antipasto pasta salad is better

IMG_3196I have worked in a couple different restaurants over the past 3 years, and that exposure is certainly valuable to a home-chef like myself. The opportunity to ask trained chefs questions about time, temperature and technique is an amazing resource. The only catch is that with their advice also comes their opinion. When I mentioned to a few ‘friends in whites’ that I came up with an amazing pasta salad recipe, I was met with distain and turned up noses: “Pasta should be hot!” or “My, how 1992 of you” or “is it two or three cups of mayonnaise?”

I can understand that a pasta salad is a rare item to find on any menu, but I don’t think I need to explain that I am a home-chef, cooking at home. Also its summer, the nineties are all the rage and this salad is damn good and damn easy.

Here is a little background info to start: anti means before, pasto is meal. Antipasto (plural antipasti) , often spelled and/or pronounced as antipasta, means “before the meal” and is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. This traditionally includes cured meats, cheese and preserved vegetables. The use of the name of the meal has become interchangeable with the items on the plate… now on with it!

Once the water is boiling add a good pinch of salt to the water and the pasta – Rotini is good, but orzo, orecchiette or even mini shells would nice too.  Start combining the dressing elements (lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan, garlic, pepper) and non-fresh items (artichoke hearts, pickled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes) in the bottom of a large, sealable bowl. My mom used it use an old ice-cream pale which worked just fine. The dressing doesn’t need much mixing, just a quick stir. The reason I skip the salt from this dressing is due to the salted pasta, parmesan and pickled items – lots of salt already there! Once the pasta is cooked al dente and well drained, add it to the bowl and stir. The idea here is that the parmesan and garlic will melt in the heat from the pasta. The pasta will sponge up everything pretty quickly, so move fast. If you think its dry and needs more olive oil, then go for it. Seal it up and throw it in the fridge.

After about 2 hours, the pasta is cooled but still needs some help. All of the pickled/salty elements are overpowering, and no one will get past the first three bites without something to break it up. That is where the fresh tomato, baby arugula, parsley and chives come in. Fold everything in evenly and give it a try. Should be salty, fresh, lemony and peppery. I keep it in the fridge for about 3 days, or 4-6 portions. Every new portion gets some fresh arugula on top for garnish and a little crunch. Enjoy!

1 box of whole-wheat Rotini (375 g)

Dressing elements:

1 grated garlic clove

juice of 1 lemon

6-8 tbsp olive oil (from sundried tomato jar)

1/3 cup of grated Parmesano Reggiano

black pepper

½ cup jarred artichoke hearts, cut into 1/4s

½ cup hot pickled eggplant

¼ cupthinly sliced sundried tomatoes (in oil)

1 cup of fresh cherry tomatoes, halved

1 handful of fresh baby arugula

2 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 chopped handful fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley


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