Here is a quick and easy recipe (and video with Chef Dee Lennox from the Cooking Guide at eHow Food) for a tasty pasta salad made with fresh, seasonal veggies and sweet mandarin oranges that is delicious, nutritious and beautiful to look at. Add some grilled chicken or shrimp (hot or cold) and you have a meal in a bowl. Easy to make ahead for picnics, lunches or for a meal-on-the-go. Try it today!
A key step in making this pasta salad is to cook the pasta until just al dente (firm to the bite) and then rinse it well.
I know, I know... I have a rule about NOT rinsing pasta but that rule is exclusively for hot pasta. With hot pasta, you need the starch that clings to the strands to help form a rich, velvety sauce.
With pasta salad, that same starch makes the pasta sticky and chewy.
So...always rinse the pasta well under cold running water when making pasta salad or using pasta for another baked dish such as lasagna or stuffed shells.
After rinsing the pasta, add a very small amount of the dressing and mix well. This will keep the pasta from sticking and allow it to absorb the wonderful flavors while you prepare the other ingredients.
Recipe: Mandarin Pasta Salad
This is a quick and tasty pasta side salad or, with added protein, a complete meal. Easy to make ahead and keeps well overnight.
- 1 lb penne pasta or similar shape, cooked, rinsed, drained and cooled
- 1 (11 oz.) can of mandarin oranges, in syrup or water, drained
- 1 cup blanched green beans
- 1 cup blanched asparagus
- Whole romaine lettuce leaves or similar, washed and dried
- Dried cranberries
- slivered, toasted almonds
For the Dressing
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup white Balsamic vinegar (Champagne vinegar or pomegranate is good too)
- 1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (1 orange)
- zest from the orange (grate carefully to avoid the white pith as it can be very bitter)
- pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water according to package directions or until al dente (firm to the bite).
- Drain and rinse pasta under cold running water to remove the starch.
- Drain and allow to cool. Toss with a small amount of the dressing.
- While the pasta is cooking...cut the asparagus and green beans into bite size pieces.
- Cook the veggies for 2 minutes in salted, boiling water.
- Drain the veggies and drop them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the bright green color and crisp texture. Drain well and allow to cool.
- Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients and set aside.
- In a bowl, combine the pasta, the veggies, and the protein (if using) with the salad dressing using a light touch.
- Place the romaine lettuce leaves on the serving plates and gently add the pasta mixture.
- Garnish with slivered, toasted almonds and cranberries (optional)
- If making ahead, cover the bowl with the pasta mixture with plastic wrap.
- To serve later...add a touch more dressing, blend well and serve as directed above.
Add grilled chicken or cold cooked shrimp for added protein! Garnish with slivered, toasted almonds and a few dried cranberries on top for a pop of color and a boost of flavor.
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