Cheers to Freedom and BBQs

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Memorial Day Weekend has always had a special place in my heart and each place I’ve lived, the weekend has taken on a different meaning. Growing up, we had BBQs with family and friends filled with laughter and appreciation. When I lived in NYC, Memorial Day Weekend signaled the end to long, cold winters in sleeping bag jackets and meant it was time to break out sun dresses to mosey to an open patch of grass in Central Park. Now, in San Francisco, it’s a reminder to make the most of the sun and warmth before Karl the Fog takes over the Bay Area for a few months.

Though I think I’ll enjoy the holiday weekend no matter where I am, BBQing with family and friends will always be one of my favorite Memorial Day activities. What better way to be thankful for the sacrifices those in the military have made for us than to spend time with your loved ones? Oh, and stuffing your face with delicious dips and grilled food in the sunshine (if Mother Nature cooperates) doesn’t hurt either.

       In NYC, MDW meant it was time to break out our sun dresses!

Speaking of BBQ dishes, pasta salad is the dish I look forward to the most and/or always volunteer to make. I’m not talking about the kind of pasta salad heavy with mayo. Who wants to eat pasta drenched in mayo when it is 80 degrees out? Not me. Then again, I don’t want to eat mayo on any kind of day, so I guess I’m biased.

My mom has an incredible pasta salad recipe that has long been a crowd favorite. The secret? The dressing (must be Ken’s Light Caesar) and the fresh ingredients—“color, color, color” as my mom impressed upon me when she first taught me how to make the recipe in high school. The more color you infuse via the ingredients, the fresher the salad will taste and the more aesthetically pleasing it will appear.

I didn’t think I would ever find another recipe that remotely tasted as good as my mom’s, but last year I came across an Inspiralized version that I could not stop eating. Before you write off a “pasta” salad that doesn’t include pasta, hear me out. Every time I’ve made this dish for friends, I’ve been hunted down for the recipe. Okay, maybe not hunted, but people really want the recipe after tasting it. This recipe is great if you’re trying to keep things lower calorie, if you have a gluten allergy, or if you just want a d*mn good “pasta” salad.

                                                           Inspiralized’s Italian Pasta Salad

Don’t have an Inspiralizer? Now is the time to invest in one. Just think— delicious, easy, and healthy recipes all summer long to help you enjoy as much time outside as possible and to keep that bathing suit bod ready for beach or pool action. I wrote about becoming a spiralized convert when I first kicked off the blog and talked about the KitchenAid attachment my husband and I received as a wedding gift that started my infatuation. However, I highly recommend going the Inspiralized route vs. the KitchenAid attachment or any other spiralizer options on the market. It’s cheaper and it can handle tougher vegetables, such as butternut squash, which the KitchenAid attachment struggled with. It’s not worth breaking your beautiful mixer.

Okay, Inspiralizer commercial is over. Back to Memorial Day and my love of pasta salad.

If you’re gearing up for Memorial Day BBQs and are at a loss of what to make, don’t fret— I’ve got you covered. Both my mom’s recipe and the Inspiralized “pasta” salad recipes are below. Have a safe and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend and thank you to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, so that we could enjoy BBQs and other freedoms we often take for granted.

Yommy Spaventa’s Pasta Salad Recipe
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 8-10 minutes
Serves: 8-10

Pasta of choice— I recommend a trio of shells, penne, and rotini
Head of broccoli chopped in small pieces
1 red onion chopped finely
1 red and yellow pepper chopped finely
2 large carrots chopped finely
½ head of purple cabbage chopped
5-10 radishes chopped finely
Container of cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 cucumber chopped finely
3-4 pieces of celery chopped finely
1 6 oz. can of pitted black olives sliced
1 block of sharp cheddar cheese chopped in small pieces
1 6 oz. bag of pepperoni chopped in small pieces
Ken’s Lite Caesar dressing

1. Cook the box of pasta al dente. Once you drain the pasta, let it cool and then put in a container covered with saran wrap in the fridge to chill.
2. Prep/chop the ingredients for the pasta salad and mix in a large bowl.
3. Take the pasta out of the fridge and if stuck together, mix a little of the dressing with the pasta to loosen.
4. Toss the pasta, ingredients, and sprinkle the mixture lightly with a little of the dressing.
5. When you arrive to the BBQ, add more dressing to taste.

Inspiralized’s Italian Zucchini “Pasta” Salad
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4 (as full meal), 8 (as side)


For the salad:
1.5 large zucchinis (or two medium)
1 cup quartered artichoke hearts, drained, patted dry
½ block provolone cheese, sliced into cubes (I’ve found it difficult to find a block of provolone cheese, so you can either improvise with thick slices of provolone or sharp cheddar)
3/4 cup cubed salami
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup quartered black olives

For the dressing:
1.5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Slice your zucchinis halfway through and then spiralize them, using Blade B. This gives the zoodles a macaroni shape.
2. Place your zoodles in a bowl with the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, provolone cheese, salami, red onion and black olives.
3. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes (best if left for 3-4 hours) to let the dressing soften the zucchini.

What’s your favorite BBQ dish? Please share in the comment section below!


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