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Pesto Pasta Salad

This week in the lovely Beehive State of Utah we went to our local caucus meeting. 

Now, before I married my sweet Ryan, I honestly had no idea what the heck a caucus was. It sounded like a kind of beetle to me. "Darned caucuses destroyed our tomatoes again!!" and "It sure is satisfying to hit those filthy caucuses with my car on the way to work!" or "Man, that mother-loving caucus is pillaging our pantry like he owns the joint." 

Please excuse me. It's Friday for crying-out-loud. 

Back to the real caucus. We had to sit in the front row because all the other seats were taken. I was pretty distracted by all the artwork and projects on the walls of the classroom. They had made these funky 3D stars and wrote papers on what superhero or Greek God/Goddess powers they would choose to have. It looked like they were learning about the court systems, too. Sitting in one of those chair-desks was a happy little trip down memory lane. 

People were nominated, people gave little speeches, people voted. This is all I know. I kind of zone out during meetings like this. I didn't grow up in a politically soaked environment, so the issues aren't normally something I think about often. My husband, on the other hand, eats this stuff up - like it's chocolate coated chocolate smothered with chocolate. It's kind of fun that way, though. Seeing him share a piece of his political/economic/law-soaked mind with the masses was pretty entertaining. I think I whispered to him to "be nice" when I saw him raising his hand to ask a potential delegate a question. Me? I had fun making paper airplanes with my voting sheets. Either way, it was a fun little night for us to get out and be a part of the political process.

Now onto this gorgeous salad... 

This salad is loaded with all kinds of goodness. I'm totally digging the pasta-right-in-the-salad-with-the-greens deal. And soaking the pasta in pesto before you throw it into the salad? Holy smokies!! It's amazing! First, you cook up the pasta as you normally would, then after draining the cute little spirals, you toss in some pesto right away. The noodles seep in all that gorgeous flavor and color. Next, you build the beast; layering crispy romaine, that beautiful pesto pasta you just made, juicy tomatoes, salty olives, creamy mozzarella, a sprinkle of parmesan and one of my favorites: toasted pine nuts. That stuff is worth every penny, every time (especially when you take the extra time to toast them up). Douse the salad with the creamy dressing, and you're all set. Dinner, lunch, snack, potluck, baby or bridal shower, anything. This salad will fit the bill perfectly, and leave you wanting another plateful almost immediately!

Pesto Pasta Salad 
makes 4-5 servings

8oz rotini pasta
1/3 C prepared Pesto
1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese + more for sprinkling
1/2 C mayo 
1/2 C sour cream
1/4 C milk + more for thinning 
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 C grape tomatoes, halves
1/2 C black olives 
4oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
4 T toasted pine nuts

1. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain as well as you can, then toss warm pasta in a bowl with 4 Tablespoons pesto. Add 1/2 parmesan cheese, and toss together to coat the rotini. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the rest of the salad is ready.
2. Prepare the dressing: whisk together mayo, sour cream, milk, and the rest of the pesto. Add salt and pepper. Taste and add salt if needed. Add milk to thin (to achieve salad-dressing like consistency).
3. Assemble salad: In the bottom of a large bowl, layer romaine, pesto-coated pasta, and then top with tomatoes, olives, and mozzarella. Drizzle with salad dressing (less or more, whatever is your preference). Sprinkle with additional parmesan, those gorgeous pine nuts, and serve.

recipe source: Pioneer Woman "Pesto Pasta Salad


  1. Mandy, you're killing me with your pasta salads! Another recipe to add to my Mandy's Best-In-The-West Pasta Salads file! <3

  2. Thank you for the lovely recipe! I made it today for me and my boyfriend and we really enjoyed it! Best wishes from Germany!


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