Saturday, February 18, 2012

Italian Pasta Salad

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Pasta, in all its various forms, I firmly believe, is the food of the gods. A big old bowl of spaghetti drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with a little salt and pepper is perfection itself. But I am forever trying to think of new ways to dress it up. Here's one of my recent recipes. I wish I could think of a more creative title for it, but I couldn't very easily call it "Pasta With Chicken, Mushrooms, Olives, Tomatoes, Pepperoni, Onions, Basil, and Parmesan." Too many ingredients, and no one is really the star of the dish.

Start by boiling a pot of pasta. Cavatappi is my absolute favorite (there's just something about those squiggly tubes that delights my heart), but unfortunately I can't find that where I live so I had to settle for rotini. When it's al dente drain it, toss it with a little olive oil to prevent clumping, and set it aside.

Next take a still partially frozen (makes it easier to cut) chicken breast and dice it up. Season it with salt and pepper. Heat some vegetable oil in a large skillet and sauté the chicken, adding some crushed garlic near the end of cooking. Drain and set aside.

Now slice up a whole bunch of these beautiful baby bella mushrooms and sauté them in vegetable oil over medium heat. Don't crowd them like I did here, or they'll just steam rather than brown. Drain and set aside. Take a hunk of pepperoni and dice it up real small.

I love these Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. They're not quite as easy to find, and a little pricier than regular cherry tomatoes, but they taste sweeter and add a beautiful color. Slice 'em in half. Then take some sun-dried tomatoes and chop 'em up and open and drain a can of black olives.

Next, take a BIG handful of fresh basil and chiffonade it. Shred a block of good, strong, fresh parmesan cheese. Chop up half an onion. In a glass bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, and dijon mustard.

Combine everything in a big bowl and mix it up well, seasoning with more salt and pepper if you need to. Chill. Yum. So many awesome flavors all rolled up in one.

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