April showers bring us May flowers, so the saying goes. The month of May also kicks off the outdoor party season! Graduations, Communions, Wedding Festivities, Summer Holidays, and my favorite type of party; the Just Because start in earnest this month. Many of the shindigs I attend are potluck style, with the host providing the main course eats and us lucky guests providing sides and appetizers. It is always interesting to see what others bring to share and of course swapping recipes and getting clued into the ingredient lists behind the tasty, but often heavily processed dishes.
Antipasto, meaning “before the meal” classically is the first course in a formal Italian meal. Traditional antipasto includes cured meats, olives, pepperoncini, anchovies, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, various cheeses, pickled meats and vegetables (either in oil or in vinegar). I was introduced to this collection of yumminess in grade school by an Italian classmate and eagerly brought the idea home to the dinner table. It was a hard sell for my Midwestern, blue collar family with big appetites and a thrifty pocketbook. They enjoyed it, but always asked if we could just have pasta with it and call it a meal. It was too much to add into our regularly scheduled weekly pasta night, hence the inspiration for Antipasti Pasta Salad. The trick here is to make the pasta the night before and cook it just barely al dante. While the pasta rests overnight in mild vinaigrette dressing it will soak up flavor and maintain the perfect texture; chewy yet firm.
Prepare to be a Pot Luck Rockstar at your next party and have the recipe handy!
- 1 lb whole wheat pasta. Rotini, penne, or cavatelli work well.
- 1 cup of Basic Vinaigrette Dressing
- 1 medium onion, red or sweet.
- 2 bell peppers
- 1 16 oz jar of Mild Gardinera
- 1 16 oz jar of Mild Pepper Rings or Pepperoncinis
- 1 lb hard salami cut into 1 inch rounds
- 1 lb slicing pepperoni cut into 1 inch rounds*
- 1 lb mozzerella cheese
- 1 lb pepperjack cheese
- Cook the pasta according to package directions the evening prior to assembling the salad. You are aiming for al dante, do not over cook or your pasta will be mushy.
- Toss cooked pasta with the Basic Vinaigrette Dressing and place in a storage bag in the refrigerator overnight.
- Chop onion and pepper into 1 inch squares.
- Add 1/2 the jar of gardinera, veggies only and at least 1/2 the jar of peppers. This is to taste and you can add more or less to your preference.
- Toss all vegetables together in a large bowl.
- Cut the salami and pepperoni int 1 inch cubes
- Cut the cheeses into 1 inch cubes
- Mix into vegetable, meat, and cheese mixture 1/2 of the oil from the gardinera and 1/2 of the liquid from the jarred peppers
- Gently fold pasta into all other ingredients. Allow salad to rest for at least 3 hours. The longer it rests the better the flavors will meld together.