ISO pasta salad add ins ASAP
Been asked to bring a pasta salad with pesto to a mediterranean inspired BBQ this Friday. I want to jazz it up, so I purchased some good quality orecchiette from Puglia, some very mini bocconcini and grape tomatoes. What else can I add in it to make it more substantial? Thinking of more veggies or should it be legumes (chick peas)? Can think of lots but it has to go with pesto.
Get some mozzarella balls the little tiny ones that come marinated in oils, and spices. I get one called marinated celigene mozzarella cheese that comes in little balls about the size of grape tomatoes. I quarter them, and add some of the oil as well. The oil will be a VERY welcome addition to your salad. Don't skimp on good parmesan or evoo, either, (not that you would) If you wanna make it more substantial, I vote for good cheese.
Blanched broccoli, califlower, spinach, parsley chicks, maybe some cannelloni beans? Hell throw in some super thinly sliced strands of prosciutto, mortadella, serrano, capicolla (only good stuff, and a little goes a LONG way with the good stuff) Maybe some bits of a good sharp provolone as well.
Orecchiette can be a bit of a pain in the backside for pasta salad... it's really hard to get a nice even coat of dressing because it always want to clump in the concavities of the orecchiette & the lil' suckers get stuck together in stacks very easily. You might rather go for penne, farfalle or rotini which is really fabulous for pasta salads esp. w/ pesto.
That said, add-ins:
pine nuts or walnuts
thin sliced marinated artichokes
oil cured black olives
Some folks would add tuna, or chicken, but I wouldn't if you think any veggie-types will be there. Vegetarians rely on sides like pasta salad.
Got very good quality EVOO and aged parm reggiano. I purchased some pine nuts too and have the small mozz cheese (bocconcini). Wanted to get the black cured olives, but worried about the flavour with pesto. Spinach or arugula (should I julienne or rough chop it?) seems like another good addition as well as some julienned yellow pepper. I thought about the shape of the pasta as mentioned. Will have to rethink that one.
Just served a very successful pasta salad last weekend: anellini pasta (basically little rings) worked very, very well with chick peas, quartered cherry tomatoes, chopped alfalfa sprouts, fresh chopped tarragon, and a dijon vinaigrette. One feature that really helped is that I pre-dressed the salad, but brought some extra dressing to add immediately before serving. I've never had pasta salad disappear so quickly, and this was at a child's birthday party! It seemed to please kids and adults alike. Good luck this weekend....
The pasta thing is abit of a drag, since you already bought the orecchiette, but I've made the mistake before & I was really dissapointed.
Toast the pine nuts first... in a fry pan or oven, it really brings out the flavor. I really like the pesto/olive combo, you can always try a little pesto on an olive & see what you think. If you hate it, they can easily be reserved for another use. It's prime arugula season, so you can't go wrong there.. don't get the baby-greenhouse stuff, get the real stuff which is so nice & peppery & pick your chop style to compliment the pasta shape. Julienne would work really well w/ rotini or farfalle, but rough chop might be better with a bigger shape like penne. Bring along a bit of evoo & lemon juice to toss in right before you put it out (as per powella) just to make sure the pasta hasn't soaked up all the sauce & made the salad dry.
I'm not much of a fan of bell pepper, so I'll stay out of that, but I will put in another plug for thin sliced (or quartered small) artichoke hearts if you can get really good ones. I'm not sure where you are, but if you've got access to bocconcini, perhaps you can get some good grilled-marinated artichokes at your local olive bar?
This is what I made. The orecchiette turned out to be wonderful. I used loads of salted water to cook it in, waited until it was a rolling boil and stirred. This is the first time I had only a couple of ones tucked into one another. I used two -1lb packages of bronze cut. The texture was fabulous. I added pearl bocconcini, roasted asparagus, black cured olives which I pitted, pesto (I added some arugula leaves to the pesto and it made it more peppery), mini pear tomoatoes halved. Just before serving, I added toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan. It was simple, but the ingredients were all top notch, so that made the difference.
Thanks everyone for the advice.