Too hot to cook? Just make pasta salad ...

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We're headed into the dog days of summer ... temperatures this weekend are predicted to be near 90 degrees. In that type of heat, no one wants to heat up their house by using the oven and even getting a meal together can seem like too much of an effort.

When it comes to a quick, easy-to-make pasta salad, usually, the only cooking required is boiling water for the pasta. And, if something else needed to be cooked, like bacon, many times it can be bought already cooked so all you have to do is chop it up for the salad. Heck, there are even pre-cooked pouches of pasta you microwave for only a couple of minutes.

Plus, when building a pasta salad, you can use any pasta shape or variety, fresh and frozen vegetables, mayonnaise or a vinaigrette dressing, and any type of meat and cheese. Throw any combination of ingredients together and the odds are your pasta salad will come out great.

Beat the heat this summer with these tried-and-true pasta recipes from members of The Berkshire Eagle staff.

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This zippy pasta salad can be made with most things you probably already have in your pantry. I often skip the ground beef mixture all together, to further cut down on cooking time. Sometimes, I'll add a few springs of cilantro from my herb garden to freshen the salad up. This is best eaten the same day right after mixing at room temperature, since the tomatoes will continue to break down. But leftovers the next day (after chilling in the refrigerator) are also good. You may need to whip up a little more sauce to keep the zesty zing fresh, however.

Lindsey Hollenbaugh, managing editor of features

COWBOY PASTA SALAD

(Courtesy bellyfull.net)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 12

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound dried mini pasta shells

1 pound hickory smoked bacon, diced

3/4 pound lean ground beef

1 teaspoon cumin

pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 1/2 teaspoons hot chili sauce

1 can (15 ounce) whole kernel sweet corn, drained

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

5 scallions, diced

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.

In the meantime, saute bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off grease. Wipeout skillet, leaving a little of the bacon grease. Add the ground beef; cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through and no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Season with the cumin, red pepper flakes, and with a pinch of salt and pepper. Drain off fat. Set aside to cool completely.

In an extra-large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and hot chili sauce until combined and smooth. Add in the cooked pasta, bacon, beef, corn, tomatoes, cheese, and scallions; toss to combine and coat.

Enjoy right away or refrigerate until ready to serve.

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I love making this BLT macaroni salad recipe because it is so easy. I don't use the spinach in it but use green onions instead. You can buy the already-cooked bacon if you are in a rush. I usually put a tablespoon of bacon grease in the ingredients to add flavor. You can line the bowl with some leaf lettuce to make a nice presentation. I also add chopped chives on the top for color.

— Nancy McLean, public notices coordinator

BLT MACARONI SALAD

Prep time: 15 minutes

Additional time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

16 ounces elbow macaroni, uncooked

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

8 pieces of bacon, crumbled

1 cup seeded and diced tomato

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1 cup roughly chopped baby spinach

DIRECTIONS:

Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain.

Mix together remaining ingredients, and toss with macaroni until combined.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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This is another favorite macaroni salad. You can use any kind of pickles. Get the ones in the deli section, they have a better crunch.

— Nancy McLean

DILL PICKLE PASTA SALAD

(Courtesy spendwithpennies.com)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 pound dry shell pasta (about 3 cups)

3/4 cup sliced pickles

2/3 cup cheddar cheese diced

3 tablespoons finely diced white onion

2 tablespoons fresh dill

1/2 cup pickle juice

Dressing:

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sour cream

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons pickle juice

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Boil pasta al dente according to package directions. Run under cold water to stop cooking. Toss cold pasta with about 1/2 cup of pickle juice and set aside for about 5 minutes. Drain & discard pickle juice. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

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This is one of my favorite go-to pasta salads. I always have several types of pasta in my pantry, and I've used medium shells, spirals and bowties in place of the spaghetti. I've also sometimes added shredded mozzarella and fresh basil. It's perfect as a main course on those really hot summer nights when you don't want a hot meal. Especially when served with a nice crusty loaf of bread or homemade garlic breadheated up on the grill instead of the oven!

— Margaret Button, associate features editor

SUMMER ITALIAN SPAGHETTI SALAD

(Courtesy reluctant entertainer.com)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 8

INGREDIENTS:

1 package (16 ounces) thin spaghetti, halved

1 cup cherry tomatoes halved

1 cup cucumber diced

1 cup (5 ounces) thin salami slices, cut into small pieces (or pepperoni)

1 medium green pepper diced

1/2 small red onion diced

1/2 cup black olives thinly sliced

1 bottle (8 ounces) Italian salad dressing

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, usually 1 minute less in time (el dente); drain and rinse. Place spaghetti in a large bowl and add a drizzle of olive oil so pasta does not stick together. Refrigerate until cool. To the cooled spaghetti add tomatoes, cucumber, salami, pepper, red onion, and olives. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over salad and toss to coat. Add the Parmesan cheese; gently stir together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; serve.


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