Mom’s Pasta Salad

My mom has a few classic recipes that are favorites across my whole family – marinated skirt steak, brisket, and meatballs to name a few.  Another one is her pasta salad with fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes.  This salad has made appearances at countless barbeques and other events and is always a hit.  So of course I have felt the need to steal this recipe!  I brought this few years in a row to my office holiday potluck because it can be made in advance, travels well, and is actually best served at room temperature.  It’s also healthy when eaten in moderation (although moderation is actually a huge challenge), since it includes whole wheat pasta (if you want), veggies, and a reasonable amount of olive oil.  This weekend I made the pasta salad to bring to some friends who just had a baby because it’s the perfect snack to have around.  But of course I couldn’t resist making a double batch so we could keep some for ourselves, and as it turns out the munchkin is a fan, too!  Well, she’ll eat the pasta – she handed the cheese and broccoli back to me, and she can’t quite manage sun-dried tomatoes yet, but close enough 🙂

I’ve done my best to convert some estimates to actual amounts, but feel free to adjust the recipe based on your preferences!  My mom often includes peppers, and you could certainly include whatever sounds good to you.

 

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Pasta Salad with Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 lb spiral pasta (whole wheat for health, or tri-color for presentation, or if you’re making a double batch you could do one box of each like I did in the picture above!)
1/2 lb (approx 1 pint) fresh mozzarella ciliegini (little balls)
1 bunch broccoli
1/4 lb (approx 1 cup) sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp grated romano (or parmesan)
1 tbsp olive oil

Dressing
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/3 cup olive oil

Put a pot of water up to boil.  Pour hot water over the sun-dried tomatoes and let sit.  Cut broccoli into bite-sized florets.

Prepare dressing:  in a bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients except oil, and then slowly add the oil, continuing to whisk constantly, until emulsified.

Preheat a large non-stick sautee pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil, and then add broccoli.  Season with salt and pepper and sautee until just starting to turn dark green.  Broccoli will still be very crunchy – you’re just trying to get rid of the rawness.  (At this point you could also sautee any other vegetables you’d like to include.)

Meanwhile, when water boils, add pasta and cook until just al dente.  If you are combining whole wheat and tri-color pasta for a double batch, check the cooking times on the box, as you may need to add the whole wheat a few minutes earlier.

While the pasta cooks, drain the sun-dried tomatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces.

When the pasta is done, drain and quickly toss with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and about 2/3 of the dressing (this means you’ll want to make sure all of your other ingredients are ready before the pasta).  Taste and add a drop more dressing if still dry.  Allow pasta mixture to cool, and then add mozzarella (if you add cheese while pasta is still warm it will take on the shape of the spirals!).  Add additional dressing as needed.  Sprinkle on romano and toss.

Keeps well in the fridge for several days, but is best if brought to room temperature before serving.

Makes 6-8 side-dish servings.

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