August is a big month here in Minnesota for garden produce. Farmers markets are in full swing with a wide array of fresh picked vegetables. Home gardeners are happy to share the bounty of their labor – especially when it comes to zucchini and tomatoes. It seems that zucchini multiply faster than rabbits and, rarely do tomatoes ripen one at a time!
It’s not unusual to find zucchini and tomatoes looking for a new home here in the Test Kitchens. They just appear on the counter begging to be taken home. Someone has harvested their garden the night before and realizes it is impossible to use all of their lovingly grown veggies themselves, so they bring them in to share. Soon there are recipe discussions and usage suggestions taking place. One recipe that invariably comes up is Italian Pasta & Tomato Salad because it’s simple to make and features fresh veggies and herbs.
Italian Pasta & Tomato Salad calls for penne pasta. This pasta is diagonally cut tubular shaped pasta with a ridged surface. Here’s a picture of what penne pasta looks like. I have been known to use rotini or rotelle (corkscrew or spiral shaped pasta – I just call them twists) in this recipe too.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. It’s important to have a large enough pot that the pasta can move around as it boils.
While the pasta is cooking prep all of the salad and dressing ingredients. Cube the cheese and tomato, and slice the zucchini.
Also, chop the fresh oregano and basil. I often use scissors to cut fresh herbs rather than chopping with a knife. I find it easier and cutting with a scissor allows me to get more uniform pieces of herbs. Just cut the little leaves off the oregano stems and cut the larger basil leaves into small uniform pieces.
Once the pasta is done cooking drain off the cooking water and rinse the pasta with cold water; then drain well.
Now to make the salad just combine the pasta and all the prepped salad ingredients (cheese, tomato and zucchini) in a large bowl.
In a small bowl stir together the dressing ingredients (Italian vinaigrette dressing, oregano and basil). Use your favorite purchased Italian vinaigrette dressing. You’ll be surprised at how fresh it tastes with garden oregano and basil added.
Add the dressing to the salad.
Toss to coat all the ingredients well.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.
To serve I like to line the salad bowl with pretty, ruffle edged lettuce. Or, line your dinner plates with lettuce and spoon the salad on the lettuce to serve.
Italian Pasta & Tomato Salad is just the right thing for a summer lunch or light supper. Serve with some hearty bread and creamy butter, and you have a delicious garden fresh meal. Enjoy!
Feel free to use whatever veggies your garden or farmer’s market has to offer. Let me know what you think by commenting or rating and reviewing this recipe.
A special thank you to our summer intern, Mallory, for helping me with the photos :)
Next, on the blog, Liz is making a creative appetizer recipe you won't want to miss.
Becky Wahlund is the Director of the Test Kitchens for Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz™ Blog