My son Michael narrowed his eyes and scowled with concentration. He was standing in front of the open refrigerator, trying to help me figure out dinner on the hottest day of the year so far. “Mom, is there any reason we couldn’t put those leftovers in a pasta salad?”
I thought for a moment and couldn’t come up with anything convincing. This really is the very best scenario in my pre-dinner kitchen: a fridge full of leftover containers, a package of pasta, and not enough time to do anything time-consuming. At moments like these, culinary brilliance can strike.
This pasta dish is much more method than recipe. One of the great things about this salad is that I don’t need enough of any single ingredient to feed everyone. That’s very helpful in finishing off the tag ends of stuff in the fridge. The whole idea is to creatively use what’s already in the fridge or cupboard. One of the best things about this salad is that none of the veggies are cooked, so this is a great meal when it’s too hot to cook anything.
Here are the things we found to put into our salad. Obviously, what you’ll find in your refrigerator will be different.
Amazing Pasta Salad
- 1 cucumber, cut into chunks
- 1 ½ c. broccoli florets
- 1/3 c. green onions, finely chopped
- one red pepper, sliced into strips
- ½ c. chopped cilantro
- 2 roma tomatoes, diced
- ¾ c. alfalfa sprouts
- 1 pound imitation crab meat
- 1/3 c. toasted pine nuts
- 1 pound pasta, cooked and drained (I finished off 3 different packages of pasta this time)
After stirring these ingredients so they were thoroughly mixed, we dressed the salad with a mixture of 3 half-empty salad dressing bottles: Caesar dressing, Honey Dijon Onion dressing, and Greek vinaigrette. Every pasta salad we make tastes unique because the bottles that I’m trying to empty are different from one time to the next.
We served the pasta salad in big soup bowls and topped it with shredded parmesan cheese (crumbled feta cheese or grated asiago cheese would also be delicious.) This salad was huge–perfect for the boys who had been at swim practice at 6:20 AM and for the boy who worked all day out in the sun. Definitely scale the ingredient list up or back to make a salad that fits your family’s size.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. I’ve added leftover red potatoes to a pasta salad and discovered that even potatoes in a pasta salad can work!
Barb, writing at My Sister’s Kitchen