One of the things I loved as a kid was spaghetti salad. I still do, but prefer to vary pasta shapes and the dressing a bit.
Last summer, quite by accident, I made a pasta salad with the things I had on hand. People kept requesting it when I went to parties. I made it with fresh veggies; I made it with frozen veggies. I made it with brown rice pasta, wheat pasta, even a mixture of the two once. It didn't seem to matter. The trick was the dressing.
On Sunday, I learned (in yet another serendipitous "mistake") that you can make pasta salad and vegetable soup at the same time in the same cooking pot; see my earlier post.
I don't really measure the pasta, the veggies or the dressing, so I can't even call this a recipe. It's more of a suggestion to try for yourself. I know I'm probably driving some cooks crazy right now, though my favorite TV chef, Rachael Ray, will understand me if she ever sees this post. She's totally cool with the "dab of this, dash of that" school of cooking.
I use a base of approximately 1/4-cup Maple Grove Farms' sugar-free Bacon Vinaigrette, mixed with a few sprays of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (a soy product that I often use to substitute for salt-laden soy sauce), about 1 tsp. sesame seed oil, a dash of white balsamic vinegar, about 2 tsp. Maple Grove Farms' Vermont Sugar Free Syrup (or a tsp. of the real thing) and a pea-sized piece of Thai Kitchen's Green Curry Paste (just trust me when I say you want to thoroughly break it up and distribute it through the entire dressing). If you're not into sugar substitutes, use another brand of bacon vinaigrette (or make your own) and real maple syrup.
The dressing should taste like a vinaigrette with a touch of sweetness and a little smoky flavor. If it's too sweet to your taste, add either a little more Bacon Vinaigrette or a splash of white balsamic vinegar. You might want to add some of the cooked pasta water (a tablespoon or so); it helps make the dressing come together.
If you make the dressing more than a couple minutes before you drain the pasta and veggies and stir in it, you will need to beat the dressing again ... thoroughly. Toss the dressing with about 3-4 c. of your choice of a mixture of slightly cooked veggies and pasta. I suggest Oriental-style frozen veggies, which only require quick steaming (1-2 minutes, max), along with the Tinkyáda brown rice pasta, which keeps its shape better than most pastas. Make this dish a meal: add chopped, cooked chicken.
My preferred ratio for veggies to pasta is between 1 1/2 and 2 times to 1; more dressing clings to pasta than veggies, which may be why I get away with less dressing than you would use for a bowl of pasta salad.
Whatever pasta and veggies you choose, regardless of the proportions, make sure they are cooked al dente; otherwise, you'll have goopy pasta salad that mushes together.
(Note: Brown rice and whole wheat pastas tend to be an acquired taste. The photo and link I included is for large amounts of this pasta; try a single package first. I buy it in Kroger's organic area or at Whole Foods Market.)