June 2, 2010

Rotini Salad with Shaved Beets & Carrots

A unique and refreshingly cool pasta salad that is perfect for a summer BBQ! This dish is coming along with me to our Book Club barbecue tonight. It's hot and humid here in Philly, and I can't wait to eat this flavorful pasta salad with a huge, juicy burger! Admittedly, I balked at my own idea of bringing a pasta salad to book club. Pasta salad!? There is something about pasta salad that screams uninspiring, mundane, or just plain unappetizing....overloaded mayo of questionable origin, noodles drenched in Kraft Italian,  overcooked pasta... it's a simple dish but somehow so much can go wrong.

It's like coleslaw or potato salad: most often, it is made without love and thus goes untouched by all.  Everyone's summer slaw or salad is made differently and we each undoubtedly have our own preference in taste (which are usually not fulfilled unless we make it ourselves). It's kind of like how I won't eat anyone's potato salad except for my Nonna's (a perfect blend of homemade mayo and tart vinegars, she somehow hits the nail on the head every single time) --a pasta salad needs to be the right pasta salad to win my heart, and a place on my plate.

But, perhaps this creation will be my very own pasta salad exception. The tangy balsamic ranch dressing is what enhances everything: the bite of the vinegar balances the sweetness of the carrots, while its creamy consistency brightens the deep flavor of the beets. The beets turn the dressing light purple, but don't be alarmed. It is colorful and completely delicious!

*Post-pasta salad eating report: The girls at book club loved this, and it was an all around pasta-salad eating hit! Looks like this might be a winner for many people's palates!

Pasta Salad with Shaved Beets & Carrots: (serves 6 as a side)
1 lb. Barilla Tri-Color Rotini Pasta
1 or 2 large raw carrots
1/2 cup quality creamy ranch dressing
1/4 cup quality balsamic vinegar
2 T. cream cheese
1 T. salt
1 T. freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh parseley, chopped

Set a pot of generously salted water to boil over high heat. Once it is rolling, add the pasta, stir, and return to a boil. 

As the pasta cooks, pour your ranch dressing into the bottom of a large mixing or serving bowl. Add the cream cheese and whisk together until the cream cheese is completely incorporated. Next, pour in the balsamic slowly as you whisk. The dressing will be a light brown. Adjust the dressing to your taste.

Peel the carrots and grate them into your bowl. Shave or thinly slice the beets and also add them to your bowl. Gently turn to coat the vegetables with the dressing. 

When the pasta is al-dente, drain immediately and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly, and add to your bowl. Fold all of the ingredients together, coating the pasta well with the dressing and vegetables. Season generously with salt, freshly ground pepper, and add the chopped parsley. If you need more dressing, add a bit more ranch or balsamic. 

Refrigerate and/or serve!

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