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Let me tell you what I love about pasta salads! First of all, even the pickiest eaters tend to go for a pasta salad. Secondly, you can use any kind of pasta you like or have, no matter what kind the recipe calls for. And Thirdly, you can throw almost any fresh summer produce into them and it only makes them better! I could go on — about adding cheese, that it’s cold and refreshing, makes great leftovers, etc. But let’s cut to the recipes…

Farmers Market Pasta Salad

from Southern Living

heirloom tomatoesIngredients:

  • 2 cups halved baby heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 small bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup diced firm, ripe fresh peaches (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Parmesan Vinaigrette
  • 1 (8-oz.) package penne pasta
  • 2 cups shredded smoked chicken (about 10 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Toss together first 7 ingredients in a large bowl, and let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Add hot cooked pasta and chicken to tomato mixture; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving platter, and top with basil and cilantro.

I know corn isn’t in season yet, but you can substitute something like peas for size and bite. The same goes for peaches which could be switched out for diced cucumber. Later on when these items show up at the Market, you can put them back in. That’s the beauty of pasta salads!

And by the way, the chicken doesn’t have to be smoked. You can use regular shredded chicken, or ham, or smoked pork. The dressings can be switched up too. You may prefer a creamy dressing, or want to use a vinaigrette for a hot summer day outdoors, or a pesto might be your favorite. Get creative!

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