Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

Colleen's blog

  • RECIPE: Antipasto Pasta Salad

    June 16, 2015

    RECIPE: Antipasto Pasta Salad


    Antipasto 1/4

    Summer’s here and it’s potluck, picnic and barbecue season! This is my all-time favorite pasta salad to make for those occasions, or just to have ready in the fridge to avoid cooking on hot days. It is made up of all the yummy bits you might see on an antipasto tray. It’s so good that I could, and I speak from experience here, eat it at least once a day for a week and still look forward to the next bowl. It’s great for outdoor gatherings because there’s no mayonnaise to spoil. The recipe is infinitely customizable to the preferences of your diners or the fanciness of your occasion. You can also leave all of your ingredients in large enough pieces for picky eaters to easily avoid the bits they don’t like. And, if you don’t feel like doing a lot of prep work, you can find a good variety of ingredients already prepared for you at many supermarket salad and olive bars.

    Antipasto 2/4

    Antipasto Pasta Salad

    1 pound dry pasta
    1 red onion, coarsely chopped
    2 cups (approx.) or 1 bottle Italian salad dressing
    4 ribs of celery, sliced
    10.5 ounce container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
    2 green onions, sliced (not pictured)
    8 ounces salami, cubed
    1 cup olives, whole, halved or sliced
    1 cup marcona almonds

    Some notes before we get started:

    PASTA: If you use a smaller cut of pasta such as “salad macaroni” or small shells then you would want to cut the rest of your ingredients about the same size. I recommend a medium sized cut of pasta such as the radiatori that I used. Penne, fusilli, farfalle or cavatappi are some other good choices. Also, don’t feel married to pasta with this salad. I’ve substituted white beans for the pasta with good results. Lately I’ve been thinking about using rice, quinoa, or some combination of grains. I’ll also be trying this with Israeli couscous at some point, cutting all of the ingredients into a small dice so that it looks more like a salsa…Oh, the ideas!
    ONION: I use red onion in this recipe specifically for the color. Yellow, white or sweet onion would be fine, or even shallot. I like a lot of onion, but I don’t like it to have a sharp bite. To mellow the onion I either add it to the pasta for the last minute of cook time, or put the chopped onion in the colander before pouring in the pasta to drain. I added the sliced green onions at the end for their milder fresh onion taste.
    ITALIAN SALAD DRESSING: Use your family’s favorite. Homemade, semi-homemade (from a dry mix) or bottled. I prefer to start with a dry mix and use balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I used 2 envelopes of dry salad dressing mix for this recipe.
    OLIVES: Use what you like. I always use kalamata and, this time, added some good quality green olives as well since my supermarket olive bar had a beautiful pre-cut mixture of the two all ready cut up and ready to go.
    MARCONA ALMONDS: These are a Spanish variety that I usually buy roasted with olive oil and salt. Alternatives would be toasted blanched almonds or toasted pine nuts…maybe even toasted macadamia nuts. If you will be serving the salad right away then toasted pistachios would be a good option. I think pistachios tend to kind of mealy though by the second day.
    TOMATOES: If you can find small multi-colored heirloom tomatoes they would give your salad beautiful visual appeal. Here’s a tip on how to cut them:  Corral them between 2 plastic container lids, place a flat palm on top with a little pressure to keep everything in place, then slide a sharp serrated knife between the lids and through the tomatoes.  This works best if all of the tomatoes are of a similar size. If your tomatoes vary in size, try cutting them in batches sorted by size. Just be sure to keep the fingers of that top hand out of the way!

    Antipasto 3/4

    OPTIONAL ADDITIONS: bell pepper, chili pepper, artichoke hearts or bottoms, small balls or cubes of fresh mozzarella, shavings or crumbles of Parmesan, cubes of queso fresco or crumbles of feta, butter beans, giant white beans or cannellini beans, chunks of roasted green beans, summer squash or asparagus, roasted red pepper strips, pepperoncini or peppadew peppers, marinated mushrooms, a pinch of red chili flakes…
    Think about the colors of your ingredients and try to get a good variety. A “feast for the eyes” as they say.

    Okay, now on to the method:

    Cook pasta according to package directions. Add onions either during the last minute of cooking, to the colander before draining the pasta, or in your mixing bowl before pouring the drained, hot pasta directly on top of them.
    Add about half of your salad dressing, mix well, then allow the onions and pasta to cool to room temperature.
    Add all of your remaining ingredients, except the salad dressing, and mix gently.

    Antipasto 4/4

    Add enough of the remaining dressing to coat all of the ingredients but not have them swimming in dressing.
    Serve or refrigerate immediately. I’ve kept this salad in the refrigerator for up to a week, but keep in mind your ingredient choices and how long each of them will keep. I would not recommend freezing it.

    I think this salad tastes even better the next day, so definitely make it a day or two ahead when you can. Although I do not recommend freezing this salad, many of the ingredients can be frozen separately so that the salad could be tossed together and dressed on short notice.

    This entry was posted in Recipes.

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    Author Bio
    Cindy Moore
    Cindy Moore

    Hi, Cindy Moore here. Colleen and I have been friends since we worked together while she was writing Tiger’s Curse. I'm a very creative person and a great problem solver. I love to cook, read, craft, and research random things. I love logic and information and hate not knowing the answer to any given question. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, which is sometimes good, sometimes bad. I love DIY and re-purposing things from their intended use.

    How much do I love information and answers? To the extent that I make lists on my phone of things to Google when I have a few minutes with nothing better to do. (Or, more likely, when I'm procrastinating about something I should be doing instead.) Every new thing I learn leads me to about a gazillion more cool new things. SQUIRREL!!! I love sharing new information and ideas with people. You can imagine what a dangerous place the internet is to me in my efforts to be more productive.

    I’ve been cooking since I was a kid and am a Foodie with no formal training but a large cookbook collection and internet access. I am a very picky eater due to some food sensitivities, but I love trying new foods and recipes, so I put my creativity and problem solving skills to good use while adapting recipes to my own personal tastes. I love shopping for exotic ingredients in specialty markets and online and probably have at least 12 different kinds of salt in my kitchen right now…none of which is plain iodized table salt. Given a choice I would always chose an ethnic dish over something like burgers or pizza. Asian cuisines, especially Thai and Vietnamese, are my favorites. I am totally addicted to Thai salad rolls and pork lettuce wraps.

    I’ve made a commitment to myself to reduce the chemicals and unnecessary or harmful ingredients that are in my food, bath and body products, or household cleaning products. I also I tend to think “why buy it if I can make it myself”.

    I love making jewelry, especially with natural materials like stones and fresh water pearls. Dangly earrings are my favorite jewelry item to make.

    I’m not really clear on the concept of “moderation”, nor apparently is Colleen. Nowhere is this more evident than when Colleen and I get together for our marathon holiday bakeathons. We tend to overdo things…slightly.

    All of these interests…”character flaws”?...will influence the kinds of blog posts you see from me.