The Only Pasta Salad Recipe You’ll Ever Need.

I neglected to write a “planning” post this week – whoops!  I actually DID plan out our meals, too…though with only a couple of nights of cooking needed (we are headed to MIAMI! this weekend), I took a bit of the easy way out.  We did a lot of recycling and reusing chez nous, and we’re still dining on leftovers.  For example, this pasta salad, which I made to bring to a friend’s impromptu BBQ on Sunday evening (another reason to love spring: impromptu BBQs).

This “recipe” is an absolute go-to.  I remember making it for the first time with my mom probably ten years ago, and it’s become a staple at the yearly beachside bonfire we host with a bunch of family friends.  Of course, the first time she made this, my mom was just using up vegetables she had in her fridge – I don’t get my propensity to throw things together and call it dinner from nowhere, you see.  There are, however, two secrets to elevating this from grocery store pasta salad to the kind of pasta salad to end all other pasta salads.  See if you can spot them.

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The World’s (well, in my humble opinion, anyway) Best Pasta Salad

  • 1 box curly pasta – my favorite is Cavatappi
  • 1/2 jar sundried tomatoes, in oil – coarsely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced (orange adds a nice pop of color!)
  • 1 can corn, drained, or ideally, 2-3 stalks of fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 small container cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • one bunch green onions, chopped
  • handful of spinach
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • a goodly amount of Parmesan cheese
  • fresh herbs: cilantro provides a gorgeous zing, but parsley and/or basil also good options
  • dressing:
    • a good squeeze of anchovy paste (*leave out if making a totally vegetarian version*)
    • salt, pepper, crushed reds
    • balsamic vinegar
    • olive oil
  1. Boil water for pasta; while you’re waiting, prepare/wash/chop all of your veggies, and place in a LARGE bowl, EXCEPT for your sundried tomatoes.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.  While the pasta is still warm, toss with the veggies – and then add your sundried tomatoes and a bit of the oil it comes in.  Give it a thorough toss.
  3. Whisk together your dressing and add to your pasta.  Finish off your salad with Parmesan and a generous dose of herbs.  Serve warm or chilled – it won’t last long either way.

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The Verdict:

This one’s a go-to for good reason.  I made an extra large batch on Sunday, taking most of it to the BBQ and leaving a bit behind for me and the Husband.  By Monday evening, I had (very generously) left him two (full!) strands of Cavatappi.  I am such a great partner, sometimes.

PS: You can obviously add olives to add brininess, and whatever else your little heart desires.  I have and enforce a strict no-olive policy chez nous.

Pancetta & Leek Quiche

I know, I can’t stop posting about quiches and tarts and things that are technically veggie oriented but are really just carbo-loaded vehicles for cheese consumption.  Guilty as charged.

On the other hand, when the Husband told me this was “the best ever,” obvi it’s going on the blog.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

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how does this end up looking like a pizza?!

Pancetta & Leek Quiche

  • 1 premade pie dough, brought to room temperature
  • about 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • about 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup or so heavy cream (or milk, or half and half, or whatever you have)
  • about 8 oz shredded Gruyere
  • optional: handful cherry tomatoes, halved, chopped green onions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Unroll the pie dough and press into a pie plate.  Prick lightly with a fork and bake for about 5-6 minutes, just to get the color nice and light golden.  Bonus if you can use a  crust protector.
  2. In a saute pan, over medium high heat, cook the pancetta until it starts to crisp up.  Reduce heat to medium low, and in that nice bacon-y fat, add your sliced leeks.  (Note: it will look like a LOT of leeks.  Don’t worry – they’ll all fit!).  Add salt, pepper, crushed reds, and parsley and let the leeks cook down a good while – about 10-12 minutes, until they’re nice and translucent.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whip together eggs, cream, and a pinch of salt/pepper/crushed reds.
  4. In your (lightly) baked pie dough, spread the bacon and leek mixture evenly.  Top with a generous amount of cheese, and then carefully pour the egg/cream mix over the top.  Top, as desired, with cherry tomatoes for an extra pop of color.
  5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is nice and golden, and the eggs are cooked all the way through.  Top with additional parsley and serve with a side salad.
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less pizza, more leek.

The Verdict:

I think we already established the Husband’s verdict.  As for me, any day I get to use the crust protector, that’s a good day.

Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Spinach

That moment when you’ve come back from a trip and it’s freezing and the idea of putting on your coat and going to the grocery store and lugging those groceries home and just, no, no, you just can’t?  That’s the moment for this soup, inspired by my fridge…and the Kitchn.  Every single ingredient was already in my fridge or my pantry- and is likely in yours, too.  And if not? Just substitute in the veggies that are.

so many veggies in one pot!
so many veggies in one pot!

Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Spinach

  • olive oil
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 ribs celery, diced
  • optional: any other leftover vegetables you might have laying about – I threw in some yellow bell pepper, which was lovely
  • 1 onion, diced
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds (you know, the essentials)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about a cup red lentils, rinsed and picked
  • about 4-6 cups broth and/or water, if you don’t have broth…more or less depending on how “soupy” you like your soup
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • dash cumin
  • large handful kale
  • large handful spinach
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • optional toppings: Greek yogurt, cilantro, parsley, etc.
  1. Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery, & onions, add a good pinch of salt, a dash of pepper & crushed reds, and cook gently – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, cook for a minute or two, then add the lentils, give them a quick toss with the veggies, and add the broth, bay leaf, and a dash of cumin.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Simmer with the cover on, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add the kale and spinach, stir through, and then cover and simmer another 8-10 minutes.
  5. Removing the soup from the heat, add the lemon juice, ladle into bowls and serve with your desired toppings.
so good & so good for you.
so good & so good for you.

The Verdict:

So healthy, so wallet friendly, so quick and easy.  What’s not to love?

Chickpea Burgers with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

The Husband loves falafel so much that for our six month wedding anniversary (side note: how has it already been six months!?) I bought him a $12 gift card (enough for a combo meal, oh-so-generous) to our local late night falafel shop.  Except we now generally go during the day because we’re old and find ourselves listening to Serial and falling fast asleep by 11PM on weekends.  He was so excited.  Being married is awesome.

These burgers, adapted from the Healthy in a Hurry cookbook my mom-in-law bought me a few years ago, are a (healthier) take on falafel.

Chickpea Burgers with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

For the Burgers

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4-6 green onions, washed and white bulbs removed
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • a good dash crushed red pepper
  • olive oil (for sauteing)

For the Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons or so finely diced cucumber
  • grated lemon zest
  • 1 small container plain Greek yogurt
  • chopped parsley
  • dash salt and pepper
  1. Starting with the chickpeas, combine all of the burger ingredients, except olive oil, in a food processor.  Pulse until a rough mixture forms.
  2. Form the mixture into four patties.  The mixture is a little wet and prone to falling apart; if you put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or so, this will really help the patties bind.
  3. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat; add patties and cook on one side for about 4-5 minutes or until golden.  Flip and cook an additional few minutes.
  4. While the burgers cook, make your sauce by combining all of your ingredients and mixing thoroughly.
  5. Serve burgers either on top of salad or in a warmed pita; serve sauce on top of the burger.
looks like christmas around here.
we take christmas colors seriously around here.

The Verdict:

After polishing off his burger and going for seconds, the Husband declared that our local falafel shop has some serious competition.  I couldn’t ask for a better compliment – I think these will become a go-to around here!  Try them with regular falafel toppings – beets, tabbouleh, pickles, anything your heart desires.

Salad Rules: Chickpea and Radicchio with Tahini

So we know Ina and Martha are in a battle for the number one spot in my kitchen.  But clearly, there’s another queen of daytime television (maybe not the Food Network, but she HAS been dubbed the “queen of all media”) that we’ve been neglecting.  I’m talking, of course, about Oprah.

I was never a big Oprah Winfrey Show fan.  There was something a little too voyeuristic about the emotions and tears shared and shed on air (that might be the New England in me).  But I will admit it: reading O Magazine has become a huge (if guilty) pleasure.  This recipe from the January issue (with a few tweaks, of course!).

Chickpea and Radicchio Salad with Tahini Dressing

  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly chopped (white parts discarded)
  • a big handful parsley, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • handful ground cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons or so olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons or so tahini
  • 1 head radicchio, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced (because the number one rule about salad: it’s always better with avocado)
  1. Put chickpeas in a saute pan and pour enough water to cover them, just barely.  Bring to a simmer over low heat and heat all the way through.
  2. While chickpeas heat, combine scallions, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl.  Mix in the tahini and coat with the olive oil.  Drain the chickpeas, add them to the bowl, and give it a good toss.
  3. Add the radicchio to the bowl and toss with the chickpea mixture.  Serve with parsley, avocado, and a few turns of cracked sea salt.
avocado makes everything better.
avocado makes everything better.

The Verdict:

Um, hello, Oprah!  (Or rather, Deborah Madison, who wrote the recipe.)  I once read somewhere that radicchio is “bawlingly bitter.”  That’s a bit true – and this salad would probably be even better if I had done a quick toss of the radicchio and olive oil in a warm saute pan.  But even as is, this was completely delicious.  A definite repeat!