Every week we’ll post a recipe that we both made. This week’s recipe was Creamy Pasta Salad, found over at Simply Real moms. Printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this post.
This week’s recipe was my choice. I don’t have a clue where I spotted it – most likely on Pinterest. With the weather finally kind of warming up, summer cookouts are on the horizon, and what’s better with grilled burgers and steaks than pasta salads that you can throw together in advance so that they’re ready and sitting in the fridge when it’s time to eat?
Mini pepperoni (you could use regular sized, but the minis are so CUTE!), shell pasta, frozen peas (thawed), carrots, broccoli (the original recipe called for a head of broccoli, chopped, but I opted for the easier way), and cheese sticks. Also, there’s a packet of ranch dressing mix. The original recipe called for ranch dressing and then said that the kind you make yourself, from the packet, is way better.
We’ll discuss ranch dressing in a bit.
Also, the recipe called for “shaped pasta.” As is my way, I wrote down the ingredients that I needed to buy at the grocery store, and then when I was actually AT the store, I was like “What the fuck is ‘shaped pasta’?” So I bought wagon wheel pasta (what? Wagon wheels are a SHAPE.) and then when I got home, I went to the site where I got the recipe from, and saw that she’d used shell pasta. So I made Fred stop on his way home from work and buy a box of shell pasta because I’m a stickler for stupid details like that, even though I’m sure the wagon wheel pasta would have been fine. Also, I now have a box of wagon wheel pasta in my cabinet. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that shit?
Put your pasta on to cook, and while it’s cooking, chop up your carrots. I opted to dice them by hand, cutting the carrots into coins and then cutting each coin into little squares, and hello. What a pain in the ass.
Next time, I’m just going to chop them up in the food processor.
I cut the broccoli florets into smaller pieces, then tossed them into the bowl with the carrots and peas.
This is where I predict that Nance is going to have a hissy about the peas, because although she and I never discuss the recipes beforehand (that would ruin the surprise aspect of it), she did say something along the lines of “Peas in a pasta salad? WTF?”
There are people, like my friend Liz, who takes the very existence of peas as a personal affront. I happen to LOVE PEAS WITH AN ABIDING PASSION and I would add them to everything. I think that if you want to make this pasta salad and don’t like peas, then perhaps you would leave them out. That goes for everything else in the recipe – if you don’t like it, leave it out. (Though if you hate peas AND broccoli AND carrots, you might want to skip the whole thing.)
I know, it’s a revolutionary idea. You heard it here first, folks.
Cut up your cheese sticks and add them to the bowl, too. I actually sliced my cheese sticks in fairly thin slices, but I’d advise cutting them in chunks rather than slices. Takes less time, and I’d rather have a chunk of cheese than a slice. But you can go with your own personal preference. I won’t tell anyone. Also, of note: the original recipe called for Monterey Jack cheese sticks. I looked in two different grocery stores, and there were NO Monterey Jack cheese sticks to be found, no matter how hard I looked. So I bought Colby Jack sticks instead, and that worked just fine. Cheese experts (and Amanda) will gasp and shake their heads when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: cheese is cheese. I like most cheese, except for the kind that smells like feet. I’ll pass on that kind, thanks.
Once the pasta was done, I drained it, then laid it out on paper towels to drain further. THEN I pressed lightly on the pasta with a piece of paper towel in an attempt to get it as dry as possible. In retrospect, that was going a bit overboard. I truly don’t think a little bit of water in the pasta salad would have hurt anything.
Toss the mini pepperoni and cheese chunks into the bowl…
Add the pasta….
Not shown: the part where I put the lid on the bowl and shook the bowl vigorously to combine everything. Also not shown: the part where I added the entire batch of Ranch dressing (which I made earlier in the day) and stirred it all together well.
The finished product:
The verdict? Fred said it was “okay”, but I was super surprised when he informed me that he just doesn’t care for pasta salads. Seriously, we’ve been married for almost 15 years, and I had no idea he was not a fan of pasta salads. Well, hmph to him, I say.
My verdict? Here is where we discuss Ranch dressing. I’ve been myself for 45 years. I KNOW I’ve had Ranch dressing multiple times in that 45 years. And yet it came clear to me only as I was eating my bowl of pasta salad that I do not like Ranch dressing.
Just not a fan.
Don’t like it.
Um. What? What kind of an idiot doesn’t KNOW that she doesn’t LIKE ranch dressing? Good god.
So while I like EVERYTHING in this pasta salad EXCEPT the Ranch dressing, the Ranch dressing coats everything, and thus I only ate one small bowl of it, and the chickens got the rest. They liked it a LOT. Apparently THEY like Ranch dressing.
I’m such an idiot.
I’m very much up for trying a different kind of dressing if you guys have any suggestions. (Also, I think this would be good with the addition of chopped up zucchini, which I will try this summer.)
Robyn the Dumbass.
I’m thinking that I’m just going to start my entries with the following…
Nance’s excuse as to why her entry is late this time: My friend, Regan, came over for a visit on Saturday. I hadn’t seen her in a while so we had some serious catching up to do (translation: yapyapyapyapyap!). I probably crawled into bed around 3:45 am. Yup. AM. I don’t know about yunz, but my almost 48-year-old body was fucked come Sunday. Just fucked. I tried to sleep-in, but my body is an idiot that likes to wake up as if I have The Milking to do. I tried to take a nap and my body only allowed for one hour (Boo me!). I finally got on a roll with this pasta salad, but my brain let me down when something changed on my computer and I lost my freaking photos. They were lost and I was tired and fuck me…time to write an email to Robyn. Again.
So I think we can safely say that this time it is all Regan’s fault. Hee!
Rick found the freaking pictures. I am stupid. This is pasta cooking. I’m pretty sure that everyone knows how to cook pasta and this is not the way that it’s done. Too small of a pan, too much pasta. Please feel free to snark about my mother. Shirley was all up in this recipe and she picked out the pan. Note: It is not her special stainless steel pan. God forbid that something should happen to it.
I love pasta salad. I really, really do! Meats, cheese and pasta. Yum! But man, you start throwing a bunch of vegetables in there and I start thinking it’s a trick diet food. If you ask me, I will tell you that I like broccoli. What I won’t tell you is that I only like broccoli when it’s smothered in cheese. Fresh broccoli? This is the first time in my life I have ever made anything with it. NO LIE. My uncle Chuck called my mother on Friday morning and asked her if we needed any broccoli because he had too much of it. My mother asked me if we wanted it and I was all, “OHHELLNO!” And then I remembered that I had to make this recipe so I made her call him back. Heh.
I had to use The Google to figure out what to do with this fresh broccoli business. After learning way too much about the different ways to cook broccoli I decided to blanche it.
Blanche (from Wikipedia): Blanching is a cooking process wherein the food substance, usually a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocked) to halt the cooking process.
I put them in for 1½ minutes. That thing I’m using is called a wok strainer (amazon affiliate link). Do we have a wok? Nope. I’m assuming I saw it in a store somewhere and decided I needed it. It gets used often even without a wok and it worked great here.
I was really excited about how pretty the color got, but was also afraid that they were going to really taste like vegetables with all that freaking green! Please note: I am using my mother’s special stainless steel pot here (entry about it over here). Hell may have frozen over on Sunday.
Me, drying the pasta off with a paper towel, while wondering why I thought doing a cooking blog would be fun. And seriously, DRYING OFF MY PASTA? WTF?
Cheese! I used cheddar and monterey jack. I have no cheese sticks in my house. I also did not buy special pepperoni. I took what I had in the freezer (slices) and quartered that shit. Truth: Shirley chunked the cheese and quartered the pepperoni. I just stood around looking fabulous while drying off that goddamned pasta.
LOOK AT HOW PRETTY!!!!
I had Ranch with Bacon so I used that instead of regular ranch dressing. No, I did not make homemade. Like I had time to do that with all the blanching I was doing? The blanching didn’t take that long and I think it made a world of difference. On the original recipe web site, a commenter wrote that she added 1/2 Ranch and 1/2 Italian dressing because it added a little zip. I decided to try that out.
My mom doesn’t like Italian dressing (I told you she was INSANE). It’s the main reason why she won’t eat pasta salads. I mixed the two dressings together and gently mixed the whole shebang up. Yes, Robyn. There are peas in there even if I hate them. I used to like them, but I had an incident involving a homemade pot pie and a heavy hand with peas and it was game over after that. I picked them out when I ate it. LIKE A BOSS.
My mother was going to my uncle Chuck’s house for dinner. She took this and they all loved it. Every single person in this house loved it, too! It wasn’t until later that I remembered that I completely forgot the carrots! But it was still great and, to be honest, it was just one less vegetable I would have picked out while I was eating it. But I would like to note that I ate the shit out of that broccoli though!
It’s a winner in this house, but I definitely noted the differences (the Italian dressing, Bacon Ranch and no carrots) before it went into the cookbook.
Felina wants everyone to know that she does not approve of these cat-loving shenanigans. And please excuse Nance’s photos because she was fighting hardcore with the copyright thingie and it blows. Send treats!
- ½ of a 16-ounce box of shell pasta (I used medium shells and would recommend those)
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped OR half a 12-ounce bag of broccoli florets (you might want to cut the broccoli florets even smaller than they are)
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- ½ of a 5-ounce pack mini pepperonis (regular pepperoni will work, too)
- 8 Monterey Jack (or any kind, really. Whatever you have on hand works.) cheese sticks cut into chunks
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- Ranch dressing - make your own or use the prepared stuff from a bottle
- Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box; drain it. Let it cool, and then dump it onto a paper towel to drain further.
- Put all the ingredients except Ranch dressing into a big bowl.
- Add the Ranch dressing. Go with your own personal preferences as far as how much dressing to use. I used the whole batch (which I mixed up from the envelope) and it worked out pretty well.
- Mix together well and serve (or chill until dinner time!)