Make your Canada Day celebrations a little more festive with this easy to prepare Canada Day Pasta! It’s easy to toss together and takes very little time. If you have kids, get them involved – they will love making red pasta!
In the world of food blogging, Canada Day is one particular celebration that’s almost completely void of food that mimics the colours and/or patriotic symbolism of this beautiful country. For the past few years, I have been trying to post red and white recipes in hopes that anyone celebrating Canada Day with friends and family, will have lots of red and white food options. I think this Canada Day Pasta is red and white enough, don’t you!?
Here at Lord Byron’s Kitchen, I have a few recipes that celebrate America’s Fourth of July. I also have a few for Canada Day, but not as many as I’d like! Why do you think us Canadians don’t have as much hype about our nation’s holiday? The United States celebrates so much bigger than we do. Are Canadians just not as patriotic as Americans?
Using the word patriotic to describe Canada is not something I feel really comfortable with doing. It’s not that Canucks aren’t a proud people; I think it’s the fact that Canadians are modest and humble. Of course, I’m not stating that in contrast Americans aren’t those things as well. But, it seems that America loves a good excuse to host a party! You must admit, my Dear American Reader, the Fourth of July is a huge deal for most of you.
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THE CELEBRATION IS JUST DIFFERENT THAT’S ALL!
Americans tend to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks. They have parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies. In addition, events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States take place on July 4th as well.
In contrast, Canadians usually celebrate Canada Day with fireworks and live music. Large outdoor concerts featuring some of Canada’s best musicians and singers are a very common attraction. In smaller towns there might be a parade or a community volunteer-based pancake breakfast. It is surely not a large spectacle like it is for our neighbours to the south.
THE RED AND THE WHITE
When it comes to red and white food, there’s not an over abundance of it on Canada Day. Local grocery stores stock red and white cakes and cupcakes. Every Tim Horton’s has a red and white cookie. And, I think that’s about it. So, I say, let’s change it! Let’s up our red and white Canada Day themed food. Who’s with me, eh?
Before I get too far into this, I am just going to get this one thing out of the way. Yes, I did use food colouring to dye the pasta red. Using food colouring is not ideal for some people, but I don’t personally have an issue with it. You can try a more natural route if you prefer. Wash and quarter a red beet and add it to the pasta water. It won’t be as red, and there will be a little bit of flavour transfer, but it will still colour the pasta.
For my pasta, I cooked half of the package as I normally would. And, the other half of the package, I boiled in water that had been coloured with red food colouring. The amount of red colouring you use will determine how red the pasta will be. I used about 8-10 drops of liquid food colouring to get that deep red colour.
MORE RED AND WHITE FOOD
I wanted to keep the entire pasta dish red and white, which is why I did not sprinkle any parsley on the finished dish. That almost killed me, because I love to use parsley as a garnish! To add flavour and texture to the red and white pasta, I added whole cherry tomatoes. You can use grape tomatoes, or even whole tomatoes that have been diced.
Secondly, I loaded the pasta up with mini bocconcini. Bocconcini does not have any flavour – really, it doesn’t! But, I love the texture of it. I added quite a bit to this pasta, and I love how it looks in contrast to the tomatoes and the pasta.
To dress this pasta salad, I wanted to use a dressing that had lots of flavour, but one that would not muddle or interfere with that bright red pasta. And, even though I know that pasta, tomatoes, and bocconcini are very Italian at heart, I went ahead with an Italian Salad Dressing anyway! Ha! You see, I told you I was determined to keep that red and white looking as bright as possible!
HERE IS WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THIS RECIPE:
- Pasta – Any short-shaped pasta will do. I used a spiral shape, but you could use macaroni, penne, or rotini too.
- Bocconcini – I’m using mini bocconcini, but you can use the larger size if that’s all you can find – just quarter them.
- Tomatoes – I’m using mini tomatoes, often called cherry or grape tomatoes.
- Italian Salad Dressing – Use your favourite bottled salad dressing or even homemade if you prefer.
- Salt & Pepper – Seasonings are needed. I love lots of black pepper in this recipe. There’s a lot of salt too, but the salt brings out the flavour of the tomatoes.
- Food Colouring – All you need is red. It will colour half of the pasta.
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WHAT IS BOCCONCINI
Bocconcini are small mozzarella cheese balls that are usually the size of an egg. In the case of this recipe, I’m using mini bocconcini, which are similar to a grape or a cherry tomato. Like other mozzarellas, they are semi-soft, white, and rindless. It is a mild cheese that originated in Naples and were once made only from the milk of water buffalo. Nowadays, they are usually made from a combination of water buffalo and cow’s milk. Bocconcini are packaged in whey or water, have a spongy texture, and absorb flavors.
The cheese is made in the pasta filata manner by dipping curds into hot whey, and kneading, pulling, and stretching. Bocconcini made solely of water buffalo’s milk is still produced in the provinces of Naples, Caserta, and Salerno. Alternatively, the type made with whole cow’s milk are also manufactured, in which the higher liquid content, in comparison to standard mozzarella, lends them the soft consistency. Bocconcini can be bought at most supermarkets. They are often used in caprese salad, or served with pasta.
HOW TO MAKE CANADA DAY PASTA
Divide the pasta into two equal amounts. Bring to a boil two pots of salted water. Add 8-10 drops of red food colouring to one pot of water. Add half the pasta to the red water and the other half to the regular water. Stir both well using separate spoons and cook until just done. Drain and rinse both pastas separately. Run under cold water until pasta is completely cold. Set aside, but do not mix the two pastas together.
In a large mixing bowl, add the washed tomatoes, the drained bocconcini, the Italian Salad Dressing, and the salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine. Add the “white” pasta to the bowl and gently toss to combine and coat.
If serving the pasta immediately, add the red pasta now and toss to combine. Otherwise, cover the red pasta and store in the fridge. Cover the mixed pasta and store in the fridge as well. When ready to serve, add the red pasta to the mixed pasta and toss well. Serve immediately.
COOKING PERFECT PASTA EVERY TIME!
Someone once told me that I prepare pasta like an old Italian grandma. That has stuck we me for so many years. You see, Dear Reader, I’m far from perfect, but cooking pasta is one thing I can certainly do perfectly. I don’t care what the back of the pasta package says, cook your pasta according to taste and texture. Ignore everything else. Here are my 4 steadfast rules. If you follow these, you’ll have the best tasting pasta possible!
Rule #1: Say no to oil!
Do you add oil to your pasta water before adding the pasta? Stop that right now! I don’t know who’s responsible for that, but I have seen some TV chefs do it! If you add oil to your pasta water, do you know what happens when you put the sauce on it? The sauce won’t stick as well as it should. It will slide off, because the oil prevents it from sticking.
Rule #2: Add extra salt!
Salt the water. I used to be so afraid of salting pasta water, because I thought it would be too salty to eat. Salting the water, before you add the pasta, is the only chance you get to season that pasta. Let the water come to full boil before adding your salt. The water should taste like the ocean.
Don’t dump the salt in; stir it in. Preventing the salt from settling at the bottom of your pot will keep your pot looking shiny and new. If you have pots with what looks like a tarnished or unpolished interior bottom, it’s because salt sat at the bottom of your pot.
Rule #3: Get that pasta moving about immediately!
Lastly, stir the pasta for a good minute when you first add it to the water. This helps to wash off some of the starch and prevents the pasta from sticking to the pot and to itself. I always pull out a piece of pasta 4 minutes before the package says it will be ready. Taste it. Chew it. It shouldn’t be completely soft. If it has a bit of bite left in the center, get it out of the water and drain it immediately. You can thank me later!
Rule #4: Do not rinse!
So many of us are tempting to rinse pasta under running water after it’s been drained. I think it comes from the notion that it gets rid of starch. Well, it does in a way. But, when pasta begins to cool off and dry a bit, it comes a little sticky. That stickiness soaks up pasta sauce, so don’t flush it out! The only exception is when making a pasta salad!
A quick drain is all you need. Get the pasta into a bowl or onto a plate. Get the sauce on it and serve it up. If you are one of those people that rinses pasta so that it doesn’t get sticky, hold off on cooking it until your sauce is ready. That way, it won’t have time to get stick before you plate it up!
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
My Canada Day Pasta comes with a warning. And, here it is. I would highly advise that you do not mix this pasta until you are ready to serve it. The colour in the red pasta will run when it is tossed with the dressing. No, it won’t happen right away, but it will if you let it sit for a while. You will want to keep that bocconcini and the white pasta as bright and as white as possible to make the best presentation.
Here’s what I would recommend. Prepare the entire dish just as it is written in the recipe card below, but do not add the red pasta to the mix. Just how you cooked the two lots of pasta separately, keep them separate until you are ready to serve. Once the red pasta is cooked, rinse it very well under cold running water, and transfer it to a food-safe container. Store it in your fridge.
Cook and rinse the “white” pasta. Add it to a large bowl with the tomatoes, bocconcini, Italian dressing, and seasonings. Gently toss to get everything mixed together. Cover and keep refrigerated. Once you’re ready to serve, transfer the red pasta into the large bowl with the already mixed pasta salad. Toss together and serve.
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Canada Day Pasta
- 450 grams pasta shapes
- 400 grams mini bocconcini, drained
- 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups Italian Salad Dressing
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8-10 drops red food colouring
- Divide the pasta into two equal amounts. Bring to a boil two pots of salted water. Add 8-10 drops of red food colouring to one pot of water.
- Add half the pasta to the red water and the other half to the regular water. Stir both well using separate spoons and cook until just done.
- Drain and rinse both pastas separately Run under cold water until pasta is completely cold. Set aside, but do not mix the two pastas together.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the washed tomatoes, the drained bocconcini, the Italian Salad Dressing, and the salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine.
- Add the "white" pasta to the bowl and gently toss to combine and coat.
- If serving the pasta immediately, add the red pasta now and toss to combine. Otherwise, cover the red pasta and store in the fridge. Cover the mixed pasta and store in the fridge as well.
- When ready to serve, add the red pasta to the mixed pasta and toss well. Serve immediately.
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