A new gourmet olive oil shop opened in town, and I had two sweet students bring me bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil at the end of the school year. The olive oil is that really good kind that tastes good all by itself with crusty bread dipped in it, which was my main plan until we needed a side dish for TheRoomDad’s latest grilling adventures. I whipped together an easy tortellini pasta salad that is delicious and summery and excellent with steak.
1 family sized package cheese tortellini (~1 lb)
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 handful baby arugula
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded (or to taste)
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to the pasta and toss gently to keep the tortellini from sticking together and let cool slightly.
In a separate dish, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and pepper.
In the bowl with the tortellini, add crumbled bacon, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and dressing. Toss well until the tortellini is coated with dressing. The arugula will wilt slightly.
Sprinkle Parmesan on top before serving.
Serve at room temperature.
I have not officially tested this, but I think the pasta salad would travel well to tailgates and potlucks and could be refrigerated.
Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.
16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper, to taste
1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped
Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
Add dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
Sprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.
If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.
We attended the annual end of year family picnic for my son’s Cub Scout den. The other moms usually request my Pasta with Pesto and Peas side dish that both adults and children love, but I decided to go rogue this year and bring a sun-dried tomato pasta salad.
The recipe is a little risky because it uses black olives. Many people (meaning TheRoomMom) avoid olives. However, this recipe has just enough olives to give a salty/briny taste without actually having a super olive-y flavor. I originally got the recipe from an Ina Garten cookbook and have tweaked it a little over time. With Memorial Day picnics just around the corner, this recipe might be something to consider.
1 lb. fusili pasta (corkscrew pasta)
good olive oil
1 lb. ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
1/4 c. black kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 lb. fresh mozarella, medium-diced
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. basil leaves cut in chiffonade (thin ribbons)
5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 T. red wine vinegar
6 T. good olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
1 t. capers, drained
2 t. kosher salt
3/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for the time given in the directions on the box (about 12 minutes). Drain well. Add pasta to a large bowl, and toss with a little olive oil (~2 t.) to keep from sticking together. Let the pasta cool.
While pasta is cooling, seed the tomatoes and dice. I used Roma tomatoes because they looked like they would be the reddest and tastiest of my choices in the store. If you can get really good homegrown tomatoes in another variety, use them.
Pit (if needed) and chop the black olives into a very small dice. Chop 6 sun-dried tomatoes. Cut the mozzarella into medium dice.
Add diced tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella to the cooled pasta and toss gently.
For the dressing, combine the dressing ingredients (sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper) in a food processor and run the food processor until the dressing is almost smooth.
Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss well.
Just before serving, add basil and Parmesan cheese and toss again.
Can be made ahead.
It is served at room temperature, so it works well for tailgates, picnics, or group meals.
Diced artichoke hearts are a good addition.
Pairs well with grilled chicken or grilled steaks.
Not only am I tasked with making a lunch for my two children every morning, I also have to pack my own lunch. If you read about the Teacher Emergency Kit, you know teachers are trapped in the school building all day until after the students are gone. It is a rare day that we can step out and pick up a sandwich at lunchtime, and I want more than the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches my kids are getting in their lunch bags. If I am on my game, I make something for dinner Sunday night that can be re-heated over the next few days for lunch. This week, I was on my game.
I made a double batch of Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, which is delicious at room temperature or slightly heated. I do think it only has a leftover shelf life of 2 to 3 days, so I would not plan to eat it all week. Anybody have any other suggestions for adult school lunches?
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
1 medium yellow squash, 1-inch diced
1 medium zucchini, 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c. good olive oil (or a little less)
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb. orzo
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 c. good olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
4 scallions minced, white and green parts
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
Toss the bell peppers, onion, zucchini, squash, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned turning once with a spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
For the dressing combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and the vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pine nuts, and basil. Check the seasonings, add another splash of fresh lemon juice (if desired), and serve at room temperature.
My son had his 2012-2013 Cub Scout kick-off meeting this afternoon. It was a family picnic at a local park. We brought a yummy pasta salad courtesy of Ina Garten to share with the group. This is one of my best large group recipes. It is easy to make, is colorful, and tastes delicious. The peas and spinach are kind of disguised, so even children like to eat this; my son actually requested this dish for his birthday dinner. If you want to use this as an entree rather than a side dish, serve with grilled chicken or salmon on top. What are your best recipes to share with a big group? I love anything that can be made ahead and is (fairly) easy to prepare.
2 boxes bow tie pasta (2 lbs)
good olive oil
1 1/2 c. pesto (homemade or purchased)
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 c. good mayonnaise
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c. frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 c. pine nuts, toasted
3/4 t. kosher salt
3/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until pasta is al dente. Drain and toss in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil to keep from sticking together. Cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and continue to puree.
Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta, then add the Parmesan cheese, peas, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.