on hand pasta salad

There are two ways to menu plan and cook, I find, and I’m switching to the other one. My former style was to decide what I would most like to make–new recipe, old recipe, whatever–buy the stuff, and make it. My new method? Let’s apply those trendy (but wise) principles of re-use, repurpose, and moderation to the kitchen. Let’s cook, my friends, with what we have. What’s in season, what’s affordable, what’s responsible, and especially, whenever possible, what’s already on hand. Can we have delicious, creative, and healthy fare within that framework? I think we can.

I’ve been thinking about this switch for a while, but I started this morning when I realized Alex was leaving in thirty minutes and I had nothing to pack in his lunch. I did have about three cups of cooked plain macaroni leftovers and a couple of tomatoes . . . plenty of basil in the garden . . .could I steal a handful of button mushrooms and have a few less in tomorrow’s Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons? (It’s only chicken with mushrooms and cream, everything sounds better in French.)

Here’s my On Hand Pasta Salad. It tasted absolutely fresh and delicious, and it made enough for all of us. Best of all, it cost only a bit here and there and one can of black olives I had on reserve.

On Hand Pasta Salad 4-6 servings
3 cups cold cooked macaroni (or other leftover pasta . . .)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 handful white button mushrooms, halved
1 handful shredded mozzarella cheese
1 can black olives, drained
2 TBS. fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tsp. fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Then shake in a jar (and toss with the above):
1 TBS. olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 clove of garlic, pressed
pinch kosher salt
few grinds of fresh black pepper

When (not if) I make this again I’ll squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the dressing to brighten things up and grate a few TBS. of parmesan cheese into the salad.

Won’t you join me? I’d love to hear some on-hand creations of your own! Or better yet, the recipes!

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8 Responses to on hand pasta salad

  1. Janet says:

    My recent favorite cookbook is “The Food Bible”… not recipes but lists of what goes with what.. it is wonderful for what you are trying to do!

  2. Amberly says:

    Pasta salad is my go to throw together lunch. I always have pasta, a cucumber, tomatoes and some type of onion on hand – feta or mozzarella cheese is an added plus!

    I love your philosophy on meal planning. It is something I am trying to do as well. We’ll see how it goes!

  3. therigneys says:

    Ok- I’ll share my favorite little throw together pasta salad, but you have to promise not to judge it before you taste it, okay? I have made this so many times and everyone who has tried it absolutely LOVES it, even though the mix of ingredients sound quite strange together….

    1 box of orzo pasta
    basil pesto
    feta cheese
    sun-dried tomatoes
    chopped walnuts
    I also like to sprinkle a touch of freshly grated Parm. on top.

    The craisins add a really nice sweet taste to the already tangy pasta. I created this when we needed a quick side dish and I’ve made it now for the past three years. It is really, really good served warm as a leftover as well.

    • betsy says:

      I did kind of begin to wonder when I hit walnuts–but I know better than to doubt anything you make!

      • therigneys says:

        Oh the walnuts are the best part! They give the pasta salad a nice crunch! You know you can make pesto with walnuts instead if pinenuts and it tastes great! And it is much cheaper!!!

  4. Pingback: basil and tomato stuffed chicken | part of the main

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