Callie’s Cabin: Homemade pasta salad (recipe) |

Callie’s Cabin: Homemade pasta salad (recipe)

Rotini Primavera in a Browned Butter and Garlic Sauce - Photographed on Hasselblad H3D2-39mb Camera
Getty Images | E+

Here comes the fun — a chilled salad with Mediterranean flair. Welcome the Italian salad made with cooked pasta (and lots of seasonal clean foods) often mixed with a vinaigrette or Italian dressing.

It can be an appetizer, side dish or entrée. Italian pasta salad is often a summertime meal, but it can be served year-round.

Rotini, shell, elbow or bowtie pasta shapes are the most traditional. Add-ins include vegetables, cheeses, nuts, herbs, spices, poultry or seafood. Broccoli, carrots, olives, onions, and Parmesan or hard cheeses also can be found in this salad served at picnics to salad bars.

One summer the love of my life paid me a visit. On this particular day we were out of sync. This is the place where we’d interview subjects for magazine articles, gambled at casinos, hiked on trails, and ate at Sizzler paying tribute to our the salad bar complete with pasta salads. When he asked, “What do you want to do?” he looked bored.

A few hours later, he drove off the hill to the flat land. And I was officially solo. Ironically, I had stuffed the fridge with our favorite foods, including deli bought Italian pasta salad. That night I grabbed the plastic container, sat on the deck with my dog surrounded by pine trees, and munched on the cold familiar noodles.

It was apparent the romance of my life was stale but the salad was still good. However, there was no “Lady and the Tramp” spaghetti sharing film-like sequel. It was a meal for one.

So, while love comes and goes, some foods are a constant and there for us during the best and worst of times. After time passed, I learned how to make homemade pasta salad, inspired by the San Francisco Bay Area, my home.

Pasta salad

2 cups rotini and/or other small pasta, cooked (use the colored variety)

1 cup broccoli and cauliflower florets, steamed or boiled (do not overcook)

½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup black olives, sliced

¼ cup artichoke hearts, chopped

¼ cup red onion, chopped

½ cup cheese (crumbled blue or Monterey Jack)

¼ cup walnuts, chopped

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¾ cup vinaigrette or all-natural premium Italian store bought dressing (a vinaigrette is a mixture of ¾ part olive oil, ¼ part red wine vinegar, and fresh herbs of your choice)

In a bowl combine vegetables, cheese (save Parm), nuts, herbs, spices, and poultry or seafood. Set aside.

Boil pasta. Remove from stovetop.

Place pasta into a bowl. Add dressing. Mix in chosen ingredients.

Chill in refrigerator. Top with Parmesan cheese when dishing it up. Makes three to four servings.

This salad can be pre-made. To make it more popular you can create a pasta bar much like a potato or green salad bar. Dish up the pasta with dressing. In small dishes provide a variety of ingredients, including vegetables, cheeses, nuts, and lean protein — all chopped. Let your guests build their own salad.

It’s oh-so-good on a warm day, especially with the tang of cold artichoke hearts and olive pieces (these can be found fresh in the deli at the grocery store) and decadent with cheeses and fresh summery vegetables.

The very best part is mixing it up allows everyone (single or with a loved one) to cool down and fill up on noodle salad.

Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, and Superfoods) published by Kensington. The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club. Her website is

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