1/3 – ½ cup (80 – 120 milliliters) Italian dressing (optional)
Preparing your Pasta
Fill a large pot with 1 gallon (3.79 liters) of water and two tablespoons of salt and bring it to a boil. You want the pasta to be well-seasoned, since you don’t be relying on fancy sauces to flavor it.
Add the pasta and let it cook for the time specified on the package. Most pastas will need 9 to 12 minutes to cook. You do not want the pasta to be overcooked or it will fall apart when you toss it with the rest of your ingredients. Also, the pasta will soak up the dressing the longer it sits; if you overcook it, it will become soggy later on. Pasta with lots of shapes, nooks, and crannies are the best for pasta salads, because they can hold more dressing and small ingredients.
Drain the water from the pasta and rinse it under cold water. Hold a large strainer or colander over a sink and dump the pasta into it. Once the water is gone, run cold water over the pasta for a few seconds. Shake and jiggle the strainer/colander so until there is no water left. Rinsing the pasta with cold water will halt the cooking process and prevent it from overheating. On the other hand, rinsing the pasta will get rid of all that extra salty flavor. Consider tossing the pasta with some olive oil instead, and spreading it on a large baking sheet so that it can cool off.
Consider tossing the pasta with part of your dressing while it is still warm. This will allow the pasta to absorb the flavors better. Take about two thirds of your dressing, and toss it with your pasta while it is still warm. Set the rest of the dressing aside for later.
Leave the pasta in the refrigerator for one hour. This will allow it to cool down. You don’t want to use warm pasta for pasta salads.
Making of the Pasta Salad
Place 16 (450 grams) of cooked and chilled tri-color pasta into a large bowl. The bowl needs to be large enough to fit the rest of your ingredients.
Prepare your ingredients. Wash all of your vegetables. Next, prepare your ingredients in the following ways: (i) De-seed and dice 1 red bell pepper into tiny pieces. (ii) Cut 1 cucumber in half. Cut each half into thin slices. (iii) If you want to add some protein, cut some ham into small, bite-sized cubes. You will need about 1 cup (grams).
Put your chopped and diced ingredients into the bowl. If you want to add any cheese, you might want to save that for later. Cheese tends to get soggy the longer it sits in a salad, so it is best to add it just when you are ready to serve it.
Add your dressing and toss the salad. You will need about 1/3 to ½ cup (80 to 120 milliliters) of Italian salad dressing. Gently toss the salad with some salad tongs. Be careful not to break the pasta noodles.
Consider chilling the salad before serving it. This will allow all of the flavors to blend together.
Add any cheeses and garnishes to the salad just before you serve it. Be sure to give the salad a final toss, in case some of the ingredients sank to the bottom.