Momma’s Hearty Pasta Salad

Any cookout I am invited to, I am quick to scour the buffet table of edible goodness until my eyes are fixed on the beautiful selection of salads- potato, macaroni, fruit and my favorite… Pasta salad! All just waiting to be devoured. And who better to put away a big plate of pasta salad than me? I think of it as my duty to help rid the world of dreaded leftovers that just hang out in the fridge after being forgotten. That’s acceptable, right?

If I’m asked to bring a dish or if I have a cookout of my own, you can guarantee that I am the one who brings the pasta salad. It’s always been a tradition of my mom and mine to make it for big events and it’s highly requested. Momma is a believer that a good pasta salad should be hearty and have just the right amount of dressing that is neither too wet or too dry.

Hearty Pasta Salad

After many years of making it, we found that a good pasta salad starts with a quality dressing and is best the next day as the flavors have time to really infuse into the noodles and veggies. If, after 24 hours, the salad is dry, we can simply add more dressing in as needed. Of course, you don’t have to wait a whole day to dig in but it’s like a good chicken noodle soup- always better the longer it sits.

I’m sure that there are plenty of versions similar to this, and maybe even identical, but this is how we make ours and it’s a favorite to anyone who has tried it. So, if you need something to bring to your next gathering, give this recipe a try!

Momma’s Hearty Pasta Salad

INGREDIENTS:Hearty Pasta2

  • 1 lb. Rainbow (tri-colored) Rotini noodles
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 package of sliced pepperoni
  • 1 can of black olives, drained and sliced or halved
  • 1/2 block of pepper jack cheese, diced or small crumbles
  • 1/2 block of Colby Jack cheese, diced or small crumbles
  • 1- 16oz. bottle of Italian Dressing (our favorite is wishbone)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook rotini noodles according to package. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking of the noodles. Add to large bowl with lid.
  2. Dice tomatoes (saving the juice that comes out), onions, cucumber and peppers. Toss everything in with bowl of noodles.
  3. Slice pepperoni’s into half circles, separate and add to the pasta salad mix.
  4. Add olives, pepper jack and colby jack cheeses.
  5. Toss in half the bottle of dressing and the 1/3 cup parmesan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours (or over night).
  6. Right before serving, add remainder of dressing (more or less as desired).

NOTES:

  • Don’t have tomatoes on hand? No problem. Just use a can of diced tomatoes and be sure to add the juice from the can as well.
  • Halved cherry tomatoes are also a great substitute for the whole tomatoes.
  • Every now and then I will switch out or add different ingredients to my pasta. I have been known to use: Broccoli florets; carrots (thinly julienned); green olives; yellow onions; summer sausage (thinly sliced and halved)

I hope you like this recipe for Momma’s Hearty Pasta Salad. You really can’t go wrong with it. Your results all depend on what you like best so don’t be afraid to play around with different variations, dressings or noodles. This just just how we like to make ours and it’s never failed us.

Got a different variation of pasta salad that you like best? Share it with me. I would love to give it a try for my next cookout.

Don’t forget to give my blog a quick follow for new recipes and a updates in my crazy life.  ❤

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Lasagna Roll-ups- a fun way to eat lasagna

It was Italian dinner night at the Holbrook Homestead yesterday. For a while now, I’ve been craving lasagna but I cringe at the thought of putting it together. The time it takes to assemble each layer of noodles, filling, and sauce (that I make completely from scratch) is almost time consuming when you really just want to dig right in. Let’s not forget the bake time. We’ve all been there, right? No? Maybe it’s just me. However, those thoughts quickly cease when I pull the heavy, piping hot dish from the oven. The slightly browned cheese bubbling on the surface and the savory aroma of Italian herbs dancing around my nostrils is mouthwatering. I know my efforts are well rewarded when my husband takes his first bite and there is silence the rest of our dinner time.

Last night, I found an unopened container of ricotta cheese just hanging out on the refrigerator door. It was nearing it’s expiration so I knew that I needed to just give in to my laziness. I wanted to try a new way of putting together my lasagna. I remembered seeing all kinds of pins and posts about “rolling” your lasagna noodles with the ricotta filling and then pouring the sauce over top of that. Seems simple enough. Right?  Well, I am here to tell you it was that simple. The best part of all…it was perfectly portioned and it kept it’s shape, unlike cutting into and trying to plate those of the layered recipes.

Here is how I make mine. Enjoy 🙂

Lasagna Roll-Ups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 c. prepared Sam’s Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
  • 12 Lasagna Noodles, cooked 
  • 1- 30 oz. Container of Ricotta cheese
  • 14 oz. feta cheese crumbles (yes, feta cheese. It’s amazing in this)
  • 1 c. fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. Basil
  • 2 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Rosemary
  • 1 tsp. Thyme 
  • 1 tsp. Fennel seed
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 c. shredded mozzarella 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Set the first 2 ingredients (noodles and sauce) aside. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together the next 10 ingredients. 
  3. Starting with one noodle at a time, spread an even layer of the ricotta filling over the top of the noodle. Take one end and begin to roll to the other end. 
  4. Place rolls neatly in the pan and ladle sauce evenly smother the top of noodles with the sauce. 
  5. Sprinkle Mozzarella evenly over the top and place (uncovered) in the oven. 
  6. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the cheese just begins to brown and is melted all over. 
  7. Grab a plate, a fork and get ready to dig in to some of the best lasagna ya ever tasted!

NOTES:

  • Although I would rather you used mine, you can use your own favorite spaghetti sauce. Mine had meat in it so if you like your protein like me, you will have to add about 1/2 lb (or more) of meat to your sauce. (if you want the recipe for my sauce click HERE)
  • I also added some fennel seeds to my sauce this time. I haven’t added it before, but after using it last night, It was a good addition. 
  • When making the roll-ups, I had enough filling for 12 decent sized rolls. I was also able to comfortably fit 12 in the pan. If you wanted to spread the filling out a little more, you will need to make more noodles. 

I hope you are brave enough to give this recipe a go. It was a big hit in my home. So much that I had to fight my husband off to get seconds. Wow your guests with this yum-diddly dinner!

Like this recipe for Lasagna Roll-ups? Tell me all about it in the comments. Have a favorite Italian dish or way to make your lasagna? Share the recipe with me and I will give it a try.

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Tuscan Styled Pork Chops

_MG_0551 copyI first used this scrumptious recipe about two years ago when browsing pinterest for italian inspired dishes. I was getting tired of the same ol’ meals and ready to try something a little more “fancy”. That’s when I stumbled on the blog, Sweet C’s Designs, and found a recipe for One pan Tuscan Pork chops. It was quite delicious!

The savory aromatics of the herbs and pork chops filled my kitchen and gave me a sense of being in Italy, when really, I am forever stuck in Eastern Kentucky. It’s nice being able to close my eyes while biting into the pork chops smothered in the chunky tomato sauce and to imagine I am miles and miles away. I like to visualize myself beaming over the silvery olive groves, fields of sunflowers, and the vineyards that stretch for miles.

I’ve made some minor tweaks of my own in this recipe and served it with some Italian Seasoned Potato Wedges. This recipe is quick, delicious, and (my favorite) simple! Best of all, you probably already have everything needed for this dish, on hand. No special trips to the grocery store. It is sure to impress guests. You could even convince them you spent hours preparing it, when really it only took roughly 30 minutes (it’s ok, I won’t judge 😉 ).

Tuscan Styled Pork Chops

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 pork chops_MG_0512 copy
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1½ cups fresh tomatoes, diced (include liquid if cutting tomatoes produces a lot of liquid)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp rosemary
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Heat a large (I used a cast iron), heavy pan on high until warm.
  2. Add oil and heat until shimmery (but NOT burning/smoking) about 20 seconds.
  3. Brown pork chops on each side, about 1 minute each.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low, add onions.
  5. Stir onions and flip pork chops after 2 minutes on each side.
  6. Add tomatoes, roasted peppers, garlic and spices.
  7. Simmer until tomatoes are soft and sauce has set up- about 5-8 minutes.
  8. Serve with Italian Seasoned Potato wedges, grab a glass of your favorite wine (or favorite drink) and dig in!_MG_0525 copy

I hope you enjoyed my slightly different version of the Tuscan Pork chops! I know I did! If you tried this recipe, remember to let me know how it turned out! I’d love to hear all about it.