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Bloody Mary Pasta Salad

I know people who absolutely love that weekend brunch staple: the Bloody Mary. While I thoroughly appreciate the idea of a drink that you can almost pass off as healthy (and that you can stuff full of skewered, pickled goodies), I have never enjoyed drinking tomatoes. I much prefer a plump, ripe tomato to the watery juice. That’s really all I can say to explain this recipe. …Bloody Mary Pasta Salad.

I have to say, I’m surprised this isn’t already a summer picnic staple. I mean, pasta salad meets Bloody Mary…it has the makings of an instant classic! The best part about the recipe is the flexibility to add or subtract based on personal preferences and ingredients on hand. Subtract the tomatoes, add avocado, add shrimp…go wild!

I added some cubed swiss cheese before serving but you can make it as is for a vegan version. For the meat lover in your life, add some cubed salami or pepperoni. Heck, you could even make a very basic version of the salad and then go wild with a toppings bar and let everyone customize their own.

I know it’s one of those “kitchen sink” recipes with a bunch of ingredients but it’s a pretty quick and easy process that could easily be doubled to feed a crowd. The alcohol content is negligible but, for a virgin version, you can always add a bit more water and leave out the vodka. There’s plenty of summer left, so if you do make it for your next big gathering, please tell me what you did to customize it!

I recommend serving this salad with an ice cold pilsner. But if you happen to run out of frosty brews, at least you already have the makings for a damn good Bloody Mary. Cheers!

Bloody Mary Pasta Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients for pasta salad:
6 oz. dried mini shell pasta
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 cup giardiniera, chopped
4-6 peperoncinis, diced (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ English cucumber, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped

Optional add-ins: Chopped pickled carrots or other vegetables, cubed cheese (swiss or other), cubed salami or pepperoni

Ingredients for sauce:
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons pasta water
3 tablespoons water
1 ½ tablespoons vodka
1 tablespoon brine from gardinara
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon prepared cocktail sauce
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
½ teaspoon celery salt

Blanch the grape tomatoes for 30-45 seconds. Cook pasta in salted water, according to directions on package. Before draining the pasta, reserve 2 tablespoons of the water (the starch in the water will help thicken the sauce and help it adhere to the pasta). While pasta is cooking, in separate bowl, mix tomato paste, water, vodka, and brine. Stir in remaining ingredients for the sauce. Once pasta is drained and cool, toss all ingredients. Refrigerate 30 minutes and serve chilled.

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