When I was young, I was not a pasta fan, which is not typical for kids, and certainly not for kids of Italian backgrounds! I think it was the soft texture that didn’t agree with me at that time. There were lots of soft foods I did not like. I loved all the sauces my Mom and grandmother made and would enjoy them with crusty bread and their wonderful salads. When I started to do some of my own cooking in my late teens, I knew very well that most people loved pasta and I wanted to like it too, so I began adding lots of crunchy veggies to my dishes to help me overcome my texture issues. After all, pasta is available in many shapes and colours and is a versatile and affordable food, so I knew I needed to like it! The pasta salad recipe I developed became a very popular dish at my parties, and a number of my family members now make that salad regularly too. My Mom and grandmother used to call it Macaroni Salad…in fact, I think we referred to most pasta as macaroni in those days. I remember my grandmother asking, “What kind of macaroni do you want?”.
I started making my pasta salad recipe for parties and get-togethers, but for many years now, I‘ve been including pasta salad in my rotation of summer cook ahead salads. (Check out previous posts for other summer cook ahead dishes and tips). This Tri-Colour Pasta Salad a great side dish with lots of crunchy vegetables in it and if you top it with grilled chicken or other grilled meat or fish, it can be a complete meal too. For vegetarians or vegans, you can use chickpeas or other beans and legumes as the protein. I like to use 3 coloured fusilli for this dish, but you can use any pasta you like. For those who require gluten-free dishes, there are many good gluten-free pasta options available as well.
My dressing uses olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Cook the pasta according to directions for ‘al dente’. When the pasta is still quite hot add the dressing. This will allow the pasta to fully absorb the dressing, increasing the flavour of the dish and you won’t have to adjust the seasonings before serving. Thanks again to our local chef friend, Tim C. for that tip years ago! It has improved all my summer side salads immensely! I used to find it so frustrating to make the potato, rice or pasta salad that tasted great when I first made it, only to find when I went to serve it a few hours later, it tasted like it didn’t have enough dressing, so I’d add more. Thanks to Tim’s direction, I never have to adjust the seasonings before serving. I love that!
As far as vegetables go, I steam broccoli for 2 minutes leaving it a bright green. I used to include those miniature canned corn cobs too, which people liked, but I haven’t included those for a few years now, mostly because it’s something that I only used in this dish and I didn’t regularly stock it in my pantry. (As time has passed, I prefer to keep my pantry stocked with a wide variety of ingredients that I use for multiple dishes. It makes things so much easier! Hmmm…sounds like an idea for another blog post!). I also like to use green onions, red and green peppers, artichoke hearts, and sliced olives. Of course, you can use whatever vegetables you like to make this your own. But finishing with fresh basil is a must! I hope you enjoy this versatile dish as much as my family and I do. Head on over to the recipe tab for full instructions. If you create another version, I’d love to hear about it! Happy cooking, friends!