Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

By Stacie Morgan, October 22, 2015, Recipes

Welcome to Cooking with Less Kilowatts! There is nothing better than sitting down in the evening to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal. But did you know that changing what you do in the kitchen can make an impact on your monthly electricity bill? Each week, I will help you find ways to cook using less energy while still getting a satisfying, flavorful meal. Trust me – I won’t just tell you to do everything in the microwave. I’ll help you cut down on your energy consumption.

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Whether you call it “Halloween” or “Harvest,” this dish brings great flavor to your themed party!

Make your Halloween party energy efficient this year with this week’s Jack-o-lantern Italian pasta salad. The only cooking required is boiling the pasta noodles, and beyond that, everything else is easy, requires no energy use, and comes together for a delicious and complete meal!

A tasty Italian pasta salad works for parties, lunches, dinner, or any meal where you need to provide a lot of people-filling food without much effort. This combination of olives, pepperoncinis, bell peppers, Italian meats, shredded cheeses, and delicious Italian dressing is always a winner with my party guests!

This twist on a classic Italian pasta salad mimics the colors and look of a pumpkin in a pumpkin patch. And instead of opting for theme over flavor, it is balanced and delicious, as every ingredient melds together perfectly, creating a filling meal. The orange bell pepper, carrots, and tomatoes go perfectly with the black olives, green basil, and pepperoncini in terms of taste and visuals.

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

And no – you don’t have to get a pumpkin involved to create this yummy recipe.

And sure, there is extra effort involved when you buy a pumpkin, carve it into a jack-o-lantern, and fill it with the pasta salad, but it adds such a personal touch to your party décor. If you don’t have time or don’t feel like doing the pumpkin serving vessel, you can skip using a pumpkin as your bowl and just use any big bowl you have on hand.

I add a little olive oil to the boiled pasta to keep it from sticking or breaking so it looks pretty, as well as a tiny bit of garlic powder to keep those Halloween vampires away.

Let’s get cooking!

Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Fresh ingredients will have your guests screaming for more!

  • 1 Pumpkin, medium size (optional)
  • 12 oz. Tri-color rotini pasta box
  • 1 c. Italian Dressing
  • 1 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 c. Yellow or colored cherry tomatoes
  • ¾ c. Shredded carrots
  • 1 c. Black olive slices
  • 1 oz. Bunch fresh basil, sliced
  • ½ c. Pepperonis, sliced
  • ½ c. Salami, sliced
  • 1 c. Shredded cheese (Parmesan, Mozzarella, Cheddar, or any combination)
  • ½ c. Pepperoncini peppers, sliced or left whole to serve on side for milder salad

Pasta Salad Directions:

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Seriously – this is a pasta dish. Get the noodles right. Everything depends upon the noodles.

1) Prepare the box of tri-color rotini pasta as directed on package. This usually includes boiling water, adding salt, and pasta, and boiling 8-9 minutes. After draining, toss the pasta with olive oil and garlic powder. Let it cool while prepping the rest of the pasta salad and pumpkin.

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Look at all those gorgeous Halloween colors in action!

2) Prep the other filling ingredients as directed in the list above.

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Mix all your ingredients well to ensure maximum flavor dispersal.

3) In a large mixing bowl, add the cooled, seasoned, and cooked pasta. Mix in olive slices, carrots, orange bell pepper, yellow tomato slices, cheeses, and sliced meats.

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

That’s right – you can still have a successful meal with this recipe without the pumpkin.

4) Pour Italian dressing over the ingredients and mix all together. Mix in fresh sliced basil and pepperoncini slices last.

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Then again, using a pumpkin as your serving vessel really amps up the autumn.

5) Move the pasta salad from mixing bowl into the lined, cleaned, and prepped pumpkin for party serving. If you choose not to prepare a pumpkin as a serving vessel, place the pasta into your preferred dish for your guests.

6) Serve extra cheeses, sliced basil, and pepperoncini slices on the side for garnish or additional toppings.

Pumpkin Preparation Directions:

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

Warning: Be sure that grownups ONLY use the sharp knife required to carve the pumpkin.

1) Use a very sharp serrated knife to cut the top off of the pumpkin. Make the hole wide enough to be able to fill with pasta salad, but not too wide to where the top can’t be used as decoration or a “lid” for the party.

2) Use a large metal spoon to scoop the seeds and pumpkin insides out in order to hollow out a nice “bowl” to serve pasta salad in. Discard seeds and insides or save the seeds for any recipes using homemade roasted pumpkin seeds.

3) Line the inside of pumpkin with plastic wrap to create a layer of separation between salad and pumpkin.

Cooking with Less Kilowatts: Jack-O-Lantern Italian Pasta Salad

C’mon – doesn’t this look adorable? It’s a Pinterest success story come to life!

It’s easy to customize this Jack-o-lantern pasta salad for whatever Halloween party you’re attending. For example, I recommend these three steps for giving your dish a wicked twist for a party full of brave guests: 1) Add a little heat with a sprinkle or three of cayenne pepper and/or Tabasco sauce; 2) Substitute jalapenos in place of pepperoncini peppers; or 3) Offer up some pickled habanero pepper slices for your gutsiest guests!

Whether you use this easy and delicious Jack-o-lantern twist on a classic Italian pasta salad party favorite for your Halloween party this year or for a delicious easy weeknight dinner, it’s bound to please the crowd.

I will see you next week for another Cooking with Less Kilowatts recipe to help reduce your energy use!

Recipe and Images by Stacie Morgan

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