Vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad

When I was home for Christmas, I snagged a few bites of pasta salad hanging around in my mom’s fridge. Well, those few bites sparked a month-long craving that I finally satiated yesterday.

When I make pasta salad, I like to go all-out and cook the whole box of pasta at once. It makes it much easier to portion the rest of the ingredients. The bad thing about that is that with only two people in the house, we would have to be eating pasta salad for every meal all week to get through it all. Luckily, an office party came into play that helped me get rid of most of it without having to eat pasta salad for the rest of my life or let a bunch go to waste. 
We had a “going-away potluck” for one of our employees who is moving to New York this weekend and this pasta salad was the perfect contribution. 
It might just be one of the prettiest things I have ever made. And it didn’t taste too shabby either! I loved the combination of vegetables and used a spicy cheese to enhance the flavor even more.

Pasta salad usually reminds me of summertime, but with the highs in the 70s all week here in Charleston, is sure feels like it could be summer soon!
Vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad
Makes 10-12 servings
Ingredients:
1-16 ounce box bite size pasta (I used rotini)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, rinsed
8 ounces sliced mushrooms (about one prepackaged small container)
2 cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
1/2 red onion, diced
6 ounces blocked cheese, diced (recommend using a strong/sharp flavor)
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups Italian dressing
Directions:
1. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, begin preparing vegetables by rinsing and chopping as needed.
2. Add entire box of pasta to boiling water. Cook according to package directions (about 7-10 minutes). With about 3 minutes remaining, add broccoli florets to the pot with the pasta.
3. Drain, but don’t rinse pasta/broccoli mix. Pour into large bowl and allow to cool 5-10 minutes. Add vegetables, cheese and parsley, followed by the Italian dressing.
4. Mix all ingredients well. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
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