This Garden Pasta Salad has to be the healthiest pasta salad ever! Look at all those vegetables and their vibrant colors. I love the addition of yellow zucchini in it. There is even some protein from the cheese cubes. This summer my friend Kelly gave me her recipe for this gorgeous salad and asked me if I’d make a giant batch of it for her daughter’s outdoor wedding reception. During the reception she popped into the kitchen to find out which food items they were going through the fastest and they said it was the pasta salad. She definitely has a winning recipe. Since then, I’ve made a couple changes. I have added the red onion for taste, crunch and color and I use Ken’s Steak House Lite Northern Italian Dressing because it is a favorite of mine. Isn’t this the most colorful salad you’ve ever seen? You’ll get a little of everything with this gorgeous side dish, which is an impressive side to share at your next neighborhood get-together or family potluck dinner.
A couple of reasons this salad is so good are the quality of the pasta used, the preparation of the broccoli, carrots, and yellow zucchini, and adding the cheese cubes at the last minute. Kelly said Barilla pasta is a must in this recipe. The Barilla pasta holds it’s shape and texture. She has tried other brands of rotini and the Barilla rotini has a tighter spiral and is a quality made pasta. No one likes mushy pasta that unravels and falls apart in the salad.
See what a nice twist and color the pasta retains? Now get that pasta in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
The second trick is blanching and shocking the zucchini, broccoli, and carrots for one minute. Boiling these three veggies for 1 minute takes that raw, dry bite from them and they become a welcome addition to the salad.
Be sure to have a slotted spoon or spider and a bowl of ice water ready to place the parboiled veggies in, to stop the cooking process so they don’t get soft.
Once you’ve prepped all the veggies and cooked the pasta, it is time to season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss the salad in half the dressing and refrigerate for a couple hours. Right before serving, add the cheese cubes, toss the salad with the remaining salad dressing and serve. ENJOY!
Garden Pasta Salad
1 lb. Barilla Tri-Colored Rotini
1 yellow zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced
1 crown broccoli, cut into florets
3 carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias
1/2 red onion, quartered and sliced
1 can black olives
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz. cheddar or mozarella cheese, cubed
1 (16oz) bottle Ken’s Steak House LITE Northern Italian Dressing
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fill a medium to large bowl with ice and water, and set it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add sliced carrots, zucchini and broccoli florets and cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and put veggies directly into the ice water. Let veggies soak for 2-3 minutes to cool, remove from water and place in a large serving bowl. Add more ice to the ice water if needed. To the boiling water add 1 T. of salt then add the pasta. Cook pasta until just soft, a minute or two beyond al dente. Remove pasta to ice water and let cool for a few minutes. Place cooled, drained pasta into the serving bowl then add the onion, olives and tomatoes. Pour 1/2 of the dressing over the pasta salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, add cheese cubes and the remaining dressing and toss well.