Hasn’t this weather been amazing?  I didn’t realize how much I craved sunshine until it burst forth and blessed us with beautifully warm and sunny days for the past week.  I’ve been using any excuse I can to take a break while working and walk around the neighborhood.  I’m sure my vitamin D levels are thrilled!

Now that it’s getting warm again, I’ve been craving salad like no one’s business.   Pasta salad, green salad … I ain’t picky.  Last night, I made a very delicious (but heavy) Lebanese dish called megadarra, which drove home the point that it is too damn warm to be eating the filling comfort of lentils and rice.  So tonight I decided to make my very favorite pasta salad, which features yummy sun-dried tomatoes front and center!

I first found out about this pasta salad at one of my favorite cooking blogs, The Pioneer Woman Cooks! When I read the ingredients list, I knew immediately that I would love it.  It has so many things that I love and it has always been well-received each time I made it.  Case in point, two people I served it to who swear they hate pasta salad (especially when served cold) said that they really liked this pasta salad.

I know, two people, really wide sample size eh?

Over time, I’ve tweaked it to fit my tastes.  I also don’t really follow the recipe anymore or really measure anything, I just kind of keep mixing until it feels right.  Like Pioneer Woman says, it really is a very organic process.

To simplify (because the recipe is buried at the bottom of her post), you make a sundried tomato pesto.  Let it sit for awhile so all the flavors can really hug it out.  Then you boil up some pasta, chop up some yummy things, give it all a good mix and then dig in.  Pesto, presto!

Since Pioneer Woman already does a much superior job of describing the dish (and photographing it), I just thought I’d throw in some personal notes on my thoughts on making the dish:

– I actually cut back on the Parmesan to maybe just a small handful, for flavor.  The bite and flavor of the Parmesan is nice but I really like tossing in some fresh mozzarella instead.  It’s just a different texture.

– Fusili really is the best.  I’ve made it with other shapes, but all those little twirls really scoop up the sun-dried tomato pesto.  Flavor bursts in your mouth with every bite!  And really, aren’t you worth it?

– The kalamata olives are a must.  I mean, I don’t even like kalamata olives as a rule but I always always put them in here.  It’s something about the salty tang, I think.  It just … works.  And if you only put a little and chop finely, you can really distribute it throughout the whole dish.

– When I am feeling lazy, I will add diced pan-seared chicken to the dish and call it dinner.

– Three words:  Sweet 100 tomatoes.  These cherry tomatoes are so amazingly sweet and delicious.  They’re small but they really pack a punch and are by far my favorite cherry tomato.

– Like all pasta salads, it is better the next day!