So our local grocery store and a special deal where you buy so many chicken breasts and they give you a bunch of other stuff free - One of those things was a box of name brand pasta salad mix. When I opened the box, I realized how little you get in the box (it was basically 1/2 of uncooked pasta and dried soup mix). So, I decided that I was going to try and put my spin on pasta salad, the easy/cheap/fast/delicious way. This is one of my husband's favorite recipes and the kids enjoy it too! I'll break down the prices in the recipe as I go along. *Please keep in mind that my ingredient measurements are rough estimates. Like anyone who cooks a lot, I have a tendency to go with the flow.
Put a large stockpot on the stove, filled halfway with water to cook the pasta. I always salt my water a few dashes while it's on the heat before I put my pasta in. Was told once that the salt makes the water boil faster. Gotta love a wive's tale.
While this water is getting warm, Cut the shrimp into bite sized bites. I usually use 10-15 count shrimp because they are readily available in Louisiana. If you use a higher count shrimp, you can skip this step.
Once the pasta water is at a rolling boil, pour in the uncooked pasta & cook it about 10-12 min. *Make sure to check your pasta's instructions for exact cooking times.*
While the pasta is cooking, get out your frying pan. I like to use my chicken fryer because it hold quite a bit, but if you dont have one you can use a dutch oven for this as well. Lightly coat the bottom of the fryer with olive oil to prevent sticking and set your temp at medium high (7 or so). Before your pan gets too hot, pour in your frozen veggies (prevents splatter). Once you hear them sizzling, you can put your shrimp and garlic in the skillet. Once everything is in your skillet, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occassionally
While the shrimp & veggies are cooking, I make my dressing. There's no science here, just whisk your ingredients together. If you like a stronger balsamic taste, add more. In the end, your dressing should be the consistency of ranch dressing. If the dressing is too thick, simply add a little water to it. I like to mix mine in my large measuring cup.
When your pasta is finished, drain it and put it in the biggest bowl that you have. When the shrimp and veggies are done, pour them in the bowl as well. Drain the black olives and pour them in the bowl, as well. Pour the dressing over the top & stir well. I like to dress the salad when it is nice and hot so that it saturates everything. Add salt, pepper and parmesan cheese to taste.
While you can eat this pasta salad warm, it is a lot better when the salad has had a chance to rest and cool in the fridge (approximately 3 hrs).
*This recipe is wonderful for leftovers - Ex: If you cook too many chicken breasts or too many veggies for dinner one night, you can use those ingredients for a pasta salad the next night. I have often over cooked those ingredients on purpose to make my life easier the next night.
As promised, here is MY cost breakdown:
Large Cheap Bag of Pasta: $2
Store Brand Frozen Veggies: $1
1 lb 10-15 Count Shrimp: $7
1 can black olives: $1
Small jar of mayo: $2
The rest of the ingredients I keep in my pantry/fridge. So for $13, I can make enough food (seafood at that) for 12 people, at least.