Pony Party Round-Up: Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I've been behind on blogging because I've had an absurd amount of social commitments to attend to in the last few weeks. Beginning with, Little Girl's 5th birthday party!

A theme centered around My Little Pony, I set out to make her dream come true. Which apparently I did. So that's great. Aside from the insane dessert table (blog forthcoming), I did a food table geared towards the adults more than the kids. One of the dishes that was very well received and requested a blog on was my Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad.

I didn't manage to get good pics of the salad itself, but it's located down here next to the Cheetos. Yes, we served Cheetos. And how does one make Cheetos look elegant? One serves them in a pretty pink vintage candy dish, that's how. Just so you know for your future parties.

Smoked mozzarella pasta salad in the cups next to cheetos, served in individual portions for easy serving and clean up!

the food table
This recipe is based largely on the one I buy from Whole Foods that I think I improve upon a little. It's quite easy to make and feeds an absurd amount of people. You can also make this a full day in advance as well, so it's very hostess friendly for a party. It's great for picnics, church functions, parties, or even for lunch or dinner! The smoky mozzarella adds incredible flavor and smell to the salad while sweet sun dried tomatoes (my addition to the whole foods original) balances out the hard smokiness of the cheese quite nicely. Fresh basil, a little fresh thyme, and black pepper add flavor and freshness to the dish, and white balsamic vinegar gives the mayonnaise-based dressing the sweetness it needs to balance it all out into one perfect bite. Add the requisite red onion and celery -- finely chopped of course! -- for the perfect texture and you've got one killer pasta salad. Enjoy it!

This recipe makes enough to serve 20 appetizer portions as shown in the picture; you can halve the recipe easily for a smaller family size meal.

Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad
1 lb rigatoni pasta
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (in oil!), drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped or torn
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
1 cup good quality mayo
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar (can substitute with a combination of white vinegar and honey)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste (optional)
1 cup cubed smoked mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a good half palmful of salt to the water and add pasta. Cook according to package directions (about 10 minutes) until al dente. Drain pasta and add to a large mixing bowl.

While the pasta is still warm, add the red onion, celery, sun dried tomatoes, and herbs. In a smaller bowl whisk together the mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and cayenne if using. Pour the dressing over the pasta and vegetables while the pasta is still warm; the pasta will better absorb the dressing this way. Toss gently to coat the dressing all over. Add the cheese and mix in to combine.

The salad is ready to serve as is, or you can let it cool completely, cover and refridgerate. Give it a good toss before serving if you're making it in advance. And if the pasta soaks up too much of the dressing overnight, then add a couple more tablespoons of mayo and toss to coat before serving.

*I used rigatoni pasta for this because their large, tubular shapes hold perfectly the weight of the other vegetables and dressings and cheese involved. You could certainly use a penne pasta or shells, or even elbow macaroni but I suggest then cutting the vegetables and cheese even smaller then to suit the smaller sized pasta so the pasta doesn't break under the weight of the larger pieces.

**You can find smoked mozzarella in most grocery stores now next to the fresh mozzarella in the gourmet cheese aisle. Whole Foods offers a wonderful selection at good price. And if you're not into the smokiness factor at all, you can certainly swap it out for a fontina cheese. The nuttiness of fontina would work beautifully with this salad as well!

1 comment:

JTHxxxGFH said...

this sounds really cool i should get my gf to do this for me :) yummm