Summer Picnic Pasta Salad

What a beautiful weekend.  Seriously.  I don’t even care that I didn’t study nearly enough for my final and most likely didn’t do that well, judging from the despair I felt while gaping at the first page.  But, that’s all over with (I’m sure I didn’t fail) and now we can just move on to the next test, and meanwhile I’ll just start enjoying summer (or spring…you know.  I get excited).

Four fun things that happened recently:

1) We went to my BFF Jen’s house for a mother’s day/birthday BBQ, and I brought my go-to “summer is here!” pasta salad.

I’m pretty excited for warm weather.

BBQ weather.

That’s why I married a South African.  Strictly for the BBQ.

2)  Jen’s mom gave us the rights to a pile o’ firewood that they had for their old fire pit, which has been replaced by one that burns sterno.

3) Fritz bought a fire pit on sale at Home Depot.

Let the marshmallow toasting begin!

4)  Jen’s mom also gave us a backup battery for our new camera, because she accidentally bought the wrong size for her new camera.  Score!

Love that woman.  And not just for the presents.

But let’s get back to the pasta salad.  It’s based on a recipe my old roommate in college used to make, and now it’s a staple for any grillin’ adventure that may take place.  I love it.  I’m obsessed with it.  It’s easy, it’s versatile, it uses whatever ingredients you have in the house, it’s healthy, and everyone likes it.

What else do you want from me?  I’m giving you a gift here!  Free of charge!

Summer Picnic Pasta Salad

  • 1 box whole-wheat penne (or you can use any other pasta shape, but I always stick with penne, ’cause the peas fit so perfectly inside)
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • 1/2 C grated carrot
  • 1/2 C sliced artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 C chopped sun-dried tomatoes (sometimes I use halved grape tomatoes, around 1 C)
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • 3-5 T olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar (1/4 C? 1/3 C? I never measure–just pour over and taste, taste, taste until you like it!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 T light italian dressing–I only use this occasionally, when I’m trying to finish off a bottle or the pasta tastes a bit dry.  You definitely don’t need it!

Cook the pasta according to directions, and drain it. 

Speaking of pasta, I feel like I’ve been totally cheated!  The Barilla pasta I used to use is only 51% whole-wheat, and I just noticed it.  So not cool, Barilla.  I grabbed a few America’s Choice store brand whole-wheat pasta, which is made with all durum semolina flour, and I felt better.  Plus it was on sale, and I love a sale.

Dump the pasta in a bowl and add the frozen peas, which cools it to room temperature quite nicely.  Add the rest of your toppings of choice, then start dressing it. 

Not exactly the most helpful recipe, I know, but seriously, all you need is the idea.  I usually drizzle the olive oil over the top, mix that in, and then go to town with the balsamic.  Once I get the right taste, I salt and pepper it just a touch.  The artichoke hearts and olives add a nice touch of brine and the sun-dried tomatoes!  Just yum.

This is good.  Guh–ood.  Not to mention that eating this pasta salad fills me with the joy that is a summer BBQ.

So come over and hang out at my new fire pit!  Who needs to study, anyway?

Here’s the birthday girl herself:

And blowing out her birthday candles:

Happy birthday, Jenny!  Next time this year, we’ll be graduating!

It was a good day.  Nothin’ like a BBQ to take my mind off of life.

What’s your go-to dish for a summer picnic?


Filed under Salads

8 responses to “Summer Picnic Pasta Salad

  1. thesavvystudent

    Ah! This looks absolutely wonderful for BBQ/backyard picnics/summer fun. And the amount of veggies is fabulous! Thanks for the post!

  2. tharrie

    Looks so yummy! – that is IF you have sunshine (remember we are in Canada!)

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  6. Places and Pets

    Hi Lauren,
    you wrote this post about a month ago, but I just found it after beginning to follow your blog. What a beautiful pasta salad, and it sounds wonderful. The tips about the dressing help too – So thanks – Cannot wait to try it.

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