Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

I told you I’m all about pasta salads lately!  I wasn’t kidding.

Since I do monthly meal planning (post coming soon!), I have to use up the most perishable items first.  Sometimes I do a really good job of planning out my meals so we aren’t eating the same type of food all in the first week or two of my shopping trip.  Other months, like this one, I buy pretty perishable stuff for 3 different pasta salads.  Spinach, fresh basil, tomatoes, etc.  Good thing I love pasta salads – I don’t mind eating two in the same week.  Do you?

I got this recipe from my mother in law and I make it all the time.  It makes a pretty huge batch (which no one minds because we all love it) and is easy to serve at a BBQ or bring to a party as a yummy side dish.  Or add chicken and it becomes a main meal.  It’s also pretty affordable, which for a family on a budget, its nice to stretch your money and have a fresh, healthy meal go a little farther.

Tomato Basil Pasta Salad | Jersey Up!

Tomato Basil Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb penne pasta (or whatever kind you like)
4 cups diced roma tomatoes (~12)
2 tsp minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 pkg fresh basil (about 1/3 cup chopped)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
12 ounces feta cheese (regular, reduced fat or tomato basil flavor all work great)

Directions:
1. Mix everything except pasta and feta cheese.  Let it sit on the counter for about an hour.
2. Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Add pasta and feta cheese.

Special Note…
So, apparently, not everything can be frozen.  (What?!  I know!)  I froze a package of basil a long time ago.  Lo and behold, it was slimy and brown after it thawed.  I’ve seen on Pinterest somewhere that you can freeze herbs in olive oil.  Have any of you tried this?  Does it actually work?  What a bummer to waste such nice basil.  Also considering I’m doing a garden this year, I know I’ll have excess and wondering how to properly preserve basil.  I just think fresh adds so much more to a meal than dried.

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad

It has been really hot here lately.  Like 80+ degrees and humid.  I love summer.  Love being outside in the sunshine with bare feet in the grass.  But this year the mosquitos have been so awful.  End times swarming awful.  Pretty sure it’s due to the massive flooding we had this spring.  Supposedly their life cycle is almost up, for which I am grateful.  Even though the doctor says its safe, I feel bad practically drowning my daughter in DEET!  And we just haven’t been able to enjoy the outdoors as much as we’d like to.  With that being said, we have still pretty much switched over to grilling.

MY STOVE HAS NEVER STAYED CLEAN THIS LONG!

It’s a summer miracle.  For this month’s meal planning, I pretty much have stuck with marinated meats for the grill and easy side dishes.  Its cheap and efficient.  And it also convinces my husband to do a lot more of the cooking!  😉  I do still spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen.  It’s not so bad though, since my company is cute.

Kitchen Helper | Jersey Up!

Mama, I found your secret stash!

I’m in love with pasta salads lately.  They’re so versatile, easy to whip up on a moment’s notice for a party or dinner off the grill, and you can sneak in a lot of veggies without too much notice.  My husband is obsessed with balsamic vinegar and so this pasta salad screamed at me off the Pinterest page.  You could easily switch up the veggies to whatever is on hand or coming up fresh from the garden.  Or change to whatever pasta is on hand.  But I love me some tortellini!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad | Jersey Up!

Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad
Adapted from: Newman’s Own

Ingredients:
1 pkg frozen tortellini (or pasta of your choice)
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 chicken breasts
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup creamy balsamic salad dressing

Directions:
1. Marinate chicken breasts overnight with balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard.  You can just marinade while you thaw your chicken breasts, or have them prepped in the freezer beforehand.  Do whatever works best for you!
2. Prepare pasta according to package directions, and set aside.
3. Grill chicken breasts.  While they’re cooking, chop up your tomatoes and spinach.  Or whatever other veggies you decide to add.
4. Cut up grilled chicken and toss with pasta, veggies and salad dressing.
5. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour and serve.

The balsamic gives the salad a really nice bite.  I personally love meals that are all-in-one.  I don’t need a side salad or a side veggie.  It’s just all in one bowl.  Less dishes!  Less mess!  Simply the best.  Leftovers are even better, too.