Fierce Foodie: The Thwock Effect
“Thwock” is the sound I associate with cold, congealed pasta plopping onto a plate. Unfortunately summer is riddled with refrigerated pasta salads cemented together with mayo. As a public health professional in training, to me the practice of chowing on mayo on a hot day is akin to eating from a petri dish of agar. That said, I have been known to do it when potatoes are involved. Basically, I eat anything potato-based, regardless of potential dangers. I’d probably eat french fries in a morgue.
But pasta salad is a whole other matter. I love a good pasta salad dressed with oil and vinegar, loaded with chopped up goodies like artichoke hearts and cherry tomatoes, and flavored with herbs and punctuated with olives and parmesan cheese. The secret to avoiding the gummy-pasta-go-thwock effect is to never refrigerate it before serving. You cook the dish the same day you will eat it, let it come to room temperature, and then serve with plenty of grated cheese. All yum, no thwock.
The following recipe is a base to which you can add your own favorites. For a heartier dish, add grilled chicken or perhaps cannelini beans sautéed in garlic and olive oil. Just be sure to let the dish come to room temperature before adding the cheese or it will all melt into a single gummy lump on your spoon.
Summery Pasta Salad
10 oz pasta like penne or radiatore
¼ cup oil and vinegar salad dressing or equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar
1 cup artichoke hearts from a jar, chopped
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 ½ cup cherry tomatoes
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
1 tsp basil pesto or ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, washed and torn into small pieces
Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and wash with cold water. Toss with oil and vinegar. Add artichokes, olives, tomatoes, and pesto if using. This would also be the time to add sautéed beans or roasted vegetables if using. Let come to room temperature in open container with a paper towel on top. Once at room temperature, add fresh herbs and any cold grilled meats if using and the grated cheese. Serve at once with more grated cheese on the side.