We are big fans of the Fancy Nancy books at our house. Fancy Nancy is a little girl who loves new adventures and using extra fancy words in her books. In a few of the books Fancy Nancy and her family eat “al fresco, which is fancy for outdoors”. Somewhere along the way, my kids picked up the term “al fresco” and now it’s part of their normal vocabulary. On many warm afternoons they ask if we can eat dinner al fresco and on more nights than not I indulge. I love eating outside as much as I love hearing my son say “al fresco” in his little three-year-old voice.
We have a ratty little patch of concrete on the side of the house that is cracked and growing grass, but you know what, we love it! It’s shaded in the evening, and in Southern Utah, there are very few bugs to ruin a meal. It’s a great place to gather for a meal. The kids are always more motivated to help set the table when we eat outside and the mess is cut in half because the birds clean up the spilled food at the end of the evening instead of me. When we build our forever home we are for sure going to plan on some great outdoor dining and entertaining areas.
If you are a fellow al fresco eater then this pasta salad recipe is just perfect for an evening meal on the back porch. It’s light but filling, comes together in a flash, and highlights some of summer’s gifts – garden veggies and fresh herbs. This could be the main dish or a nice side to pork chops or grilled chicken. Add some fresh sweet cherries or watermelon to the meal and a rhubarb crisp for dessert, and you have yourself a real feast.
This also a great pasta salad for a party, gathering, or barbecue. There are tips for traveling and prepping ahead at the end of the recipe.
- 1 pound garden Rotini pasta, cooked al dente
- 1 can black olive
- 1 can ripe green olives (not the salty brined kind...Lindsey's brand is great)
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1 large cucumber, diced
- 1 pound Cabot Garlic and Herb Cheese or mozzarella cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- Lots of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Combine the pasta, olives, tomato, cucumber, and cheese in a large bowl and stir to combine. In a small mason jar add the basil, olive oil, vinegar, and a heavy hand of salt and pepper. Put a lid on the jar and shake well to combine. Pour the mixture over the pasta and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste (don't under salt, the pasta and veggies really need it to taste their best). Serve at room temperature right away.
- To make ahead, mix together the pasta through cheese and make the dressing in the mason jar, but keep pasta and dressing separate until you are ready to serve. Mix together just before serving.
- Store extras in the fridge in an air-tight container.
Quick, easy, light, and delicious. Now that’s a great summer recipe.
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