I made this huge batch of pasta salad for a short road trip we went on recently. I didn't want a sandwich that would just get mushy, not that I'm a huge fan of sandwiches to begin with. This pasta salad was filling, hearty, and a whole meal in one dish. Everyone has their own ideas about what goes in pasta salad, so I won't really post a recipe, just the ingredients I used and roughly how I put it together.
I was also more or less following this guide to perfect pasta salad. These are sort of my favorite pasta-related ingredients, but I was also aiming for a combination that would be both colorful and briny.
ROAD TRIP PASTA SALAD
1 pound rotini, cooked to package instructions, drained but not rinsed
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 basket yellow grape tomatoes, diced
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
a few handfuls baby spinach, ripped or roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
1-2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered
a couple red bell peppers, sliced
1 can black olives, sliced
1/4 - 1/2 cup capers
extra-virgin olive oil
red pepper flakes
various herbs, like dried basil, oregano, tarragon
So, I don't like raw tomatoes, and I don't really like raw mushrooms either. This is what I did: while the pasta was cooking, the tomatoes and mushrooms were the first things I sliced. Then I marinated them in what would pretty much be the same dressing the whole salad would be in: oil, a little bit of vinegar, a ton of lemon juice, red pepper flakes, black pepper, a pinch of salt, dried basil, and tarragon. Then, an hour or two later, after everything else was already mixed together, I tossed the mushrooms and tomatoes into a pan and cooked them a bit. (Actually, as you can see in the pictures, I overcooked them a bit! But generally, I try to just barely cook them so they're tender and awesome.) Once they cooled, I added them to the rest of the salad.
The rest of the salad is pretty standard. Once the pasta cooled, I mixed in the raw ingredients. I added oil, vinegar, and seasonings gradually, until they tasted about how I wanted them. I used a TON of lemon juice, more than I did vinegar. Also, I try to avoid using balsamic vinegar; even though I love vinaigrettes, balsamic vinegar will make the whole thing brown and kind of sad-looking. I stopped a little before it was as flavorful as I wanted it, since everything would be marinating in each other's juices for a couple days in the fridge.