Labor Day Sides: Grilled Vegetable and Pasta Salad

September 1, 2013

Grilled vegetable and pasta salad is a light and healthy Labor Day side dish.  Fresh summer vegetables are charred on the grill and tossed with rigatoni (any tubular pasta would work) and a zesty garlic dressing.  To increase the nutritional value of this salad, use whole wheat pasta.  This salad gets better the longer it sits so try to make it ahead of time.

Grilled Vegetable and Pasta Salad with Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:

2 red and/or yellow sweet peppers
2 Japanese eggplants halved lengthwise
2 mediums zucchini or yellow summer squash halved lengthwise (or 8 to 10 yellow sunburst or pattypan squash) see * Note
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups dried tortiglioni or rigatoni
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon bottled roasted minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
3/4 cup cubed fontina cheese - (3 oz)
1 tablespoon snipped fresh Italian parsley - (to 2)

Directions:

* Note: If using sunburst or pattypan squash, precook for 3 minutes in a small amount of boiling water before grilling.

Half sweet peppers lengthwise; remove and discard stems, seeds, and membranes. Brush sweet peppers, eggplants, and zucchini with the 1 tablespoon oil. To grill, place vegetables on the grill rack directly over medium-hot coals. Grill, uncovered, for 8 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender, turning occasionally. Remove vegetables from grill; cool slightly. Cut vegetables into 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. For dressing, in a screw-top jar combine balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, olive oil, water, bottled roasted minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and shake well.

Drain pasta. Rinse with cold water; drain again. In a large bowl combine pasta and grilled vegetables. Pour dressing over salad. Toss lightly to coat. Stir in cheese; sprinkle with parsley.

This recipe yields 4 servings.

Make-Ahead Tip: Cut up cheese; wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Prepare dressing; cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator about 15 minutes before tossing with salad.

Comments: Vegetables, sweet and smoky from the grill, give pasta and cheese a jolt of flavor and color. By doing the grilling ahead, and storing the savory dressing in the refrigerator, this flavor-filled dish is done in the time it takes to simmer pasta.

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