Easy Party Pasta Salad

pasta salad

It’s happened to everyone – it’s a beautiful day, you’re enjoying the weather with friends or family, and suddenly you come down from your NYC rooftop or in from your favorite beach and you’re at your place with a hungry crowd. This pasta salad has saved me from that desperate situation MANY times, and I’m excited to share this quick party trick with you.

Pasta salad could not be an easier way to host on the fly, and you probably already have most of the materials in your pantry. Plus, it’s easy to substitute gluten free pasta (my favorite is Banza chick pea penne, which adds some extra protein) to accommodate for dietary restrictions.

Simply: boil 1 box of pasta, rinse with cold water. While the pasta is boiling, add 1 chopped cucumber, 2 chopped peppers (any color), and 1/2 chopped onion. We have this awesome Ninja chopper my mom got me for Christmas a couple of years ago and it has taken years of food prep off my life. Top with some salt and 3/4 bottle of Wishbone Italian Dressing and you’re done!

This recipe is also easy to make ahead – just hold off on the dressing until you’re about to serve the dish, and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil per box of pasta to keep it moist. Refrigerate covered.

I like to serve this pasta salad as a spring and summer staple, alongside anything you can cook up on the grill. It’s a hit!

 

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Gluten Free – Sweet Potato Gnocchi

gnocchi

Coming from an Italian family, it’s been hard to make a full switch to the gluten free life. The struggle applies particularly to gnocchi – one of my favorite Italian dishes ever and one of the only dishes I’ll ever order at an Italian restaurant. (On principle, I don’t love going to Italian restaurants because I can make most of the dishes at home – gnocchi being a strong exception because it’s so labor intensive and so hard to nail. For those of you in the Providence, RI area, you’ll understand – especially if you’ve ever had the gnocchi from Siena.)

Anyway, I stumbled across a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi on one of my favorite food blogs, Pinch of Yum. If I was going to have to quit real carbs, I thought I’d try making one of my favorite dishes the GF way – with sweet potatoes. Plus, it fits in really well with Mike’s low-carb diet.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe from Pinch of Yum.

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Homemade Italian: Meatball Mania

Growing up in an Italian family, meatballs were a constant staple at the dinner table. Everyone had their own recipe — some more dense, some sweeter, and some an entire meal in themselves!

When I started really getting into cooking, in high school, I would visit my aunt, my dad’s oldest half-sister, who was the hands down best cook in the bunch. I wanted to learn all of the traditional recipes – meatballs, red sauce, fried doughs (with a name so Italian I have no idea how to spell it), and morning pastries.

Over the years, I’ve adjusted the meatball recipe to become my own – added a few things, subtracted a few things, and adjusted amounts. Now I’ve decided to share it here with you!

I like to double the below recipe and freeze in bags of 9 or 10 – enough for 2-3 people to mix with pasta for dinner, plus leftovers. Please note the amounts are rough estimates — I usually do this by sight or feel, and you can tweak as necessary.

Meatball Recipe

Italian Style Meatballs
1 lb ground meatloaf mix (1/3 pork, 1/3 veal, 1/3 beef)
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 egg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian-Style Breadcrumbs
Plain Breadcrumbs (up to 1 cup)
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients except plain breadcrumbs by hand in a bowl. Add plain breadcrumbs until able to roll mixture into balls without large pieces sticking to hands.

Bake on 350 for 10-30 minutes, based on size of meatball, until both sizes are browned and the entire ball is cooked through.

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