It’s graduation season. All this talk reminds me that it has been over a decade since I graduated from college!
My husband and I both graduated from Delta State University – a small university right in the middle of the Mississippi Delta. We actually first laid eyes on each other in the campus fitness center. I chose Delta State because it was small and not too far from home. My husband chose it because it was far from home and he hoped no one there would know him. After a not-so-successful freshman year at one of the larger state universities, he needed a fresh start with minimal distractions.
There was this popular little lunch bistro in town called A La Carte Alley. I frequently stopped in for lunch after class on Friday before heading home for the weekend. My favorite thing to order was a roast beef and swiss sandwich with a side of their Italian pasta salad.
Over ten years later, I don’t remember much about the roast beef sandwich. But I do remember that pasta salad. It was the star of the show. The reason I kept coming back. Cheesy tortellini and bowtie pasta mixed with chewy sundried tomatoes, pesto, and olive oil.
A few years after graduation, my mom presented me with their cookbook. Of course, they couldn’t publish a cook book of their recipes without including that infamous pasta salad. Once the weather heats up, I make it at least once a season. It’s perfect for pot luck suppers, picnics, baby showers, etc.
Over time, I have added my own touches, such as diced zucchini and subbing white wine vinegar for tarragon vinegar. However, I think fellow Delta State grads whose college memories include the pasta salad from A La Carte will agree the flavor is spot on.
This post was originally published on Jul 22, 2010. This is an updated version.
A la Carte Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 pound bow-tie pasta
- 1 16-oz. package frozen cheese-filled tortellini
- 1 zucchini diced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4-6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
- 1/2 cup pesto sauce
- 1 cup olive salad
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cook pastas according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, sauté zucchini in one tablespoon of olive oil until crisp-tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine remaining olive oil and next four ingredients. Drain pasta and mix with sautéed zucchini.
Pour dressing over mixture. Add chopped walnuts.
Salad is best if allowed to sit for 2 hours or up to eight hours.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.