WOW, did we ever receive the nicest and most unexpected Christmas present that really lifted our spirits! The kind and generous folks at Johnsonville Sausage sent us a huge gift box of assorted summer sausages that we can’t seem to get out here, even though we were told by our local grocery store that they were going to order it and that they would be in the store “soon”.
We made three trips to that store in hopes of using one coupon for a free one….and they STILL haven’t ordered it to this day!
Well, J-Ville took it upon themselves to just send us some, bless their hearts! It was a very bleak Christmas, on top of a very bleak year, and we were, needless to say, FLOORED by their generosity!
They sent us some of EACH of their summer sausages to try and to enjoy!! And I cannot even tell you how GOOD they are. OMG…..!!
I haven’t had quality crafted summer sausage in years! Oh, I’ve bought some now and then, but they’re always borderline, well frankly, gross. WAY too fatty, greasy, flavorless, and we don’t even want to know what all they put in it. “Pieces parts”. I cringe just thinking of it.
But not Johnsonville’s!
THIS sausage was just like what I remember enjoying when I was a little girl sitting on my Daddy’s lap. He’d get out the big log of spicy, garlicky sausage and a sleeve of good ol’ Ritz crackers, (and sometimes a little cheese!), and we’d eat ’til we were ready to pop and couldn’t eat another crumb! Irresistible! Just like cute little mini sandwiches!
And that is exactly what Johnsonville’s summer sausages taste like! I knew, because of their high quality and the care and pride that they take in making their products, that it was going to be very good. But even so, I was STILL shocked and surprised! One bite will take you right back to the days when people cared enough to made product right! 😉
*Though Johnsonville did send me the product, this is not a paid nor sponsored post, and all of my comments and opinions are solely my own.
So what to create out of this wonderful, magical sausage?
I can’t even count how many times people have asked me, jokingly, “Do you dream food?”
My answer is this.
Why, Yes! Yes, I do! 😀
I have, truly, actually dreamt of recipes to make! No joke. 😀
And I “dreamed” of a wonderful pasta salad….loaded with goodies…and a dressing that was reminiscent of….PIZZA!!
Sound good to you, too? 😀
The star of this dream, of course, was going to be that incredibly delicious summer sausage! I chose the “Old World Recipe” for this one, and it was a perfect match!
Since I already had a small bottle of Italian salad dressing in the fridge that was bought for god knows what months ago, I decided to use what I already had on hand as a base instead of making my Homemade Zesty Italian Salad Dressing from scratch to use it up. But it definitely needed a few ingredients added to get it to taste like what I had in mind, and mimic a more “pizza-like” flavor. So I added oregano, basil, whole fennel seed, fresh minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes! This dressing was now definitely headed in the right direction! So you can start with store-bought, or my homemade.
*Use my amounts as a guide, then simply adjust to your own preference.
I wanted a super fun pasta shape for this, so I used part of a box of “mini wheels” that I already had, and only purchased one box of tri-colored rotini for a more sturdy base. I loved the way everything came together, and how the mini wheels looked just like little tiny pizzas! 🙂 So cute!!!
I wanted a reminiscent tomato “sauce” in there, but not an actual sauce. (Did that make sense?)
So I used some of my oven-roasted tomatoes that I froze this summer from my garden (after roasting), and this really worked out extremely well!!! (I didn’t want fresh diced or sliced tomatoes, as I just didn’t think that they would lend the right flavor and texture that I was after). Along with the tomatoes, I also added my oven-roasted sweet red cubanelle peppers from this summer’s garden. Biting into fresh peppers can overpower everything else, so this was also the perfect choice for this salad!
Tomatoes and peppers are EASY to roast. Just do them the day beforehand and chill them until needed for the salad. You’ll be SO GLAD that you took this easy, extra step!! And if your store or farmer’s market doesn’t have any sweet, red “cubanelles”, you can easily sub red bell peppers instead.
The rest of the ingredients are pretty much just whatever else we enjoy on our pizzas! So along with that amazing summer sausage, I tossed in fresh sliced mushrooms, spicy pepperoni, pitted black olives, and diced fresh mozzarella!! Since fresh mozzarella is very mild, I also added a nice grating of a more pungent and potent cheese to kick up the flavor, my favorite, …. asiago! But you could easily use a nice fresh parmesan if you prefer.
*The photo below is “Pinterest friendly”! 😉
This pasta salad is one of my absolute favorites that I haven’t made in years!! It was such a wonderful treat, and my hubby was totally shocked!! Normally, he swears he doesn’t care for “pasta salad”.
“Mr. Picky Pants” was foiled again! 😀
We BOTH agreed, that this pasta salad just pain ROCKED!!!!!!
I served this for lunch with just a simple piece of garlic and buttered baguette chunks quickly passed under the broiler, pepperoncini peppers, and ice cold beers! And what a fantastic lunch it was!!!
This would be DEVOURED at an upcoming Super Bowl party! 😉 Just sayin’! 😉 And I only used HALF of most of the items! So you could easily DOUBLE this for a party!
So if you’re looking for a nice and easy lunch, supper, or just something fun to make ‘n take to an upcoming football party, card party, pot luck, or event, you’ll definitely want to save this one!! I promise that you’ll come home with an empty bowl every time!
Thanks again, Johnsonville, for your kindness, generosity, and for always taking the time to create products that are high quality, and something that everyone is confident and proud to serve to their family and friends!
I hope everyone has enjoyed,
and that you try this DELICIOUS Pizza Pasta Salad soon!!
Try my homemade Zesty Italian Salad Dressing instead of purchased. Easy, and VERY good!!
- 1¼ cups of my homemade Zesty Italian Salad Dressing, or purchased such as Wishbone or Kraft (v&o kind not creamy)
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. fennel seed
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 - 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced or run through a garlic press, to taste
- ½ tsp. red chili flakes
- Rest of Ingredients:
- 3 cups tri-colored rotini pasta, cooked al dente
- 1 cup "mini wheels" pasta, (or 2 cups regular-sized "wheels" and 2 cups rotini), cooked al dente
- (1 Tbl. kosher salt for the cooking water for pastas)
- 20-25 slices pepperoni, as much as you'd like, quartered
- 6 oz. Johnsonville Old World Recipe Summer Sausage, cut into fourths lengthwise then sliced, (*half of a 12 oz. log)
- 1½ cups oven-roasted grape, cherry or plum tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup oven-roasted sweet peppers such as red cubanelles or any colored bells
- 40 pitted black olives, sliced in half crossways
- 8 oz. diced fresh mozzarella, (half of a 1 lb. package)
- 4 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms, (half of an 8 oz. carton), or as desired
- ⅛ - ¼ cup finely grated asiago or parmesan cheese, to taste, (more for garnish if desired)
- fresh parsley sprigs for garnish, optional
- In large mixing bowl, add Salad Dressing ingredients and whisk to mix. Set aside.
- In medium-sized pot, bring 3-4 quarts water to a boil, add kosher salt and pastas, and cook until tender. I used Barilla and cooked them together for 8 minutes. Drain pasta well and immediately run under cold water to stop cooking process and until cooled. Drain well again. Add to bowl of Dressing mixture. Toss.
- Add remaining ingredients, and gently fold to mix.
- Garnish with more grated asiago or parmesan cheese, and a sprig or two of fresh parsley.
**To oven-roast tomatoes and peppers: Preheat oven to 375º. Slice peppers into rings (or strips if using bells) removing center membranes and seeds, and slice grape tomatoes in half. Place all onto parchment-lined baking sheet(s) and spray tops with a little butter-flavored no-stick spray or lightly drizzle with olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on baking sheet. Place into ziploc baggie and chill until needed. Extras freeze extremely well for other uses such as sauces, stews and chillies, pasta salads and casseroles!