I can never find the right tasting pasta salad at the deli in the stores, so I decided to try making it myself. I mean really, how hard can pasta salad be, right? Well, come to find out not hard at all. I normally make a GIANT bowl of this stuff for company BBQ's and there is never any left for me to bring home. Last time I made it six women came hunting for me in the bowels of the building were we work. They only knew they were lookin' for Beth K.- my name was in sharpie on the outside of the bowl, but they found me just for this recipe! Hope ya enjoy. IT LOOKS LIKE A LOT OF STEPS, BUT I'M JUST WORDY! (also, you can put whatever type of ingredients in you want. Sometimes I add small button mushrooms from the jar.)
I recommend making this salad about three days ahead of time. This way the flavors have had a chance to soak right in there.
Cook the pasta to your desired softness - I like al dente. Get your onion ready while the pasta is cooking. Chop into a medium dice.
Put the ball of mozzarella in the freezer for about 30 minutes ONLY. Set a timer so you don't forget.
Scoop the pasta out of the water when done and transfer to a colander - saving the pasta water. Rinse the pasta.
Put the carrots in the pasta water and cook them until they are slightly tender. They should have a slight bite to them but not be crunchy any more. Let them cool. Once they're cool enough to handle, chop them to whatever shape you like. Just make sure they are slightly smaller than bite-sized. I do a coin shape and cut them in half.
Dump both the pasta and the carrots into a LARGE bowl that can be covered.
Add about half of the onion to the bowl. Reserving the other half so you can adjust later to taste.
Chop the mozzarella into small cubes and add to the salad. (it's easier to chop if it's been frozen for a few minutes) Or crumble the feta into the salad.
Drain the cans of olives and the capers.
At this point give it a good mix, checking to see how much room you've got left in the bowl.
Dump one jar of the capers (drained) in.
To make it more home made looking I squeeze the olives into quarter pieces instead of cutting them. Throw them in the bowl. You may only need 1 can of them.
I LOVE marinated artichokes and buy the big honkin' jars of them at Costco. So I take a slotted spoon and dig about a 1/2 of a jar out and chuck em into the bowl! But they're so expensive I hate to be throwing them in all willie-nilly!
Toss everything so it's good and mixed up. Add more onions, capers, olives, carrots, or artichokes as desired.
Shake up the salad dressing real well and pour 1 bottle over your salad.
Toss again, and then add another bottle of dressing.
At this point it does not need to be refrigerated. cover it up and then toss it up about every hour, though. I add the cubed/julienned salami before I take it anywhere. You could put the salami in when you're putting all the other ingredients in, but I would recommend popping it in the fridge if you add the salami in. Also, I wait on the salami, as it can have a tendency to make the salad more oily.
Give your salad a taste test a few hours before you're going to serve it. If it's too dry, squeeze some lemon or lime into it for an added zing. I have found if I add more dressing at this point it becomes too oily, so the citrus helps to cut the oiliness.
You may want to scoop out a small bowl for yourself for when you get home, because you will NOT have any left to bring home!