Cacio e Pepe with Fried Shallots

CHEESY, PEPPERY, AND PERFECTLY AL DENTE CACIO E PEPE WITH FRIED SHALLOTS.

An overhead view of three bowls of pasta on a grey table surrounded by a dark green linen, a glass of white wine, and a bowl of fried shallots.
A side shot of a white bowl of pasta on a grey background, surrounded by more bowls, a green linen, a bowl of fried onions, and a glass of wine.

So far this week, I have done enough squats for my legs to turn into jelly, planned (but not yet planted) a small front-porch garden, and made a Sunday dinner consisting of leftover Easter brunch cinnamon rolls and chicken with brown rice and veggies. I even *meal prepped* and took a two-hour nap which, for me, is unheard of. The line between productivity and self-annihilation is thin, but it is one I’m willing to ride out.

Anyways, I know it’s important to stay healthy right now, so we’ve been eating lots of veggies and working out every (week)day. But sometimes, things still feel a bit overwhelming, yes? And we must indulge ourselves with self-care and comfort food akin to mac and cheese! And that, my friends, is when we put on cashmere drawstring sweatpants and make cacio e pepe!

What is cacio e pepe?

Cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta dish that literally translates to “cheese and pepper”, a.k.a. two perfect ingredients. It’s made up with only the most basic pantry staples: pasta, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano cheese, and it’s pronounced “ka-chee-oh eh peh-peh” (which borderline reminds me of Lightning McQueen, but let’s not go there). Think of it as adult mac and cheese, but without all the fancy stuff that comes in “adult” mac and cheese recipes, like gruyere or prosciutto or spring peas. It really is the most basic of dishes but it’s a dream of a comfort food. And in this version, we take it up a notch with fried shallots. Because tbh, there’s really never a bad time for fried onions. ūüôā

An overhead picture of a jar of pasta, a bowl of parmesan, a pinch pot of salt, a plate of peppercorns, a bowl of parsley, a spaghetti spoon, and a few shallots on a grey background.

Cacio e pepe ingredients

I really can’t think of a recipe with more basic ingredients, but in this version, we’re getting a little *fancy* with fried shallots! However, this only requires two extra ingredients, so we’re really keeping it simple here. Pantry pasta forever. <3

  • Shallots: Go for two large or three small! Sometimes, I make extra just to have around.
  • Neutral Oil: You’ll want something neutral for frying like vegetable or canola oil. I usually go with canola!
  • Pasta: You’re going to want a long pasta here. I believe that bucatini is the most traditional, but I usually use regular spaghetti since I always have it around!
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper: The freshly-cracked part is important. The fresher the pepper, the more flavorful your pasta will be!
  • Pecorino Romano/Parmesan: Some people swear Pecorino Romano is the only way, but I’m fine with Parmesan, and I think you should be too! Use what you have or what’s available to you.
  • Salt: For flavoring the pasta water!

Let’s make fried shallots!

An overhead photo of a black pan filled with shallots frying in oil on a grey speckled counter.

I know, frying, ugh. I can undoubtedly tell you that I usually hate frying. But, shallots are the exception, because they are sooo easy and not messy! Plus, the leftover oil is actually useful and doesn’t need to be thrown away immediately.

To fry shallots, I use the Bon Appetit method! You start by thinly cutting a few peeled large shallots. The best way to do this is with a mandolin, but I don’t like washing a mandolin over two shallots, so I just do it by hand. ūü§∑ You just want them to be about as thin as a dime! Next, place them in a pan, and fill the pan with just enough canola/vegetable oil to cover the shallots (about 1/3 cup).

Set the heat to medium-low, and cook until the shallots are deep golden-brown about 20 minutes. Stir often with the tines of a fork to separate the shallots! (Pro tip: Keep an eye on these, especially towards the end! Once they start browning, they will brown quick). Drain the fried shallots through a fine-mesh strainer (reserve the oil!) and place on a paper towel to mop up any extra grease. Season with salt and let cool! Store in an airtight container for up to three days.

How to make Cacio E pepe with fried shallots!

A bird's eye photo of a pasta strainer filled with spaghetti on a grey speckled table.

While you are frying your shallots, you will want to start your pasta! Fill a large pot with water and add a few heavy pinches of salt. Cook your pasta for one minute less than the package directions recommend. (We will continue cooking the pasta in the sauce later). Before you drain the spaghetti, make sure to save at least one and a half cups of the cooking liquid which will make up our sauce!

Overhead shot of a white pot filled with oil, fresh pepper, spaghetti, and parmesan.

After draining your pasta, dry the pot, and return it to the stove. Heat three tablespoons of the leftover shallot frying oil over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly cracked pepper (about 50 turns) to oil, and cook to bloom the flavor, about one minute. Stir in half a cup of the leftover pasta water until everything is combined. Add the pasta, and coat well with the sauce, stirring until perfectly al dente. Add more pasta water as necessary until the cacio e pepe is perfectly saucy.

Remove the pasta from the heat, and quickly stir in the Pecorino Romano/Parmesan until you have a smooth, silky sauce. Taste, season with salt, and divide between four bowls. Top with fried shallots and enjoy!

Parmesan or pecorino Romano?

Traditionally, Pecorino Romano cheese is used in cacio e pepe. But, I’m all about accessibility and not every store has the cheese aisle of a French market. If you can’t find Pecorino Romano, just use some grated Parmesan! P.S. of course freshly grated is always better than pre-grated. But I don’t like shredding cheese, and if you don’t either, let’s just use pre-grated and not feel bad about it, ok?

How do I know when spaghetti is al dente?

Pasta is al dente when it has just a tiny bite to it. It will not be mushy or crunchy, and the center will have a slight white core. Package directions are not always clear, so it’s important to try your pasta to make sure it’s perfectly al dente!

You need to use freshly cracked black pepper, trust

Ok, I know this seems fussy, but it’s v important for cacio e pepe! When pre-ground black pepper (or any herb for that matter) sits around exposed to air, it rapidly loses flavor over time. But, when we use freshly ground black pepper, it isn’t exposed for the air for too long before we start cooking with it. This will lead to bright, aromatic, spicy flavors, not dull and boring nothing-ness.

cacio e pepe is great with all kinds of pasta

Bucatini is the most common pasta used in cacio e pepe, but it’s not the only option! Usually, I use spaghetti because it’s what I can find in the grocery store. While long, thin pastas work best with the cheese and pepper sauce, there are a few other types of pastas you can use! Besides bucatini or spaghetti, I would also recommend:

  • Fettuccine: A flat, long pasta
  • Pappardelle: A very thick, long pasta. One of my faves!
  • Linguine: A little thicker than spaghetti but not as thick as fettuccine.
  • Stuffed pastas: Tortellini, ravioli, etc.

Unfortunately, tubed pastas such as penne or rigatoni don’t work great, because they don’t hold on to the sauce quite as well.

A close-up overhead shot of a bowl of cacio e pepe next to an emerald green linen, bowl of fried shallots, and a small wooden bowl of salt on a grey background.

pasta water vs. regular water

The reason we use pasta water to bring everything together is the starch! The salts and starches in the water not only adds flavor, but it also binds the oil, pepper, and cheese to the pasta so you get a smooth, silky sauce! If you use regular water, you’ll just end up with a puddle of water at the bottom of the pot instead of a sauce.

Butter or shallot oil?

A lot of recipes call for butter in the sauce, because butter is just straight-up delicious. However, I like to use the reserved shallot oil, because 1. it’s adds soooo much good flavor, and 2. less waste. You will probably have more shallot oil leftover after this recipe, so just store it in a jar and use it for other sauces, stir fries, and salad dressings in the future!

Storing Cacio E Pepe

Cacio e pepe is really one of those dishes that is just better day-of. The pasta will dry out a little bit once you put it in the fridge. It’s not necessarily bad, just not as good as fresh cacio e pepe! If you refrigerate the leftover pasta, just keep it in an airtight container, and add a small splash of water before you microwave the pasta. Stir well, top with leftover fried shallots, and enjoy! Definitely don’t store the cacio e pepe with the fried shallots in the fridge, or the shallots will get soggy!

How to serve cacio e pepe

Cacio e pepe is honestly good on its own, but if you’re like me, a veggie or side completes a meal! Here are a few things we like:

  • An arugula salad with a simple vinaigrette
  • Roasted broccoli or green beans
  • Grilled asparagus or zucchini
  • Caprese salad
  • Melon with prosciutto!
  • Garlic bread (duh)

Cacio e pepe ad-ins

If you want to take cacio e pepe up a notch, you can always add:

  • A couple handfuls of arugula or spinach (let it wilt before serving)
  • Fresh spring peas!
  • A few cloves garlic
  • Cooked chicken, bacon, or prosciutto
  • A squeeze of lemon!
  • Fresh herbs. I like a little fresh parsley once in a while.

A few tips!

Cacio e pepe is a pretty simple dish, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure it’s perfect!

  • When boiling the pasta, make sure not to use too much water! We want the pasta to cook in a small amount of water so it gets very starchy and flavorful.
  • Reserve some of the pasta water right before you drain to make sure it’s nice and starchy!
  • Bloom the freshly ground pepper by cooking it in the oil for about a minute. This will bring out all of the amazing flavors!
  • Remove the pasta from the heat before you add in the cheese, or it will get too hot and clump up.
  • Add more pasta water as necessary to get a nice, silky sauce.
  • Top with fried shallots right before serving so they don’t get soggy.
A side shot of a bowl of spaghetti with fried shallots on top, surrounded by a green linen, more bowls of pasta, fried shallots, and a glass of wine on a grey table.

Some other italian dishes you’ll love!

Marinated White Beans with Toast
Best Sicilian Pizza
Marc’s Meatball Subs
Lasagna Bolognese
London Fog Tiramisu with Lavender

cacio e pepe with fried shallots



xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: He Loves Me by Brittany Howard

Cacio e Pepe with Fried Shallots | Serendipity by Sara Lynn
Cacio e Pepe (literally "cheese and pepper) made with spaghetti, freshly-ground pepper, Pecorino Romano, and topped with homemade fried shallots.

Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad

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While in London, I ate french fries and gelato every single day.  I also indulged in a pint (or two) of craft beer.  Every single day.  For a month straight.  In short, my destructive, unhealthy diet was a sober vegan’s worst goddamn nightmare.

Needless to say, by the time I got home, I was prepping myself for an intense detox consisting of straight juiced kale and other horrible concoctions nutrition bloggers insist are good for the body and the soul.

While I didn’t *exactly* end up subjecting myself to some kind of horrible, liquid diet (I mean, last weekend was my birthday, so of course I was going to eat steak and cake!), I was able to come up with some yummy, clean recipes.

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One recipe from the mix is this roasted vegetable orzo salad.  It’s light and summery which made me extra excited to eat it for lunch all week.

Although I’m longing for sweater weather season with soup-based dinners and a nice mug of warm tea before bed every night, I’m still trying to push as much summer recipes into my life as I can before it’s too late!

This recipe is especially great served over spinach with a little extra dressing and a grilled chicken breast.

On a side note: My heartburn has gone away since I started incorporating more veggies and less french fries into my life.  Weird right?!

Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad:

1 1/2 c. orzo pasta (whole wheat if you can find it)

2 zucchinis, cubed

2 yellow squashes, cubed

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced

1 can chick peas, drained

1/2 c. walnuts, toasted

Crumbled feta, for topping (optional)

Dressing:

1/4 c. olive oil

2-3 Tbs. red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. dried parsley

Onion powder, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pinch of sugar, agave, or honey

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Toss zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers in olive oil and a few pinches of salt.  Spread onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, cook orzo according to package directions.  Drain and let cool to room temperature.

While pasta is boiling, whisk dressing ingredients together until incorporated.

To make the salad, mix cooled roasted veggies with the orzo, chickpeas, and walnuts.  Pour dressing over the top and mix to coat the orzo.  Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Serve with crumbled feta over the top.

Makes 4 entree servings or 8 side servings.

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Although I miss the nights of drinking pale ale at the Craft Beer Company in London, eating deep fried foods, and laughing with my friends, I’m also happy to be on a normal eating schedule again!

It’s also nice to not have to take an antacid before bed every single night.

Can’t say I wouldn’t do it all again!

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Song of the Day: Smother–Daughter

Chicken Fajitas

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It’s happened, guys.  I finished my first summer class, and now my brain = alskbxlzkjcgqergldknblddzweksdjclxdssalskdj.

As in, I cannot find the motivation to do anything more than lay in bed watching Gossip Girl and drinking insane amounts of green tea.  For the whole entire week.  (Also, don’t judge the GG.  It’s officially my guilty pleasure).

It is also this resignation of my cranium that has put me in a dark, uncharacteristic succession of intense procrastination that I cannot seem to shake off no matter how acute my anxiety becomes.

Side effects of my procrastination have resulted in me putting off shopping and packing for London until yesterday afternoon (I leave tomorrow) as well as clicking multiple “Read More” links on posts concerning Zodiac signs and guitar tuning (I don’t play guitar).  (Yet).

Luckily, I was able to force myself into packing and getting my shit together yesterday/today, and I’m (almost) ready to leave for London tomorrow!  Yay!

My new goal is to motivate myself for the two more summer classes I start in London on Monday.

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If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a sort of Mexican food kick lately.  First it was Chinese food, and now it’s cilantro lime shredded chicken and burrito bowls.

As it turns out, I need to get as much Mexican food into my body as I can in the next day, because Europe has no authentic Mexican food.

There are many European people that have never even had real Mexican (or Tex-Mex for that matter).

It’s the sad truth, and I’m not quite sure what to do with my life except console myself with Indian food and conversations with cute British boys.

(Life is so hard, right?)

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Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

2 bell peppers, cut into thin strips

1 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 c. olive oil

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2-1 tsp. onion powder (to taste)

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. oregano

Tabasco, to taste

1 lime, juiced

 1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place chicken strips, peppers, and onions in a zipper plastic bag or plastic bowl with a lid.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.

Pour marinade over chicken, peppers, and onions.  Marinate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24.

When ready to cook, heat 2 Tbs. cooking oil in a large saute pan on medium heat.  Remove chicken, peppers, and onions, and add to saute pan.  Discard marinade.

Cook until chicken is cooked through and peppers and onions are soft, about 8 minutes.

Serve with tortillas, and other taco toppings.

Serves 4.

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I <3 u Mexican food.

I’ll see you in a month.

Make sure to check in for my London posts in the coming weeks!

And while I’m gone, make sure to indulge in some tacos and cheeseburgers for me.

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Song of the Day: Bear–The Antlers

Balsamic Marinated Steak with Roasted Vegetables

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Midterms are over.  I actually think I can hear angels singing right now…

It’s nice having a life after major tests are over.

To celebrate Halloween (and Nevada Day!) and the end of midterms, some of my family and I went to Disneyland.  Which was super fun and amazing and Disneylandish.

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Me and my mom’s Halloween costumes in Disneyland!  Can you guess who I am?

Lately, my roommates and I have gotten into the bad habit where about once every week or two, we stay up too late drinking craft beer (or cranberry vodkas in my case) and doing ridiculous things.  Last night we ended up getting nerf guns at Wal Mart at midnight so we can ignore our priorities and hide behind corners to shoot each other with little styrofoam darts.

College, right?

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Luckily, I still do things that most college kids don’t do.  Like voting, caring about important issues, making nice meals…

I haven’t given up yet guys.

However, let me tell you now: It gets dark around Reno at about 5 starting in October, so the prep pictures are pretty dark, and this meal is not the prettiest.

However, it does look very comfy and winter-y and I promise you, it’s so good.  And it only takes about 30 minutes of actual work.  The rest is marinating/cooking time.  It’s worth it.  I swear.

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Serves 2

Marinade:

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1-2 tsp. Dijon, to taste

2 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

Salt, to taste

Ingredients:

2 thinly cut sirloin steaks (or whatever steak you prefer)

1 zucchini, cut in larger chunks

1 red bell pepper, sliced

2 red potatoes, thinly sliced

Olive oil

Garlic powder and Onion powder, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

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In a bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients.

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Add 4 Tablespoons to steaks.  I put my thin steaks in ziplocs with 2 Tbs. of marinade each, and let them marinate for 2 hours.  You can do overnight if you like, but definitely do at least a couple hours!

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Cut zucchini into larger chunks.  I cut them into four spheres and then cut those into fourths.  If that makes sense?

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Slice red bell pepper.  Remove seeds!

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Mix veggies in a bowl with remaining marinade.  Let marinate for a couple hours also.

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When you’re ready to prepare dinner, dice potatoes into thin chunks.

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Preheat oven to 400* F.  Place potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  *The reason I did not marinate the potatoes with the rest of the vegetables is because they did not get crispy when I marinated them.  You could try to mix them with marinade to make it easier.  Totally up to you!*

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Remove veggies from marinade and place on baking sheet.  Discard remaining marinade.  Bake veggies for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.

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About 8 minutes before veggies are done, pan fry your steaks to desired doneness.  This is for thinly cut sirloin steaks.  If you use regular steaks, allow yourself more time to make steaks.  Alternatively, you can grill them.  Which I would have done if it wasn’t 45* outside.

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Serve steaks over roasted vegetables.  You can cut the steak into strips if you want pretty steak, or you can just leave it whole to make it easy.

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Balsamic + Steak + Roasted Vegetables = So good and so healthy.  I was a happy Sara.

Until next time, my friends.

XO Sara

*Song of the Day*: Low Light Assembly–The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

Healthy Dirty Rice

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I know, it’s been like, a month.

But on the bright side, I got great grades from all of the finals I was studying for. ¬†When I say that, I mean that somehow I got a full 100 on my calculus exam. ¬†If you’re sitting here stunned, just know that I have been feeling that way since I found out two weeks ago.

I seriously don’t know how that happened.

Another plus is that I’m doing great in my three week mini class.

Three weeks, three credits.  No biggie.

(Kind of a biggie).

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On the bright side, I have definitely not forgotten all about the blog.  I actually have a bunch of great stuff coming up for you guys.  And in approximately a week and a half, I will be completely off of school and lots of great stuff will be coming your way!

But first, let’s start off with dirty rice. ¬†I can recall a few times when I was little where my mom made the boxed Zattaran’s stuff on super busy nights, but we realized pretty soon after that we were not huge fans of the boxed dinners.

Luckily, dirty rice is super easy to make at home and tastes 10x better than Zattaran’s. ¬†This is easily a 30 minute meal (excluding the rice prep but still…). ¬†And, if you didn’t already expect this, the recipe is healthy. ¬†Shocker right?

*Disclaimer: ¬†This is NOT traditional dirty rice. ¬†Traditional stuff uses chicken gizzards and livers and other leftover chicken parts. ¬†Now, I know that they’re just some chicken parts, but they are just chicken parts I can not wrap my head around eating. ¬†So therefore, I went the Zattaran’s route and used ground beef. ¬†Also, this recipe was created completely according to taste/whatever I had in my kitchen so the spices may or may not be traditional. ¬†End of disclaimer.*

Ingredients:

2 c. cooked long grain brown rice

1/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 tsp. ceyenne pepper, or to taste

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. dried mustard

1/4 tsp. dried marjoram

1/2 tsp. parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 1/4 c. hot water

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Cook rice according to package directions.  Set aside when finished.

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Chop up veggies!  Yes, those are dried onions.  Yes, I forgot to buy a real onion.

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Saute the veggies until soft.

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Brown the beef.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  (Blurry picture alert.  Whoops!)

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Oh yeah, and dissolve that little guy.

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Add rice and spices to the mixture.

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Mix it all together and add beef bouillon mixture.  Let simmer until the liquid is absorbed!

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Serve to a group of very happy peeps.

Also, please note that you should adjust spices as needed for your tastes.  I decided to not use much salt since I used a beef bouillon cube.  Just taste and adjust accordingly.

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Serve this with a nice little side salad and you have a delicious dinner that will make the whole family happy!

*Vegetarian/Vegan: Replace ground beef with zucchini, tofu, eggplant, and other veggies.  Replace beef broth with veggie broth.

*Gluten Free: This recipe is gluten free

*Paleo: Replace rice with cauliflower “rice”.

XOXO Sara

 

 

 

Healthy Pasta Salad

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Hello friends ūüôā

About a week ago, I made this pasta salad recipe and it was super delicious. ¬†Plus, it’s healthy so it’s perfect for a weekday lunch. ¬†In fact, I had it every day last week!

School has been absolutely crazy lately with prom, Grad Nite, and college all coming up! ¬†Luckily, I’ll have a long summer and nice week in Hawaii for my birthday before college life begins.

However, among all the craziness in my life my wonderful boyfriend came ¬†over and surprised me by taking me to lunch yesterday. ¬†That’s a way to have a week made!

Plus we’ve been dating for 2 1/2 years, since yesterday, so that was awesome as well. ¬†2 1/2 years goes quick!

So among your crazy, busy life make this pasta salad for lunches or a dinner side and then you won’t have to worry about ¬†grabbing a fast food bag instead!

Ingredients:

1/2 box of whole wheat penne (or pasta of choice), boiled according to package directions

1 orange pepper, diced

1 cucumber, sliced

1/4 c. Parmesan, shredded

1/4 c. part skim Cheddar cheese, cubed

1/4 c. part skim Colby Jack cheese, cubed

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

1/4 c. low fat salami, sliced

Dressing:

1/2 c. olive oil

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp. spicy mustard

1/4 tsp. sugar

While the pasta is boiling, mix together the ingredients for the salad dressing.  When the pasta is drained and slightly cooled, mix the rest of the salad ingredients together and toss with dressing.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Serve.

*More vegetables could always be added to this salad!  Olives, onion, tomato, etc.

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Stay Serendipitous!

XOXO Sara