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Cold pasta salads are cool on hot days

Cathie Campbell/The Madera Tribune

Summer months are a time for your best pasta salads to shine.


If there is one type of food I look forward to making every summer, it is pasta salad.

For one reason, it is salad, and that always goes over quite well during the summer and for another reason, a pasta salad is fresh and hearty and seems more like a complete meal than most salads do.

I thought I would share my favorite pasta salad recipes with you. Hope you’re enjoying a great summer and watching out for wildfires.

Cat’s wacky pasta salad

I had a great pasta salad that was served at a catered family party years ago, so I inspected it carefully in hopes of recreating it. My version actually came out a little better, but I don’t mean to brag.

1 package (12 ounces) “Wacky Mix” colored pasta shapes or tri-color pasta spirals

2 small cans sliced ripe olives, drained (even better is 1 can chopped and 1 can sliced)

8 ounces roasted red bell peppers, diced (such as Mezzetta brand that comes in a jar)

2 small jars (or 1 large) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (save marinade)

3 cups frozen corn kernels, cooked, drained and cooled

3/4 cup red onion, chopped

1 dry packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian salad dressing mix

Olive oil and cider or wine vinegar (for mixing the dressing)

Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, to taste (don’t overdo, as there will be additional seasonings in the dressing)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. (Make sure it doesn’t get overcooked, as this can happen very quickly if you get distracted.) Pour into a colander and cool under running water; drain thoroughly and set aside.

2. In a large serving or mixing bowl, combine olives, red peppers, artichoke hearts, corn and red onion. Add pasta spirals and mix lightly; season with the Lawry’s salt and the pepper.

3. Prepare the salad dressing as directed on package (use some of the reserved artichoke marinade as a replacement for part or all of the olive oil the directions call for); pour desired amount (I found I needed the whole amount) over the pasta salad and mix well. Chill several hours before serving, stirring the mixture once or twice during cooling time.

Chicken and ramen salad

For salad dressing:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar (seasoned or plain)

2 packets chicken-flavored ramen noodle seasoning

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

For salad:

1 small head green cabbage, cored and shredded or chopped

1 bunch green onions, cleaned and ready to chop

Diced cooked chicken breast, about 2 cups (more if you like)

2 crumbled packages of dry ramen noodles

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, or more if desired

1/4 cup salted, roasted sunflower seed kernels

1 cup slivered almonds

1. For dressing: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, place all ingredients. With lid fastened, shake vigorously until all ingredients are well blended. Oils will float to the top, but you can re

shake the jar just before pouring over the salad. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, place the cabbage, green onions, chicken, broken noodles, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds. Mix well.

3. Re-shake the dressing and pour evenly over the salad. Toss well with salad serving utensils. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Sesame noodle salad

1 package (8-oz.) linguine

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup dark sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

5 or 6 green onions, sliced

Toasted sesame seeds, optional

1. Cook linguine, drain and rinse with cold water, drain again.

2. Stir together vinegar and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in linguine and green onions; sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Chill, covered, until ready to serve. Tastes best the next day after flavors have had a chance to blend.

BLT pasta salad

You can use bowtie, elbows, fusilli or other types of pasta for this, but I prefer the shells.

1 pound pasta shells, medium or small

1 pound bacon

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

2 cups arugula leaves

1 avocado (or 2 if they are on the small side), chopped

1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon garlic powder or granules

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper (I use a bit less)

1. Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions just until al dente and still a bit firm. Rinse under cool water and drain well. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. While the pasta is cooking, chop the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and cook in a large skillet over medium heat until it becomes crisp. Transfer the cooked bacon to a plate and drain on paper towels.

3. Add the crisped and cooled bacon, tomato halves, arugula, avocado and red onion to the pasta.

4. In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, chives, parsley, garlic powder, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Thin with milk, water or buttermilk if desired.

5. Drizzle the dressing over the pasta and gently toss. Taste to see if you need to adjust seasonings. Serve chilled.

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