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Don’t Hire a Caterer: Sensational Pasta Salads

DON'T HIRE A CATERER: SENSATIONAL PASTA SALADS

By Georgette Farkas

Georgette Farkas is officially our Culinary Ambassador at Great Performances, but we’ve also crowned her our Hospitality Maven. Drawing upon her experiences working at leading restaurants and spearheading her eponymous Rotisserie Georgette, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition to everything she does at GP across all teams, she also regularly entertains at home, creating incredible dishes with that extra special touch that makes food even more memorable and delicious.

In this series, Georgette shares tips from the caterer’s tool kit to make entertaining at home (almost) effortless. From time saving shortcuts and grocery store secrets to garnishing hacks and presentation magic, she’ll help you host a party that’ll make your guests feel extra special and that you’ll actually be able to enjoy.

She’s also curated recipes for you, highlighting the tips she’s shared. Each month look for dishes and ideas that would be delicious on their own, but that together make up menus that will have you entertaining like a pro.

This month, Georgette keeps it cool with some make ahead pasta salads that use summer’s freshest produce and that qualify as show stoppers – without having to spend hours over a hot stove. Simple tricks like serving the pasta salads in a shallow bowl and reserving some of the add-ins to pile on top of the pasta turn these dishes from an afterthought to a star dish.

I like to make summer entertaining as bright and colorful – and as effortless – as possible. Fresh and healthy are also top priorities. Summer farm stand produce is the inspiration behind these pasta recipes. By all means, adjust them to what you find in your local farm stand, green market or CSA.

As for the pasta shapes, for these room temperature dishes, I suggest short pastas such as gemelli, rotelle, radiator and other bite sized varieties. I would simply avoid tube pastas such as penne or rigatoni, and long pastas such as spaghetti or fettuccine.

These can be made one day ahead, with only minor last-minute assembly, leaving you to spend time with your guests and not in the kitchen at mealtime. If you are making ahead, toss cooked pasta in olive oil and store separately from garnishes. When ready to serve, toss only about 2/3 of the vegetable garnishes into the pasta, leaving the remaining garnish to arrange over the top or around the sides. The exception is the pasta with pesto, for which all the roasted cherry tomatoes should be arranged over or around the pasts, as opposed to mixed in.

As with most dishes made to be enjoyed at room temperature, if making ahead, we suggest removing food from the refrigerator about an hour before serving. The flavors will come to life more readily when not ice cold.

Finally, arrange pasta on serving platters rather than in deep bowls. This enables you to feature the vegetable garnishes on top, rather than having all the best bits get lost at the bottom.

Check out the recipes below or download the recipe packet by clicking the button below. 

RECIPE: RED, WHITE AND GREEN GEMELLI PASTA SALAD

with Pesto, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Toasted Pine Nuts

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

For the cherry tomatoes

  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the pesto

  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

Garnish

  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, in shards

For the pasta

  • 12 oz gemelli pasta

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400֯.
  2. Prepare the tomatoes. Thinly slice one clove of garlic. On a sheet pan, toss halved cherry tomatoes with sliced garlic, thyme sprigs, and ¼ cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and beginning to caramelize around the edges. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Prepare the pesto. Reduce oven temperature to 300. Place pine nuts on a sheet pan and toast, tossing occasionally until golden brown.
  4. In small sauté pan over low heat add ¼ cup olive oil. Add garlic cloves and simmer gently, but do not brown. Set aside and let cool. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add basil and blanch briefly just until leaves are wilted. Shock in ice water, drain well, wringing the leaves to remove remaining liquid. Add blanched basil to bowl of food processor along with parmesan, cooked garlic and its olive oil and half of the toasted pine nuts. Process until smooth. Add additional olive oil as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. Prepare the pasta. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente. Drain and while still warm, toss with pesto. Place on a serving platter and arrange roasted cherry tomatoes around the pasta. Arrange remaining browned pine nuts and thinly shaved parmesan shards over the top (optional).

RECIPE: FARM STAND ZUCCHINI AND LEMON PASTA

with Roasted Yellow and Green Zucchini, Chives, Lemon, Toasted Pistachio, Ricotta Salata

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

For the zucchini

  • 2 whole yellow and/or green zucchini, cubed -or- 10-12 baby green zucchini, halved lengthwise -or- 10-12 patty pan squash, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

For the pasta

  • 12 oz rotelle pasta, cooked al dente

For the salad

  • ⅓ cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz riccota salata, shaved

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 400֯.
  2. Prepare the zucchini. If using full size zucchini, cut zucchini in ¼ inch thick lengthwise slices. Cut each slice into long strips and then into small cubes. If using baby zucchini and patty pan, simply cut in half lengthwise.
  3. On a sheet tray, toss zucchini, thyme, garlic and scallions with just enough olive oil to coat lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until a little softened and caramelized around the edges. Remove from oven and grate lemon zest over the vegetables. Add the juice of the lemon, salt and pepper to taste, toss well and adjust seasoning as needed.
  4. Prepare the pasta salad. Cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente and drain. Toss pasta with approximately 2/3 of the vegetables and half the ricotta salata. Arrange pasta on a serving platter and spread remaining vegetables, ricotta salata shards and toasted pistachios over the top.

RECIPE: SUMMER IN SARDINIA PASTA

with Roasted Sweet Yellow Peppers, Tomatoes, Capers, Black Olives, Yellow Raisins, Anchovies

Servings: 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 2 Tbsp yellow raisins, soaked in warm water and drained
  • ¼ cup flat leave parsley, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup basil, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted black olives
  • 4 anchovy fillets (in oil)
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and julienned
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ⅓ to ½ cup olive oil
  • 12 oz radiatore pasta

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400֯.
  2. Coarsely chop together garlic, capers, pitted black olives and anchovy filets. Transfer to a sheet pan and toss together with yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, yellow raisins, parsley, basil and 1/3 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Salt lightly, given that the capers, olives and anchovies are already salted.
  3. Roast vegetables approximately 20 minutes until vegetables are softened and slightly caramelized around the edges.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta in boiling salted water to al dente and drain. Toss pasta with approximately 2/3 of the roasted vegetables, adding a bit more olive oil, as needed. Arrange pasta on a serving platter and place remaining roasted vegetables over the top.