Italian Pesto Pasta Salad

Happy Holidays Everyone! I hope that everyone got plenty of quality time with their family and loved ones. We were fortunate to have my mother-in-law come into town and visit with my family for the holiday. I was in charge of bringing my homemade salsa and a pasta salad. I decided to try something new, which turned out to be light and tasty, and also great for a group! If you enjoy Italian flavors, you'll love this pasta salad! This would also be great with some cured meats (salami, prosciutto, etc.), but this go around I kept it vegetarian.

Ingredients:

1 lb pasta (smaller noodle) - I used pipe rigate

~3 oz pesto sauce (I used a good quality jarred pesto)

1-2 tb light mayo (to your liking)

1 tb olive oil, plus a dash for boiling water

1 tsp vinegar (your preference, but I only had red wine vinegar on hand)

salt and pepper, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

~ 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, cut into bite-size pieces

~ 1/3 cup marinated artichokes (I used fresh from the olive bar, but you can use jarred), cut into bite-size pieces

~ 4 oz smoked mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces

dash of shredded parmesan, for garnish

4 oz fresh baby spinach, stemmed and cut/shred into bite-size pieces

Directions:

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and pour in a dash of olive oil. Once boiling, cook the pasta per the box instructions. In the meantime, combine the pesto, vinegar, olive oil, and mayo in a small bowl. When pasta is al dente, drain and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, a tb or so of the pasta water, the pesto sauce mixture, red peppers, artichokes, salt, red pepper flakes and pepper. Stir well and cover in the refrigerator for approximately an hour. Stir in the cheese, spinach and parmesan. Place back in the refrigerator for another hour or two before serving.

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