Salsa Pasta Salad . . . for a crowd

Barry mixes up a large batch of pasta salad
     People used to ask for this recipe when I was catering. I didn’t mind sharing but the truth is that I just added a little of this and that. I started out by adding Ranch dressing and veggies but the salad needed some ZIP . . . so I added salsa; now I usually mix the dressing and salsa prior to pouring it over the pasta.
     Use it as a side salad or add meat (deli or chopped up ham, pork or even bacon) and chopped hard cooked eggs for a main dish salad. Sometimes I just added grated carrots and chopped black olives; other times tomatoes, cucumbers, chopped broccoli, etc. go into the mix.
     Here’s the recipe that I finally wrote down . . . really more of a guide. It is written for 50 but will give you an idea for the portions if you want to cut it down.

Salsa Pasta Salad . . . for 50
Grated carrots make a great
addition to this pasta salad.
3½ lb pasta, uncooked – my favorite is the veggie or whole grain spirals
1½ to 2 quarts Ranch dressing
2 to 4 cups salsa
About 1½ to 2 lb. of veggies of your choice, or use meat & chopped hard cooked eggs  (I almost always add grated carrots – they add color and nutrition and sometimes even trick people into thinking that the salad is full of grated cheese.)
1 to 2+ teaspoons coarse black pepper
Fresh herbs, chopped or dried herbs or seasoning blends to taste

1.     Cook pasta al dent, according to package directions – be sure to salt the water (I add liberal amounts and then don’t have to add more later). Drain and cool slightly.
The pasta cooks in salted water.
2.     Mix up Ranch dressing and salsa — since amounts are variable, I generally mix up the minimum amount and if that’s not enough I just start pouring more dressing and salsa directly on the pasta. (Warm pasta will soak up more dressing.)
Whisking salsa into the Ranch dressing.
3.     Add veggies, meat, etc. + herbs and seasonings.
Note: Ideal to chill the salad for several hours (or overnight) to infuse flavors but if I plan to chill it, I wait to add delicate veggies (like chopped tomatoes) until right before serving. If you make ahead and chill the salad, check before serving as you may need to additional dressing or seasonings.

Adding deli ham, cheese chunks and hard cooked eggs makes this into a main dish salad.

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