The secret to Ina Garten’s iconic pasta salad

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Summer is almost here, which means it’s time for backyard barbecues, picnics and al fresco meals all season long. And nothing says “picnic” quite like a cool, tangy, bright pasta salad. But with so many variations on this beloved summer staple, how can you find the one pasta salad recipe to rule them all?

Look no further than Ina Garten’s iconic pasta salad. Her recipe for Tomato Feta Pasta Salad on Food Network’s website has over 300 glowing reviews. In fact, when The Kitchn reviewed the most popular pasta salad recipes, reviewer Alexis Deboschnek gave Ina Garten’s pasta salad first place and named her the “Queen of Pasta Salad.”

Deboschnek writes, “It’s rare for me to give a recipe 10/10, but Ina’s pasta salad deserves it.”

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So what exactly makes Ina Garten’s pasta salad so special?

The secret to her memorable pasta salad is a dressing that puts all those other ranch or olive oil variations to shame. There’s no packet of Hidden Valley here! And Ina thinks beyond just the standard EVOO and red wine vinegar combo. Instead, her dressing calls for other flavorful additions like sun-dried tomatoes and capers. (If you don’t happen to love sun-dried tomatoes or capers, stick with us, you are still going to love this dressing.)

While Ina Garten’s pasta salad doesn’t call for many add-ins (she keeps it simple with feta cheese, high-quality black olives and more sun-dried tomatoes), you can feel free to include your own pasta salad favorites. Think salami, bell peppers, chickpeas, red onions, or fresh herbs like parsley and basil.

Don’t be shy about doubling up on the recipe either: This pasta salad goes fast, and since the recipe only calls for half a pound of pasta (as opposed to a whole pound like most pasta salad recipes), it’s a good idea to double it so you have enough to go around.

Wondering what other pasta salad recipes are worth a try this summer?

Well, The Kitchn gave Rachael Ray a nod for her super-smart dressing technique. Her pasta salad recipe calls for vegetable stock, which might sound quite unusual, but it ends up being a yummy way to deepen your dressing’s flavor with very little effort. Find the recipe for Rachael Ray’s Italian Pasta Salad here.

And Pinch of Yum got a nod for creating the most versatile pasta salad. The “Best Easy Italian Pasta Salad” was noted to be a good base pasta salad that can easily be adapted to suit your own particular tastes, whether you want to include summer sausage or keep it veg-friendly with add-ins like fresh tomatoes and pepperoncini.

Which popular pasta salad got the lowest ranking? Well, we are sad to say it but it seems Martha Stewart’s recipe left the most to be desired. Her Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Chickpeas was deemed to be lacking in flavor and in need of more acid and salt. The Kitchn also called it “unnecessarily fussy” — and fuss is the last thing you want when whipping out a cool pasta salad on a hot summer day.

So, Ina Garten reigns supreme as Queen of Pasta Salad … as will you after you break out this recipe for your next backyard hangout!

This article originally appeared on SimpleMost.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

More from MediaFeed:
Summer food myths you should stop believing

 

Summer is fast approaching, and that means family barbecues, picnics in the park, camping trips and more. Sadly, a lot of people don’t enjoy these events as much as they could because they hold onto some of the following common myths about summer foods and food safety.

Yes, many Americans believe some totally false things about how we eat, use, harvest, prepare, combine and store our food and beverages. But it’s time to put an end to that.

Join us as we dispel each of the following 27 food myths. You may be surprised by how many you actually thought were true!

 

 

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If your parents never told you as a child that you had to wait at least 30 minutes after eating to get back into the pool, call them right now and thank them for not ruining your childhood.

While the 30-minute rule is a common misconception (You’ll get a cramp! Your food won’t settle! You could drown!) there’s literally no truth to it. So, if you want to take your plate of ribs directly into the pool and swim around while eating them, follow Nike’s line of reasoning and “just do it.” If you don’t believe us, just ask your doctor. But not your parents. Do not ask your parents.

 

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We love iced coffee season just as much as anyone, but in reality, it probably isn’t doing much toward keeping you cooler on your morning commute than a steamin’ cuppa joe would. In fact, it could be just the opposite.

The science goes something like this: When you drink a hot drink, there’s less potential heat stored inside your body, as long as the sweat caused by drinking the hot drink can evaporate. So, unless it’s really humid out, chances are you’ll end up with a cooler core body temperature if you go with the hot option.

Don’t believe us? Fine. Go read the study for yourself.

 

 

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Same reasoning as with the hot drinks, though with food you’re likely to run a higher internal temperature while your body digests the food you just consumed.

Add some spice to your dish and you’ll get an even more rapid cooling effect because it can more quickly induce sweating. Who doesn’t just love sweating at a summer dinner party?

 

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This one’s a little tricky. There are varying degrees to which this is true, but saying that all grilled foods cause cancer is patently false.

Let’s break it down.

Meats: Meats that are in any way browned go through a chemical reaction that not only creates flavor and that lovely caramelization (it’s called the Maillard Reaction) but also heterocyclic amines (HCAs). And the more well done your meat, the more HCAs that are probably present. If your diet consists of a lot of HCAs you may be at greater risk for some cancers. But it’s not just grilling that creates them.

Veggies: Unless you’re charring your veggies over hot coals doused in petrochemicals, you can rest easy that your grilled veggies probably won’t give you cancer. Veggies don’t contain the necessary chemicals that produce HCAs. And that leads us to…

Different types of grills: Gas grills burn cleaner than wood or charcoal grills. That also means you don’t get that delicious smoky quality that so many people love (unless you’re using wood chips). But if keeping your food as carcinogen free as you can, it’s probably your cleanest option for outdoor cooking.

Looking for some great grilling ideas? Check out these nine foods you’d never think to grill (that are actually delicious).

 

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We can hear you now: “But that char that causes the HCAs is what seals in the juices and makes my grilled steak tender.”

Sorry. That char is crunchy and flavorful, but it doesn’t do anything to “seal” your meat. In fact, that char actually causes some moisture loss. So don’t worry about your steak being less juicy just because you didn’t brown it as much.

Related: Here’s how to cook the perfect steak

 

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No, cutting your meat to test for doneness doesn’t result in all the juices draining from your beautiful pork tenderloin. However, unless you want to look like a grilling amateur, we don’t advise you start doing this. Why?

Looking at the internal color of your meat to test for doneness isn’t really effective. It also can make your final product less attractive. You’re better off using the “hand method” or a thermometer to check whether your meat is adequately cooked.

 

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Nope. Nope, nope, nope. There are too many dry pork chops in the world already, so don’t add to the problem by clinging to this myth.

Sadly, overdone pork was something that even the USDA promoted until 2011. That’s when they changed their guidance for cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees instead of the previously recommended 160 degrees.

So lighten up on your grill (or pan or oven) time and serve your guests some juicy chops and other cuts this summer.

 

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Again, nope. If you want to serve juicy burgers, dial it back a notch on how long you cook your patties. And watch those flareups. High heat and a couple of minutes on either side will do the trick.

 

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All grills are dirty. They sit outside, they get food particles all over them, not to mention all those sooty bits from flareups and/or charcoal.

If you’re going to use a public grill, you’ll want to proceed just as you would with your own personal grill. Get it good and hot, give it a good scrub with a grill brush and you’re good to grill.

 

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This myth goes something like this: Keeping raw chicken at the correct temperature during loading, transport, unloading and storage at your favorite restaurant is nearly impossible in summer, allowing bacteria to run rampant.

Maybe there was some truth to this before the advent of modern refrigeration and refrigerated trucks, but today the chicken at restaurants using proper food safety guidelines is just as safe if not safer than what you’re preparing at home.

 

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Hydrating is especially important in the summer months, but unless you’re incredibly active you probably don’t need to drink eight glasses of water every day, and especially not on top of all the other types of liquids you’re consuming.

 

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Some people love beer as a recovery drink after a long bike ride or other active outdoor sport. And while it’s true that beer contains carbohydrates and electrolytes, the alcohol causes your body to lose more liquid than you’re consuming. So, have that beer, but chase it with a good amount of water so you don’t end up further dehydrating yourself.

 

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This myth suggests that the alcohol is more potent in the wine simply because it’s hot outside. While red wine can be less than refreshing on a hot, summer day there’s absolutely no truth to it being too strong to enjoy a nice glass. Red wine typically contains between 12% and 15% alcohol compared to whites with 10% to 14%, so if red’s your thing, go for it. You can always try a lighter red that still pairs brilliantly with your steak. (Just be sure to keep hydrating too.)

 

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Have no fear? Don’t believe it, especially in summer months when alcohol can more quickly dehydrate you. The truth is the order you drink different types of alcohol really doesn’t play a role in whether you become intoxicated or even sick. That has everything to do with how much alcohol you consume and whether you’ve eaten adequately, not the order in which you consume your booze.

 

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Most foods are safe to consume at room temperature for up to about two hours. That’s when any harmful bacterias that may be present can reach a level substantial enough to cause an adverse reaction, like food poisoning.

If you aren’t familiar with the “danger zone” for different foods, you may want to acquaint yourself so you can keep your family and friends safe while serving foods at their most delicious temperatures, which isn’t always cold right out of the refrigerator.

 

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If you’re constantly opening the lid and reaching into a cooler to grab this and that, chances are it’s not keeping your foodstuffs at a consistently safe temperature. Likewise, if you didn’t put enough ice or cooling packs into your cooler, it’s probably not going to keep everything at a safe temperature.

To ensure you keep everyone who’s eating out of the cooler safe, check out some instructional videos or articles for how to properly pack and use a cooler.

 

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If you grew up believing that you shouldn’t eat shellfish during the summer months because it could make you sick, well, that’s mostly a myth. It once was true that algae blooms known as “red tides” could cause sickness in people who ingested shellfish from these areas, but these blooms are now closely monitored and harvesting is not allowed. It’s also true that a lot of bivalves reproduce during the summer months and they actually taste differently during this time, but so many of these and other seafoods are farmed these days, that it’s not necessarily a concern. Check with your fishmonger or restaurant server about whether their seafood is wild or farmed.

 

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A nice squeeze of lemon juice may make shellfish (and other seafood, for that matter) taste better to some folks, but it doesn’t do anything to inhibit any bacteria that may be living in or on your fresh catch.

To safeguard against possible food-borne illness always buy your seafood from a reputable seller.

 

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Ever had clam chowder? How about linguine Alfredo with shrimp or scallops? If so, you’ve consumed a combination of milk (cream) and shellfish, so just stop believing this and go have a big glass of milk with some raw oysters. Or don’t. Eww.

 

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Studies have shown that shellfish, in fact, can reduce LDL levels (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL levels (good cholesterol).

 

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Wouldn’t it be nice if this were true? We could all just sit around outside chawing on garlic cloves like cows on cuds. Sadly, garlic doesn’t do anything to keep mosquitos from bugging us, but it does totally keep vampires at bay. What? You don’t believe it? Name one person you know who loves garlic and has been bitten by a vampire. See? Proof.

 

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It must have been somebody’s drunk uncle who came up with this myth just to mess with the kids who were having a grand old time chowing down on their watermelon. Can’t you see it? All the kids’ eyes beginning to bug out as they envisioned their distended bellies filled with huge watermelons? Yeah. Drunk uncles are fun.

 

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The part of rhubarb commonly sold is the stalks. They aren’t toxic at any time of the year, but the leaves can be, so avoid those — but do feel free to wear a giant rhubarb leaf as a hat if you’re growing your own. You’ll be fine.

 

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Thank the ice cream gods this isn’t true! Otherwise, we’d all be sitting around sipping boozy, sabayon-esque cocktails and that wouldn’t be nearly as refreshing as boozy ice cream.

 

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Not true. Totally, totally not true. And it also didn’t originate in Italy. Or in Las Vegas, for that matter, which is another Caesar salad myth.

The closest thing we can get to fact on this one is that the Caesar salad was the brainchild of Caesar Cardini, a restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico, who ran out of food items one particularly busy Fourth of July and made do with the ingredients he had on hand. Et voila, the Caesar salad was invented.

 

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If you are absolutely, positively 100-percent certain that your soil and any fertilizer you’ve used are contaminant free and that no animals have gotten into your garden and defecated anywhere, or that no birds have flown over and pooped on your prize tomatoes, then by all means don’t bother washing your produce.

Or you could just give them a good rinse. You know, just to be sure. Your choice.

 

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Poor mayonnaise. Why does it get such a bad rap? Anytime someone gets sick at a picnic it’s always the chicken salad or the egg salad or the mayonnaise on the sandwiches.

It’s not fair, especially since the acid in mayo can actually counter some harmful bacterias. So just quit blaming the mayo. It was probably the lettuce.

 

This article originally appeared on MediaFeed.org.

 

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Featured Image Credit: BarefootContessa.com.

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