned and crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate; leave a few tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan.

Add the flour to the bacon grease and whisk together for about 1 minute.  Whisk in the beer, and cook until it begins to thicken.  Whisk in the mustard and turn the heat to low.  Mix in the cream cheese and stir until melted.  Stir in the hot pepper sauce.  Add the cheddar cheese one handful at a time and stir until all the cheese is melted and the dip is hot.

Add a handful or two of bacon back to the dip and stir to combine.  Reserve a little of the bacon and sprinkle on top of the dip to use as garnish.  Serve warm with pretzel bites.  If you’re feeling ambitious, check out the homemade pretzel bites on Dinner, Dishes, and Dessert’s blog.

Enjoy!

Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad

Whenever I host an event or party, I like to prepare as much food as I can ahead of time.  As much as Chef PickyKid and I like to cook and be in the kitchen, it’s always a bummer being confined to the kitchen while everyone else is enjoying the party!  Plus, preparing ahead of time means that all the mess involved with cooking will be cleaned before the guests arrive!

This is a great recipe to make ahead of time; it’s easy to prepare and tastes better after it’s had a little time to chill in the fridge.

I usually make this salad when I’m cooking for a large group because it’s very easy to make.The recipe I’m posting is for 4-6 servings but I double it up for a party! I recently made this for Chef PickyKid’s birthday party and it was a big success!

Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad

1 Package Cooked Small Shell Pasta

1 Carrot, Peeled and Shredded or Thinly Chopped

1/2 Cucumber, Peeled and Chopped

1/2 Cup Diced Celery-Approximately 2 Stalks Celery

1 Cup Halved Grape Tomatoes (About 1/2 Container)

2 Hard Boiled Eggs, Chopped

4-5 Strips Cooked Bacon, Chopped

Dressing Ingredients:

1 Cup Mayonnaise

Approximately 1/2 Packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Seasoning (you can use 1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing, but I like the seasoning-it gives it a more ranch-y flavor! 🙂 )

6 Tablespoons Milk (I use 1% milk)

4 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar

2 Tablespoons Dried Minced Onion (you could omit the minced onion and add 1/2 fresh, chopped yellow onion or 2-3 chopped scallions to the salad.  I’ve tried all three options and they’re all tasty!)

1 Teaspoon Seasoned Salt

1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Seasoning

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to directions.  In a large  bowl, combine pasta and all vegetables, as well as the bacon.  In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and pour over salad ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

NOTE: Add a little dressing at a time until you get the desired consistency.  You may not use all of the dressing, depending on your preference.  I like to make a little extra so I can be sure I have enough!