Creamy Pasta Salad – Nance and Robyn make the same recipe

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.

Robyn’s Take:

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?

Your ingredients:

PastaSalad (1)

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.

PastaSalad (2)

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.

PastaSalad (3)

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.

PastaSalad (5)

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…

PastaSalad (7)

Add the pasta….

PastaSalad (8)

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:

PastaSalad (9)

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.

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Nance’s take:

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!

Pasta Salad

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.

Pasta Salad

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.

Pasta Salad

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.

Pasta Salad


Pasta Salad

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.

Pasta Salad

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.

Pasta Salad
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/Pasta Salad

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!

Creamy Pasta Salad - Nance and Robyn make the same recipe
Prep time
Total time
: Side Dish
Cuisine: Norwegian
Serves: 12
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. Put all the ingredients except Ranch dressing into a big bowl.
  3. 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.
  4. Mix together well and serve (or chill until dinner time!)


Pepperoni Pasta Bake – Nance and Robyn make the same recipe

Every week we’ll post a recipe that we both made. This week’s recipe was Pepperoni Pasta Bake, found over at Printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this post.  

Robyn’s Take:

This week’s recipe was my choice, and by “my choice”, I mean “Fred sent me the link to this recipe and asked me to make it.” It looked interesting – and certainly easier than making real pizza from scratch – so I was willing to give it a try. And because it’s so much like pizza, I’ve been calling it “Pizza Casserole” ever since. Imagine my surprise when I realized it had a different name altogether. Duh.


Pizza Casserole (1)

Rotini pasta (uncooked), Italian sausage (I used some of the sausage I had in the freezer from our very own pigs), pasta sauce, cottage cheese, sliced black olives, mozzarella, sliced pepperoni. In addition, I added onion and mushrooms, because that’s how we like our pizza. Garlic would have been a tasty addition, too.

Preheat your oven, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil, and toss your sausage (and chopped onion, if you’re using it) into a skillet over med-high heat.

Pizza Casserole (2)

Pizza Casserole (5)

When the water’s boiling, add your pasta to the water (please note: wooden spoon across the top to stop the water from boiling over. Doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. Maybe I’m magic.) Boil the pasta for 8 – 10 minutes, occasionally stirring, and keep an eye on/occasionally stir your browning sausage/onion mixture.

Because you’re trying to multi-task, the pasta and the sausage/onion mixture will probably be done at the exact same moment. Drain your pasta first; the sausage can wait.

Pizza Casserole (4)

In a large bowl, mix your (drained) pasta, your (drained) sausage/onion mixture, and your pasta sauce.

Pizza Casserole (3)

In another bowl, mix your cottage cheese, sliced black olive, and mozzarella. This is where I added my (drained) sliced mushrooms.

Put your pasta mixture in a greased 9×13 pan, and then top it with the cheese mixture.

Pizza Casserole (7)

Pizza Casserole (8)

And then top THAT with pepperoni slices. This was a LOT of pepperoni, and I ended up using only about 3/4 of the 6-ounce bag of pepperoni.

Pizza Casserole (9)

Bake that shit for 25 minutes. This is just enough time to go upstairs and snorgle….

Pizza Casserole (12)
Kitten ears and bellies! (Yes, that’s a completely gratuitous kitten picture. Whatcha gonna do about it?)

This is what my pepperoni pasta bake looked like when it was done:

Pizza Casserole (10)

Yeah. Still haven’t gotten the hang of food photography yet.

Pizza Casserole (11)

The verdict? To me, it was just “meh.” Fred, however, loved the hell out of it. He took the leftover casserole to work for lunches, and every single day he came home and told me how good it was. I’ll make it in the future for him, but I’m not interested in eating any of it myself; it just wasn’t my thing.

The good thing about this recipe is that it’s pretty flexible – if you prefer ground beef to sausage, or half ground beef and half sausage, that’ll work. If you like your pizza with anchovies, by god go right ahead and toss some anchovies in there. The sky’s the limit!


Nance’s Take:

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

I don’t know about you guys, but something dies inside of me every single time I find myself boiling pasta. My mother’s favorite meal is spaghetti and since it’s one of the cheapest meals you can make we had it often when I was growing up. That’s also why I’m always amazed when I see spaghetti on a menu in a restaurant.  Who would want something that they could eat at home?  Blech.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

This recipe was pretty simple. Cook your pasta, cook your sausage (yuck), throw the shit together, move it along, etc., etc.

True Confession:  Rick and I are pretty fond of having dance parties when we’re alone in the house.  We’ve been doing it since we met and we’ll probably keep doing it until one of us breaks a hip.  This dish was prepared in the middle of an 80’s dance party (we switch it up all the time, oldies, top 40, whatever).  And now you know a secret about us that very few people know.  We like to bust a move while cooking.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

In Pennsylvania it’s okay to wear a sweatshirt with snowflakes on it after the first day of spring because tomorrow we’re supposed to be getting 3-6 inches of snow. My point is made.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

There are no words for how much I love Ragu™. I once read an article about how certain food makers are allowed so many pieces of flies and shit to get into their product. Did this stop me from eating Ragu™? OHHELLNO. And that, my friends, should tell you how much I love Ragu™.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Action shot! Yup, I sure did over-cook that Rotini. I swear it is because of the ADD. I get bored waiting for it to be al dente, walk away and then BAM…too late.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Another action shot. I’m already not into this dish because of the sausage. I’m just not a fan. Although once a year I do love a good hot sausage sandwich with onions and peppers. Weird.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

When you pour spaghetti sauce out of the jar, do you rinse it out with a little bit of water and then pour that back into the sauce? Shirley does that and it drives me batshit. She fucking thins the Ragu™ all in the name of making sure she isn’t being wasteful. I don’t do that shit, man. That’s crazy.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

When I color with crayons (which I haven’t done in 40 years) I like to stay in the lines. You can just imagine what this did to a Type-A like me.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

I was starting to get pissed here because shit was getting messy.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Rick takes a photo of my thoughts on cottage cheese.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Oh, look. It’s time to eat some of satan’s bed sores.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

This is just not looking good, man.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

This picture reminds me of that coconut cake we made a while back. If only.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

I used the handle of the spoon so that none of it could taint my cooking utensils. Rick just laughed because he knows.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

I tried to sink them so that it would be like the actual recipe (that said to mix that hot mess in with the cottage cheese/mozzarella mixture).

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

You can see that I only did a quarter of it with olives. And then I tried to cover it up with pepperoni so that none of the smell would seep into my oven much. Gag.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

We put some in a bowl to try it when it was done.

DCEP - Pepperoni Pasta Bake

This one is not going into the recipe book, but to be fair, it’s probably because we’re not fans of cottage cheese (although I use it in my lasagna). The amount of cottage cheese required by this recipe pretty much sealed the deal that we weren’t going to care for it.  But if you love cottage cheese and olives this might be the recipe for you.  You can try it out if you want to come over and dig it out of my garbage can!

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Pepperoni Pasta Bake - Nance and Robyn make the same recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Original Source/Author:
: Casserole
Cuisine: Italianish
Serves: 8
  • 16 oz pkg uncooked rotini pasta
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 16 oz jar of pasta sauce
  • 24 oz cottage cheese
  • 2.25 oz can sliced black olives (drained)
  • 12 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 6 oz sliced pepperoni
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Lightly grease a 9x13" casserole dish.
  3. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add the pasta to the pot and follow directions on the box to get al dente pasta (usually 8 - 10 minutes). Drain.
  4. In a medium skillet over med-high heat, cook the sausage until brown. Drain.
  5. In the prepared casserole dish (or a large bowl) mix the cooked pasta, sausage, and pasta sauce (then pour into casserole dish and spread evenly).
  6. In a medium bowl mix cottage cheese, sliced black olives, and mozzarella. Spoon the cheese mixture over the pasta mixture. Top with pepperoni slices.
  7. Bake at 350ºF for 25 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned.