A Tasty Look at Pasta Salad History
Modern pasta salads descend from a long line of both hot and chilled macaroni dishes. The local culture or cuisine would dictate the dressings and additions. Dressings vary and can be cream, mayonnaise or oil and vinegar-based. Additions might be herbs, fruit, vegetables, or spices. The first pasta salad recipes in America can be traced back to the early 1900s. These would have been dressed with mayonnaise and served chilled in molded presentations.
Pasta salad history tells us that pasta salads became especially popular in the 1980s when Nouvelle Cuisine was all the rage and used various types of gourmet pasta to make elaborate dishes. Pasta salad was seen as an economical, upscale cuisine and a practical way to use your leftover pasta and other ingredients. American food companies soon introduced pasta salad box kits and you can still get those today.
Pasta Recipes Through the Years
One pasta salad recipe, dating from 1916 calls for macaroni, horseradish, salt, sugar, lettuce leaves and whipped cream. A recipe from 1962 calls for macaroni, mayonnaise, hard-boiled egg, capers, olives, and pimento strips. Modern recipes might contain almost anything at all.
International Pasta Salad Recipes
Today pasta salads come in many flavors. You can get Asian-inspired ones featuring ginger, shrimp and Asian vegetables, Greek ones with lemon, garlic and fresh herbs, traditional Italian ones with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and more and many other varieties. Pasta salad makes a great lunch or dinner because it can be light or hearty.
Pasta Salad Tips
You can toss your pasta salad addition while the pasta is hot or after it has cold. Tossing the cheese with the pasta while it is hot means it will melt a little and stick to the pasta. Depending on the type of pasta salad you are making, this might or might not be what you want. When you make pasta salad recipes, cook the pasta to al dente. Overcooking it will make it too soft but cooking it to al dente (which means tender but still with a little bite to it) means it will have a nicer texture in the finished salad. Throughout pasta salad history, pasta salad recipes have recommended cooking pasta to al dente and not overcooking it.
Since pasta has a mild flavor, it suits all kinds of additions, so be brave and try out new ingredient ideas for your homemade pasta salads. Try avocado, Mexican cheese, nuts and raisins, chopped fruit, natural yogurt, lemon mayonnaise, well-drained tuna or salmon from a can, chopped or shredded chicken, chilies, or anything else you think might be good.
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