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Brenda Stanley
Belle's Veggie and Pasta Salad is a crispy treat for hot summer days.

Fresh asparagus, tomatoes and cucumbers are crisp, fresh and amazing ingredients for a summer salad. But when the days get hot and the nights are busy with outdoor activities, having a lighter meal is a great way to go. A crisp but hearty main dish salad can be a nice centerpiece, but typically fresh means lots of slicing, chopping and preparation right before serving. However, that isn’t the case with this Fresh Veggie and Pasta Salad. I make it ahead and let the tangy dressing soak into all the vegetables.

It is a dish I make in large quantities and then store for lunches during the week. The flavors and colors combine nicely, and this salad is one you can add your own special touches to. You can add just about any type vegetable, and if you want even more variety, add some feta cheese, grated Parmesan or avocado chunks. The possibilities are endless. However, these sunny days are not. So enjoy the flavors and fresh vegetables of summer before old man winter chases us indoors.

Belle’s Fresh Veggie and Pasta Salad

2 cups frozen cheese filled pasta (tortellini or mini ravioli)

2 cups fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cups cucumber, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 cups tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks (or cherry tomatoes cut in half)

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon brown or Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and the asparagus and boil for about 4 minutes. Strain through a colander and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, mix together the cucumber and tomatoes. Add the asparagus and pasta. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the vegetables. Toss well and chill for at least an hour.

Brenda Stanley is the mother of five children, including two sets of twins, and a grandmother of three. She is a cookbook author and novelist. Her website is at talesofthedinnerbelle.com.