Pickled veggie pasta salad

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

This is my platonic ideal of pasta salad: Tangy, bright, and crunchy, but also a little creamy and, frankly, oily. You can’t help but smell a smoky grill, hear kids laughing, and feel the sun in your face with this salad on your plate.

Just the pasta, please.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies
Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

So, pasta salad is often an underwhelming affair. It feels necessary at BBQs and is easy to produce in huge quantities. And sans eggs or mayo, it keeps in the sun for hours without risking a side of salmonella. But what a waste when it’s totally boring!

This recipe uses a huge quantity of quick-pickled seasonal vegetables and aromatics, which takes a little pre-planning, but is very worth it. My kid also happens to love pickles, which is a pretty good way to get him to eat veggies. And when you do the pickling, you control the salt, sugar, and other junk that enters the mix.

The recipe I’ve developed here is best when left overnight, but the veggies can be eaten after about 3 hours and definitely taste pickled. Leaving them overnight helps the garlic to mellow, which can be considered a kindness to your guests, no? But also feel free to omit the garlic if you must.

And while I haven’t included anything but the pasta, dressing, and veggies in this recipe, you can customize this dish in whatever way suits your family. I make this for the three of us with mozzarella balls or feta. I’ve also thought about searing some salmon and flaking it in there or just opening a can of tuna and dumping that in. Also, the pickled veggies remind me of gardiniera, so I’m sure a salami or other Italian cured meat would be amazing in there. Experiment! Go crazy!

A couple of notes:

  • I opted for scallions here because, though I LOVE a pickled red onion, they turn the pickling liquid (and everything else that’s being soaked) a bit pink.

  • I also used fresh corn because it’s in season and is so sweet and perfect right off of the cob that I can’t imagine not using it. But I’m sure frozen would do the trick too.

  • I give a range of oil and a range of pasta to use here. I used a fancy pasta, which had about 14 oz of dry noodles in the bag, but feel free to use a whole pound. Obviously, the more pasta you use, the less prominent the veggies will be and the more sauce you’ll need and vice versa.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

Pickled veggie pasta salad

Active time: About 30 minutes, mostly spent chopping and mixing
Total time: Anywhere from 3 hours, 15 minutes to 1 week, depending on how much you let the pickles sit
Yield: About 9-10 cups of salad

¾ cup white vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ large bunch scallions (about 4-5 large), trimmed and roughly chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved  
½ large orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
2-3 large ears corn, with kernels removed (or about 1½-2 cups)
12-16 oz dried pasta (depending on the ratio of vegetables to pasta that you prefer)
1/2- 3/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh pepper
½ tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh oregano, well minced if using fresh
¼- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

For the pickled vegetables:
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. (You won’t hear any more crunching on the bottom of the container.)

In a large container with a tight fitting lid, add the smashed garlic, chopped scallions, and chopped vegetables. Pour in the vinegar mixture, seal the container, and shake a few times.

Place in the refrigerator and leave for 3 hours or up to 1 week.

For the salad:
Cook your pasta according to package directions in well salted water.

While your pasta cooks, combine the oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and oregano in a small container.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to a very large bowl. Add half of the olive oil mixture and stir well.

With a large fork or slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pickling liquid, transferring as little of the brine as possible (though don’t go crazy). Set aside the garlic cloves and mince the pickled cloves. Add everything to the pasta and stir well.

Add more of the olive oil mixture to taste until you feel that the pasta salad is wet enough.

Mix in and top with the torn basil before serving.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

Pasta con ceci (and white beans)

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

A one-pot, healthy, vegan optional pasta dinner full of beans and veggies that comes together in less than 30 minutes? Oh, and it’s made with things you likely have in your pantry right now (or could easily get on the cheap)? Yes and yes.

Take me to the recipe!

This dish started with Victoria Granoff’s wonderful Pasta con ceci from Food52. It’s easy, fast, inexpensive, and shockingly complex considering the petite ingredient list and short cooking time.

However, that quick cook left the chickpeas a little too raw, in my opinion. And while I love a healthy fat, the original recipe calls for lots of olive oil and I wanted to lighten it up a bit. I suspect that the larger amount of oil masks the chickpea taste a bit, but I like the idea of replacing fat with fiber and not the other way around.

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

I tried to swap in white beans for the chickpeas entirely, but they cooked down too much. Half and half white beans and chickpeas, though, proved the winning combination: Some bite from the chickpeas and some creaminess from the white beans marries perfectly.

Use whole wheat pasta and throw in some julienned kale at the end and you have a rounded, healthy dish full of fiber and protein.

Even M, who’s been in an extended picky phase, gobbled this up and we didn’t even need to put other “safe’ foods on the table.

All that to say, MAKE THIS FOR DINNER TONIGHT!

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes


Pasta con Ceci (and white beans)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/3 cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed  
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1½ cup uncooked orecchiete pasta (or another small shape)
3½ cups stock or water
1 parmesan rind (optional)
½ bushel Tuscan (also called Lacinto or Dinosaur) kale, julienned (about 1½-2 cups) 

For serving: red pepper flakes, more parmesan,

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium-low flame, until hot, but not crackling.

Add the smashed garlic (it should sizzle in the pan right away) and cook until it’s deeply tanned, but not dark brown. Adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning.

Add the tomato paste. It should also sizzle when it hits the pan. If not, increase the temperature. Cook, stirring and hearing the sizzle, for 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the white beans, pasta, water or stock, and salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese rind, if using. Let simmer uncovered (you should have a decent simmer going and see bubbles popping throughout the cooking. If not, increase the temperature) for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking and the pasta is cooked.

Turn off the heat and toss in your kale. Stir a few times to let the residual heat wilt the greens.

Serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

Meatless Monday: Pumpkin mac and cheese

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Fall is here! And I’m all in. I love summer as much as the next gal (tomatoes! the beach! relaxed schedules! sunshine! longer days!), but I can only take so much sweating before I’m ready for fleeces and squash (leaves changing! fires! apple picking! Halloween! schedules!).

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This mac and cheese is warming, cheesy, and chock full of veggies. It also works as dinner or lunch (or both!). I’ve made this with some sausage on the side for an even heartier meal, but it’s very filling on its own.

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A couple of notes:
- I use half roasted squash and half pumpkin (butternut or acorn squash is my favorite, but you could use kobocha or delicata) because I don’t always love straight pumpkin pasta sauces. There is something heavy and somehow both flavorless and overwhelming about a sauce made with just pumpkin.
- The most time consuming part of this recipe is cooking the onions. A longer, slower cook yields much better flavor that significantly improves the final dish. I recommend taking the time.
- This recipe makes twice as much sauce as you need. You can either freeze half, or make two boxes (2 lbs) of pasta for a large family. We’ve found that using 1 box of pasta and freezing half of the sauce yields one dinner for the three of us and two lunches for M (and some late-night picking for us).

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Pumpkin mac and cheese

1 Tbsp olive oil, butter, ghee, or your fat of choice
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
10 large sage leaves (about 1 Tbsp), minced
½ tsp kosher salt
½-1 can pumpkin puree
½ small acorn squash (or about 1 cup any type of squash), roasted
½-1 cup milk
½ cup gruyere, shredded
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 lb pasta
1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Preheat the oven to 425. Cut your squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake until fork tender, about 20-30 minutes.  


Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil. (I add 2 heaping tsp of salt to my pasta water and that usually does the trick.) Cook your pasta according to package directions (towards the end of cooking your onions). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the thinly sliced onions. Brown, stirring often, until caramelized, about 25- 30 minutes. Don’t worry if your onions become a little frizzled or fried instead of caramelized. I tend to forget them or have the flame up too high for a minute. Either way, they’ll taste delicious as long as they’re well cooked.

Add the garlic and sage to the onions and cook for one minute, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat.

In a blender or food processor, combine the cooked onions, garlic, sage, acorn (or other) squash, pumpkin puree, and cheese. Blend on high. Slowly add the milk until you’ve reached your desired consistency.* Scrape down the sides as needed.

Pour about 1/2 of the sauce into a large container for another time.

Drain your pasta, but reserve ½ cup of the pasta water. Put the pasta back into the pasta pot, top with ½ of the sauce, and thin out as needed with the reserved pasta water. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

*The amount of milk you’ll need depends largely on your squash. Some squash have more water in them, so you’ll need less milk. Start with ¼ cup and add more as needed.

Yield: 4 adult-sized dinner servings, 6 kid-sized dinner servings, or more if you’re serving this for lunch

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Chard, corn, and garlic scape pasta salad

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Are you guys ever surprised by your own agency? I feel like I've gotten more on board with the decision-maker role, but some things still catch me off guard. For example, I often forget that I can change the radio station in the car when I hear a song I don't like. I'll listen to something really annoying until it suddenly occurs to me, "I could change this." I'm a weirdo.

That said, you don't have to live with boring basic pasta salad! (In fact, you don't have to bring pasta salad to parties at all, but you'll want to when you read this recipe.)

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Pasta salad feels like one of those things that food snobs are supposed to hate. But I'll be honest, my mom makes one that, on paper, sounds gross (pasta, mayo, celery, hard boiled eggs, celery salt, etc), but is actually delicious.

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However, more often than not it's included on a BBQ table as more of an afterthought than a star. But this guy right here, is a star. It's nutty, salty, crunchy, tangy, and full of greens. AND, it's vegan. When do you have a pasta salad whose flavor doesn't hinge on some meat or cheese? Use a gluten-free pasta if that fits your dietary needs and everyone is happy.

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A few notes:
-None of these veggies need a ton of cooking and I would eat corn raw all summer if you let me. But if you like things more well done, feel free to increase cooking times. Just a note, the more you cook garlic scapes, the mellower the garlic flavor gets, so I would advise against overcooking them lest they lose their kick entirely.
-Don't be afraid of salt here. Since there isn't a traditional sauce or a terribly large amount of oil, the flavor of this pasta hinges on the salt (and the veggies, nuts, lemon, and olive oil, but mostly, the salt). I oversalt the pasta water (use what you normally would and then add another 2 large pinches) and season the veggies as they're cooking and again once you've added all of the ingredients together. It may feel like a lot of salt (and taste throughout cooking and prepping, lest you add more salt than you personally enjoy), but I do think it's necessary to have a hefty amount of seasoning here.

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Chard, corn, and garlic scape pasta salad

¾-1 lb dry pasta (in v salted water)
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large head chard (if less than 8 leaves or if very small leaves, use two heads)
8-10 large garlic scapes
3 medium or 2 large ears of corn
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
½ cup marcona almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup torn fresh basil
1 tsp kosher salt
Pepper
Nutty cheese (optional)

Bring water to a boil and cook your pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta and add to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

While the pasta is cooking, wash and chop the chard, garlic scapes, and corn. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chard first and allow it to wilt for 1 minute. Season with more salt. Add the garlic scapes and cook both veggies, tossing and stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the corn kernels and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables to the pasta and olive oil and toss. Add the lemon juice and toss again. Add the chopped nuts and torn basil and toss again. Test for seasoning and adjust with more salt and pepper as needed.

If using, add the cheese just before serving.

Yield: So much pasta salad. But seriously, at least 6 adult servings, more if this as a side dish.

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Meatless Mondays: Spinach pasta

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After consuming roughly 10 lbs of sugar while making M's 3rd birthday sushi cake last week (in case you missed it), it was time for a reset. Feels like the 100th reset of the year already, no? Anyway, BALANCE.

So, I don't just like creamed spinach, I like, like creamed spinach. And I won't try to convince you that creamed spinach made without cream is the same thing. Hence, why I'm not calling this "creamed spinach pasta." But when I had the urge to make creamed spinach and mix in some pasta for a hearty and meatless dinner, I thought, maybe I can go one further and skip the cream altogether. Because, you know, the 10 lbs of sugar.

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I started out with the Food52 Cauliflower Carbonara that surfaced a few months ago. This sauce is also delicious in its own right, but I would not compare it to high octane carbonara (though it's an excellent way to get loads of vegetables into your child if you're into that sort of thing). I thought that the cauliflower flavor would be too strong to conceivably substitute for cream and I was right.

Then I gave this Bean-Creamed Spinach recipe on Epicurious a shot. A few tweaks later and we have a lively sauce that uses minimal dairy and even less meat. I used chicken broth because that's what we usually have on hand, but subbing in a vegetable broth would be perfectly fine.

I'm not sure you can really omit the cheese entirely because, to me, it rounds out the flavor. But if you use vegan cheese or nutritional yeast regularly, feel free to sub in some of those for the Asiago and Parmesan.

A note about pre-cooking the spinach: I find that when I cook spinach in whatever sauce it will eventually be covered with, I get a strange spinach-y film on my teeth that is wholly unappetizing. For whatever reason, wilting the spinach first and pressing out the excess water avoids the film and makes the dish taste much better. In my opinion, entirely worth the extra 10 minutes.

Sadly, this post was not sponsored by Whole Foods. I should really get on that.

Sadly, this post was not sponsored by Whole Foods. I should really get on that.

Creamed spinach pasta

1 lb baby spinach
2 large cloves garlic
½ large onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can/box of white beans
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp Aleppo pepper or paprika
½ tsp mustard powder
1 tsp lemon juice (or the juice of ½ small lemon)
1 lb dry pasta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup Asiago cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

If needed, give your spinach a quick rinse. Place all of the spinach in a second large pot and start to wilt over medium heat. Give the spinach a few stirs to make sure it wilts evenly. This usually takes me about 10 minutes.

While wilting your spinach, give the onions and garlic a rough chop. You’ll puree these later, so don’t worry about mincing. Open, rinse, and drain your can of beans and measure out your stock.

When all of the spinach is wilted, turn the greens out onto a dishtowel or a few paper towels. This spinach is hot and we want this meal to be done quickly, so I like to add another dishtowel or a few more paper towels on top of the spinach and then weigh it down with a kettle or heavy pot. While you cook everything else, the spinach drains.

Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to your now empty large pot. Over medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the beans and give a few stirs. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. Turn the flame to medium high and bring the stock to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

While the liquid is reducing, give your drained spinach a rough chop. Set aside. If you haven't already, start cooking your pasta.

When the stock has reduced by half, add the Aleppo pepper (or paprika) and the mustard powder. Puree the stock and white bean mixture with either a very strong immersion blender or in a regular blender. Return to the pan. Mix in the cooked spinach. Add the cooked and drained pasta and the cheeses and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning.

Yield: 9 cups

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