Cool, Crisp Pasta Salad

big pot of pasta

Some folks show love with gifts or kind words, hugs or sentimental cards. Me? I show love with food. You knew that, didn’t you? This week a man who has been a second father to me for 20 years is going through radiation treatments because his cancer has returned. Naturally, I wanted to do something and so I begged him to let me bring dinner. I say “begged” because he’s a WWII veteran who is stubborn and fiercely independent. But I wore him down. He agreed that I could bring him some pasta salad.

pasta to go

I suggested pasta salad because it’s been hot hot hot here and I thought it would be refreshing to eat. Of course, I also made banana bread and ginger cookies and added a jar of my strawberry jam. Great! Now that I blabbed about this, I won’t get credit in Heaven. Sigh… but I wanted to share the recipe, along with my ideas of what to bring those who are going through difficult times. I’d love to know what you do and how you show concern. Credit or not here we go.

care package items

Pasta salad has a way of growing to giant proportions when I make it. I love to chop veggies and to see their color combinations play against each other to liven up the pasta.

And I make the entire dish in one pot – my largest pot. The pot I use to make jam. And there are no measurements, although I tried to jot notes as I went along. But you can make this any way you like.
This isn’t really a recipe – it’s more of a reminder. Remember to make pasta salad. It’s summer, already.
And if you goof – and make a huge batch, you’ll have an excuse not to cook for a few days. Because you can’t let all those incredible ingredients go to waste. Oh yes, the ingredients. Here’s a general idea.

dice veggies


turkey ham has less fat than regular ham

pasta salad

12 oz package of “Wacky Mac”- which are vegetable pasta in different shapes. You use whatever you like. But don’t call it macaroni.
1/2 red and green peppers, diced
1 small sweet onion, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup cooked edamame (soybeans)
1 cup carrots, diced
8 oz bag cheese cubes
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 pound turkey ham, cubed (any cooked meat will work, or a combination of several)
1 cup light Italian dressing
1 cup light mayonnaise

Boil the pasta until it’s almost done. You want it to still have some “tooth.”
Drain the pasta in a large colander. While it’s draining, wash the pot so you can assemble the salad in it.
Add all of the ingredients and mix together.
Keep the salad very cold until ready to serve.

Serve over a bed of lettuce.
Add avocado and tomatoes on top.
Other options: sprinkle your salad with sunflower seeds, croutons or crushed taco chips to add crunch.
Note: the vegetables and dressing give this a lot of flavor, so I didn’t add herbs or salt. But you can add whatever you like to liven it up.

The great thing about pasta salad is that it’s so versatile. And when you combine all the crunchy vegetables and the soft noodles, I mean pasta, your mouth will be in picnic heaven.

Beef and Noodle Casserole with Tips for Busy Day Cooking

casserole for a winters night

Casserole dishes are popular in the winter and great for busy days – especially those with noodles, cheese, and a crunchy crust. It’s easy to put them together the night before and then pop them in the oven for 30 – 60 minutes before dinner to blend all the flavors.

boil pasta, brown meat and onions

When I started my blog I put the word out to family and friends that I was planning to post “heirloom” recipes. You know…the ones that have been popular for generations. My Aunt Peg and her daughter Polly both sent me the same recipe – Auntie Mugs’ Beef Noodle Casserole. Auntie Mugs was my Granny Cato’s sister. They and their two sisters, Polly and Helen had very colorful lives. But that’s another story.

mix cheese into meat and noodles

I made the casserole on a chilly night recently and we enjoyed the comforting blend of ingredients. I updated the recipe by doing the following:
Swapped ground turkey instead of pork,
Used whole wheat pasta,
Used low fat soup,
Exchanged the American cheese for Colby.

spoon soup over meat and noodles

I would also recommend adding at least one clove of crushed garlic and some green pepper. But if you know me, you know that I add these to nearly everything except cookies. :)

golden brown crust

Here is the recipe as my Aunt Peggy sent it to me. I loved the quaint term “bouquet garni” which is a French term for a little bouquet of herbs. They are usually tied in a bundle and used to flavor a soup, stock or casserole. They are removed before the item is served.
1/2 lb. Ground round steak
1/4 lb. Ground pork (or turkey)
1 onion
1/2 cup or more of grated American cheese (or cheddar or Colby)
1 can Campbell’s beef broth
1 package noodles (1/2 lb.) (Whole wheat works great)
1 can Campbell’s condensed (low fat) mushroom soup
Bouquet garni – 4 peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, and parsley
(Put herbs in cheese cloth to make small tied bundle)

old fashioned noodle casserole

Brown onion slowly.
Add meat and brown; break up meat into small pieces.
Add broth and let simmer with bouquet garni.
Take out bouquet garni.
Boil noodles in salted water and drain.
Mix noodles into meat mixture and add cheese.
Stir well and put into buttered 9” x 13” casserole.
Spread condensed soup over the top. Do not dilute.
Cover with buttered crumbs.
Bake about 45 minutes in moderate (350) oven.

Busy Day Tips for Saving Time and Money

chop celery, peppers and onion

This is something I started doing when my kids were little and I was working full time. It saves time, money and washing dishes, so I still do this. Whenever I find a great price on ground beef, I like to buy 3 – 5 pounds of it, along with an equal amount of ground turkey. You may use ground turkey, ground chicken or pork, whatever suits your needs. You may also want to vary the vegetables. But I guarantee, this will save time and money.

make a big batch

Turn on your favorite music, or the cooking channel or something to make this fun. Then get cooking!

package for freezer

label for freezer

1. Chop one or two onions, a green (or red or yellow) pepper, garlic and celery.
2. Brown all the ground meat together. (You will likely have to do this in a few batches)
3. Drain the fat off the meat and rinse it, if you like.
4. Add the chopped vegetables for a few minutes after the meat is rinsed, just to wilt them.
5. Finally, I divide the mixture into freezer containers and label them with the date and contents.
6. Now I’m ready for hamburger soup, casseroles, spaghetti, lasagna or sloppy Joes.

Happy Cooking!

Follow Me on Pinterest