I am in love with this pasta salad!
I've lessened the amount of pasta I would, typically, use for pasta salad from sixteen ounces to ten ounces, but have amped up the amount of veggies in order to make this a little more full of the "healthful, good stuff."
I have to admit that I normally "cheat" when making pasta salad by utilizing a store-bought, good-quality Italian dressing. I found a pasta salad recipe by Jamie Deen recently that got me excited about doing my pasta salad a little differently this time around. He adds in his carrots and broccoli to the boiling water during the last couple of minutes of cooking the pasta. The veggies still stay crisp, but aren't as "harsh" to the palette. I was, also, intrigued by his dressing. I altered a few things and came up with something that I am crazy about. He uses red wine vinegar in his dressing, but I chose to use balsamic vinegar (highly recommended). (I have provided the amounts for either.) The dressing begins as a vinaigrette, but the addition of a little mayo brings about a smooth, creamy texture that beautifully coats the ingredients.
What I enjoy, too, about most-any pasta salad is that you can use any types of vegetables that you prefer or have on hand. Below is what we love in our pasta salad. For example, I like the combination of both fresh tomatoes and sun-dried. (Leave out the sun-dried if you don't care for them or if you don't happen to have any on hand, but I truly believe that they help "make" this dish.) We like peas in our version, but Jamie uses edamame.
Serves 6 - 8.
FOR THE SALAD -
10 ounces bite-size pasta
1 - 2 cups broccoli, stems trimmed and cut into bite-size florets
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin "coins"
6 - 8 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (or edamame out of their pods)
1/2 large cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 - 3 bunches green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips or small pieces (not the ones packed in oil)
5 - 6 radishes, cut into half-moons
FOR THE DRESSING -
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar (or 2 - 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cups real mayo
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Be sure to cook only to al dente and not to overcook. It is, also, very important in this recipe to liberally salt the pasta water.
During the final two or three minutes of cooking the pasta, add in the carrots and broccoli (and edamame, if using).
Drain the pasta and veggies in a colander in the sink. Run cold water immediately over pasta and veggies until they are cooled down. Allow to thoroughly drain.
While the pasta is cooking, prep all of your veggies.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar until combined. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Combine the pasta and all of the veggies gently in a large bowl. Fold in about 3/4 of the dressing to coat pasta and veggies. (I reserve the remaining dressing for time of service in case the salad is a little dry.)
Allow to chill in fridge until ready to serve. Serve with some Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on the salad.
NOTE: The dressing is very forgiving ... it can be thinned with a little more olive oil if it's too thick for your preference. Also, I sometimes add in a little more sugar if the vinegar seems a little too overpowering in a particular batch.