Alessandra’s Reflections: Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad
by Alessandra Calamai

The summers of my youth were spent in contact with Nature.

A large part of them was at grandmother’s place, in the Tuscan countryside. Nature was all we had around, and my siblings and I learned to enjoy it thoroughly since our tots’ years.

Then we moved to the beautiful Tuscan beaches, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

In the countryside, my siblings and I played with anything that Nature made at our disposition: playing hide and seek in the woods, climbing trees, playing cowboys and Indians with elaborate headgears made from leaves held together by small sticks, playing soccer or whichever game came to mind on the large lawn…

At the beach, we were busy with what Nature had offered us. Of course, the water was the biggest attraction but, although we, kids, heavily lobbied for it, we weren’t allowed to play in it the whole day.

So, we built sand castles; each year becoming a little more elaborate, according to the improved skills of the architects. From a simple tower made with a bucket, we eventually elevated walls, built channels, bridges and watch towers. We spent hours engaged in marble contests! Also, in this case, we started with simple courses that, with the years, became more and more entangled and challenging.

Another thing that fascinated us was walking along the shore, where the water meets the sand, and search for the most beautiful rocks we could find. At sunset, the golden rays of the lowering sun, and the retreating water on the shore highlight the amazing colors of this small, ancient artifacts of nature. Mostly ignored, in favor of the shells that lie next to them, they have a life of their own, their beautiful colors telling stories of various minerals, and how, over the centuries, they came to blend together.

We, kids, collected buckets full of the prettiest rocks and, by the end of our stay at the seaside, our treasure chest was abundant and, heavy! Of course, we couldn’t possibly leave behind our beautiful finds, the result of hours of careful search along the shore! So, the gorgeous rocks from the beach, every year ended up amongst the gravel around nonna’s home in the countryside.

The days of a beach picnic were the happiest for us, children, and one of our favorite meals was pasta salad. Of course, what is more Italian than pasta? And what better way to feed fresh vegetables to young children, than mixing them with pasta?!

Here is the simple recipe of the delicious pasta salad we grew up with; it is a perfect summer dish, and kids, and grown-ups, will love it as much as we did and do.

what is needed:

about 3/4 cup of pasta per person: penne rigate or rotini (best if the ‘grano duro’ kind)
fresh mozzarella bocconcini or ciliegine, cut in small cubes
cherry tomatoes, diced
peppers (yellow and red, for color, also diced)
pitted olives
fresh basil leaves (torn by hand)
extra virgin olive oil (best if first cold pressed)
salt and pepper to taste

what to do:

*Cook the pasta al dente, according to the directions on the package
*Drain it, rinse it with cold water, to cool it.
*Pour in a large salad bowl.
*Place all the other ingredients over the pasta and gently mix them with it.
*Dress with olive oil, salt and pepper.
*Cover and put in the refrigerator for a couple of ours.
*Add some more olive oil, freshly grounded pepper and the basil before serving.

For a bit more pizzaz, add small cubes of Italian salame to the salad. OH, MY!

A presto,