With warmer temperatures comes the need for “cool food” – a cold dinner that doesn’t take a lot of cooking to heat up your home. Of course you can always barbeque and pick up deli salads, but if you want to provide the “wow” factor, something homemade (and easy!) is ultimately the better choice. I know that if I get compliments over a dinner I bought from the deli, it just doesn’t feel the same as when I’ve put my own effort into the making of the meal. (Eater: “Hey, babe! Great dinner – we should do this more often!” Cook: “Yeah – I can really open those deli containers, can’t I? I have found my cooking niche!”)
I developed this recipe from trying deli versions of something similar – I think it’s better! And it’s one I can make without having to look anything up – it’s super easy. Here is what you need: 8 oz. uncooked bow-tie pasta, fresh ground pepper, 1-2 c. shaved Parmesan cheese (bigger flavor – check the deli at your grocery store) – shredded will do, 10 oz (give or take) jar of Caesar Dressing – I like the refrigerated kinds by Marie’s or Litehouse, 2 c. bite-sized pieces of broccoli, 1 c. cherry tomatoes (halved), 1 can quartered artichoke hearts (water packed, drained), 1/2 onion, chopped.
Cook your pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse in cold water until you can stir it easily with your hand. Drain well and put into large bowl. Stir in about 1/2 jar of the dressing (this time, use a spoon!) and set aside. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add broccoli and onion – cook for 1 minute, drain and rinse as you did for the pasta. This helps the broccoli have a bright green color and still be salad-crisp – it will also cut the sharpness of your onions (especially if you have someone who is not fond of onions!). Add the vegetables to the pasta and stir – adding more dressing as needed. Stir in Parmesan cheese and halved tomatoes. Mix well, adding dressing to desired level of moistness. Add ground pepper periodically to taste. Garnish with additional cheese, tomatoes and/or pepper (or nothing!) refrigerate for several hours before serving. You can also add leftover cooked chicken to the salad to make it a meal instead of an accompaniment. The pasta I used for the pictured salad was multi-colored so it looks very colorful, but regular pasta sets off the bright broccoli and tomatoes better visually. (my opinion!) Serve with extra dressing, cheese and have your pepper grinder handy. This makes a huge bowl and the leftovers are great for lunch – on the patio!