Feel Free

In honor of independence day, I am including what I like to call a "kitchen sink" recipe.  It's one of those recipes where whatever you decide to put in it, it's bound to be mighty tasty - (a) because you made it yourself (with a "look ma, no hands" type of pride) and (b) because you have full creative license to add or subtract whatever ingredients you so please (and showing off your math skills doesn't hurt either; add one red pepper and subtract one red onion = delicousness).  And let me tell you - having the freedom of options tastes darn good.  Do you feel me, America?

This recipe for pasta salad comes from my all-time favorite Chicago blogger.  She has been featured on Chicago Tonight and was even a judge for an episode of Cupcake Wars, and her name is Natalie Slater of Bake and Destroy.  If that's not enough reason to become obsessed with her awesome-ness, read this interview and I think you'll understand why I secretly (ok, maybe not so secretly cuz I mention her A TON), want her life.  I started reading Natalie's blog back when I was still working a desk job and just dipping my toe in the world of baking (beyond the realm of your standard choco chips and brownies and the like).  I would spend hours scouring over her recipes - and not just for cupcakes.  I came across this posting for pasta salad and it immediately became my go-to whenever I make pasta salad.  Which, being a carbie, is quite a lot.  The nice thing is, you can add whatever veggies you have hanging out in your fridge (or pantry - canned veggies, and olives work great here too).

Pasta Salad, BAKE & DESTROY Style:
-1 lb. tortellini (frozen, dried or fresh)
-1/2 cup olive oil
-2 tbsp wine vinegar (white or red)
-freshly ground black pepper
-a pinch of salt
-1/4 cup parmesan cheese
-1/2 tsp sugar
-2 cloves garlic, minced or squished through a garlic press
-plus: any veggies you may have lying around (optional)

Cook the pasta until it's al dente.  In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients.  Add veggies before serving (or if they need a quick blanch, do so while the pasta is cooking).  Let the pasta cool, then toss with the dressing.  Chill in the frige for 2-24 hours, and allow to come to room temp before serving.

I made some today with the pasta I had (not tortellini, although that is a delicious option as well if you have it around) and added carrots, celery, red pepper, olives (both green and black - getting adventurous up in here!), and instead of parm, some shredded cheddar.  Also, in honor of this we-love-condiments kind of holiday, I added a tablespoon of mayo to the dressing for a little creaminess.

Tastes like FREEDOM!

So, if you have an hankering for carbs, or if you're attending a celebration with family and/or friends later today and don't know what to bring, I highly recommend making this.  It's quick and easy, and sure to please, because it's easy to make your own.  And in honor of our nation's independence and the freedom that we enjoy in it, you can feel even more patriotic knowing that you were free to add whatever you pleased to make this recipe your own.  You'll be able to taste it, I guarantee it!

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