Over the years, my family has had many discussions around our Fourth of July menu. A day for cookouts, sunshine, and all-American pride, my father insists that a little pasta is required and pasta with Sunday Sauce at that. Our compromise to include this pasta salad instead came from a now famous line delivered by yours truly to forever end the pasta argument – "Why can't we just be American two times a year, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving!" And on that note, here is our Italian pasta salad for your American Fourth of July.
Updated on 7/5/2018: Yesterday during our Fourth of July lunch, my father was served this pasta salad, took a bite, looked at me, and said, "Everything is good, but this, this pasta salad is the best. A little pasta is always needed." We hear you dad!
1/2 pound mezze penne
8-10 ounces medium shrimp
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 orange bell pepper
1-6 ounce can large black olives
3 middle stalks celery
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
5-8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta to your cook preference; remember to add salt to the pasta water. I like to slightly overcook the pasta for this recipe because, to me, when pasta is cold it has a slightly undercooked texture. Overcooking it slightly gets to the right texture once it's cold. Drain the pasta well, add it to a large bowl, drizzle it with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, and toss. Bring the pasta up along the sides of the bowl so that there is a hole in the middle. This let’s the pasta cool faster and without continuing to cook from the heat.
Fill a medium pot halfway with water, bring to a boil, and add the shrimp. Cook just until they curl and turn opaque and pink, drain, and let cool. Once cooled, remove the tail by squeezing it at the very end where the flesh stops and the tail begins, cut in thirds, and add to the pasta. Thinly slice the peppers and celery to about the size of the mezze penne and add to the pasta. Drain the olives and pat dry, cut them in thirds so that they are round circles, and add to the pasta.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. I recommend going easy on the salt because the parmesan cheese added later is salty. Drizzle 3-5 more tablespoons of olive oil and toss. The pasta should glisten a little, but there should not be a puddle of olive oil at the bottom of the bowl. If more is required, continue to drizzle oil. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate.
Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Just before serving add the parmesan cheese and toss one last time. If more oil is needed, drizzle a few more tablespoons.
For variety or to make this a complete meal, add roughly chopped arugula at the end when adding the parmesan cheese.
Special thanks to my friend, Matilda, for the beautiful platter featured in this post.