RECIPE: Transition into fall with veggie-packed warm pasta salad

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

While chilled pasta salad is a mainstay at summer barbecues and picnics, warm pasta salad is the perfect transitional dish for early fall. Because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated before serving, it’s also quick to make. Plus, it can function as a main dish much more easily than its often mayonnaise-laden cousin.

In my mind, a good pasta salad includes a range of colors and textures from a variety of vegetables and herbs. Getting a good selection of produce into a five-ingredient dish, while also allowing for vinaigrette components, is a challenge. The solution, I’ve found, is to raid the antipasti bar of the grocery store. I’ll pick up a pint container and fill it with any manner of vinaigrette-marinated vegetables — artichokes, peppers, olives and beans are all great choices. I make sure to scoop in a good amount of the vinaigrette as well, knowing that it’ll help form the base of the salad dressing.

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Since marinated antipasti tends to be soft, I add diced bell pepper, which I sauté until it loses its raw edge but still has a bit of bite. A large handful of fresh parsley, along with the zest and juice of a lemon, adds a pop of color and bright flavor to the dish.

As far as pasta is concerned, I like to use a short, twisted shape, like cavatappi or rotini, or else wide, squat rigatoni, to best cup and catch the various vegetables. Whatever shape you choose, be sure to cook it slightly past al dente; since the acidic dressing firms up the pasta a bit after cooking, slightly overcooking the pasta ensures that it is pleasantly tender.

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Warm Pasta Salad
  • 1 pound dried short pasta, such as cavatappi, rotini or rigatoni
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and membranes removed, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable antipasti marinated in vinaigrette, such as artichokes, peppers and/or pitted olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
  • While the pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil. Place over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the bell pepper. Cook, stirring, until it starts to turn tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the antipasti and all of its marinade to the skillet. Continue to cook, stirring, until vegetables are warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add the cooked pasta, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 581 calories (percent of calories from fat, 19), 19 grams protein, 101 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams fiber, 12 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 413 milligrams sodium.
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