Antipasti Pasta Salad

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!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

METHOD:

  1. 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.
  2. Toss cooked pasta with the Basic Vinaigrette Dressing and place in a storage bag in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Chop onion and pepper into 1 inch squares.
  4. 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.
  5. Toss all vegetables together in a large bowl.
  6. Cut the salami and pepperoni int 1 inch cubes

    At my local deli they slice the meat into 1 inch rounds, I order 4 of each for 1 lb of salad.

  7.     Cut the cheeses into 1 inch cubes

    Slice the brick of cheese in half to achieve a 1 inch diameter

  8. 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
  9. 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.

Basic Vinaigrette

Use this simple dressing on salads, veggies, sandwiches, and even as a quick and easy marinade for proteins.  The accepted ratio of oil to vinegar is 3:1, feel free to substitute different types of oils (grapeseed, sunflower, peanut) and vinegars (red wine, balsamic) to achieve different flavor profiles. Be sure to check out the video below for a visual on making vinaigrette without a blender for those days when you don’t want to pull out the heavy equipment.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, and beau monde seasoning.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking until emulsified.  Other methods include shaking ingredients in a jar or using a blender.