July 26, 2012

Fiesta Pasta Salad

Today I'm revealing my not-so secret ingredient. I put this stuff on nearly everything savory. I use it to jazz up my tuna salad, add it to every dry rub I make, use it in soups and stews. For a while I considered keeping a bottle of it in my purse so I could even use it in restaurants.

It's Mrs. Dash.

Completely dumbfounding, right? I hate things that are salty (except for things that are supposed to be salty, like pretzels and feta), so if something's bland, I'm not going to reach for the salt shaker. I'd generally take bland over salty any day. But with Mrs. Dash, I don't have to make that choice. (That sounded like a good tag line for a commercial, right? Hey, Mrs. D, have your people call my people. We'll do lunch.)

It was a product that my nutrition-savvy aunt found years ago, and our family has been using it since before it really entered the public sphere. We used to have to hunt for it in stores; now you can find it in every grocery store in a mind-boggling array of flavors. I recently decided to try out the Fiesta Lime flavor. Hoo boy, was that a good idea.
 I feel like I've crossed some line into official foodie bloggerdom: I photographed my dinner plate

This pasta salad was originally up food. My brother was grilling something, and nobody knew what to make with it, and nobody much felt like going to the store. And I was all, "why not just make pasta salad?" Of course, that meant that I had to make the pasta salad, and it was kind of a found-object dish. I grabbed a box of tri-color pasta, a can of tomatoes, a can of corn, and onion, and a bunch of spices (including Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime). And, don't laugh, I chopped up a couple sticks of string cheese, because I wanted to add cheese. My mother fell in love with it and declared that I had to make it for the annual family barbecue.

Knowing what to do now, I added some bell pepper and a little bit of salad dressing to keep it from drying out. And I used a pre-packaged block of mozzarella.

I know what you're thinking. Trust me, I know. I'm Italian. But the pre-packaged kind is firmer, and the cheese is going to soak up the flavors of the pasta salad anyway. This is the only time you will ever hear me recommend using it over fresh, but you are better off in this one instance. (Note: you can also make it with feta; I did both and preferred the mozz, but the feta is still pretty tasty.)
Oh, and that 28 oz. can is not a typo. Italian households tend to have very large cans of tomatoes around the house. You can always sub two smaller cans if you prefer. Or one smaller can if you want less tomatoes. I don't care. Really.

Fiesta Pasta Salad {Printable Version}
Yield: 6-8 servings
1 box (16 oz.) tri-color pasta
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 15.25 oz. can corn, drained
1 large bell pepper, julienned
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp. Italian flavored dressing (I used sun-dried tomato and basil flavored)
1 tbsp. Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning blend
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried basil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large serving bowl. Mix well with remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate minimum 2 hours. Serve chilled.

Tip: Salt the boiling water for more flavorful pasta. I usually cook the pasta 1-2 minutes less than the shortest cook time on the box because I prefer it more firm.

Recipe by Kim