It’s summertime and with July 4th rapidly approaching, it’s outdoor picnic and grilling season everywhere except for here in hotter than hell Florida. Summer is our rainy season, so it rains every single day. It’s not exactly ideal picnic weather down here, and you certainly couldn’t pay me any sum of money to stand over a grill in this heat. All that being said, we are raised on the same traditions as the rest of the country, and that means we eat picnic food in the summertime.
I’ve often been stumped by simple picnic recipes. I’m a chef who overthinks things, and therefore I’ve never been great at the simple Americana recipes that we all hold so dear. When faced with a casserole, I add about forty extra steps (cream of chicken soup from scratch, separately sauteed ingredients, ya know, layers of flavor), thus negating the purpose of a casserole. I’ve been similarly plagued by the humble pasta salad. “It surely can’t be as easy as mayonnaise and pasta”, I’ve often thought to myself. I’m usually let down by overly sweet or acidic pasta salad, but I’ve never had a solution to make them better. For a bit I had even decided that I just don’t like pasta salad, to make me feel better about my personal failings.
The day I really threw in the towel was a day that I had volunteered to bring the pasta salad to a friend’s housewarming party. I was NOT going to be thwarted again (spoiler alert: I was). I over thought it to the point where I ended up, no joke, rinsing the ingredients off of the noodles to start over again…twice, and still ended in disaster.
So what right does this pasta salad loser have to teach you how to make pasta salad? Well, I cracked the code my friends. Thats right, this pasta salad challenged chef turned off the over-complicating component of my brain and focused on the good stuff. What makes a great pasta salad great? Mayonnaise and herbs. That’s it, chill out, quit adding other stuff until you get the foundation down.
I was inspired by every American’s favorite condiment, ranch dressing. I reached for my mayo, my fresh herbs from the garden and a hint of acid. Ya’ll, I did it. I made a simple and fabulous, fresh and filling pasta salad that I am proud to share at all of the indoor picnics this season.
As with all of my recipes, this one has room for flexibility. I recommend keeping the mayonnaise to acid ration the same, but as the for the herbs, go ham. Whatever tender herbs you have lying around you can add to this recipe. One of my favorite herbs is tarragon, I didn’t have any while testing the recipe, so it’s been conspicuously left out, but I bet it would be a great addition. You can also leave out the peas, but I think they add a nice pop of sweetness, and they looked so great nestled inside the openings of the pipe rigate. Get in there, have some fun and take it from me, DON’T OVERTHINK IT.
- 1/2 Box Pasta – I like Pipe Rigate, but Fussili, Rigatoni, or even Elbows would be great
- 1/2 c Mayonnasie
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Chive, chopped
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
- 1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- 1/2 Lemon, juiced
- 2 Tbsp Heavy Cream
- 1/2 Frozen Peas
- In a large pot, boil water and add a generous amount of salt. The water should be as salty as the ocean before adding pasta to it.
- Add pasta and cook until al dente. Strain into a colander and rinse the noodles. (the only time you rinse your pasta is when making pasta salad)
- While the water is coming to a boil and the noodles are cooking add the mayo, herbs, garlic powder, salt, lemon juice and cream in a bowl and let them hang out for 15 minutes or so.
- Once the pasta is rinsed, transfer it to a large bowl and add the frozen peas and mayo mixture. Stir to combine, and serve!