Mertie’s Mondays: Curried Dilled Pasta Salad

Dill and curry make a memorable pasta salad for potlucks—make a lot!

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Over the years I’ve often been invited to potluck picnics or parties. My quandary has always been: what do I bring that’s enough for a crowd but not too onerous to prepare or transport. I dislike bringing things like burgers, hot dogs or sausages, or other meats to barbecue. I’ve brought rice dishes, but pilaf kind of palls after a while and Hansen Fried Rice is stodgy if not consumed immediately.

I have no idea where I got this recipe. I just Googled “curried dilled pasta salad” and got quite a few curried pasta salads, and quite a few dilled pasta salads, but no curried dilled pasta salads. So maybe I made it up myself. I seem to remember Mom making macaroni salad (no one called it “pasta” back then) but if she did, it wasn’t singular enough to ping my memory (Sorry, Mom!). I hope that you will enjoy it. Be warned, though: it’s not worth making a small amount of this (to my mind). So don’t try making it for four people, as the amount of prep time won’t make it worth your while. Make it by the tubload, as I do, and bring it along. My experience is this: I have almost never had to bring anything but the empty pot and the spoon home again after the picnic, as every morsel has been eaten. It’s portable comfort food.

Start out with at least two pounds of uncooked pasta. I find that interesting shapes like fusilli or shells work well in that they trap the dressing in their folds and make it more exciting to eat. Boil four quarts of salted water in a large stockpot, throw in the pasta, and cook al dente. I can’t give you a time on this, unfortunately, as I’ve never timed it. Do stir it frequently during the cooking process.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and put it back in the empty pot. Assuming you have a two-handled stock pot like mine, this will be your transport container. Let it cool a bit while you make the dressing and vegetables.

I normally put chopped onion, green pepper, and celery into the pasta. Amounts vary, but two medium peppers, two medium onions, and about four ribs of celery, all chopped relatively fine (but NOT minced) will do. Dump them into the cooling pasta and mix it around. Add to it one large jar of drained sliced black olives (if you like them; reserve the liquid) and about 10 small dill pickles, minced. Make sure it’s well mixed.

The dressing starts off with around a cup of mayonnaise. You can put more in if you like. It’s best to do this in a glass bowl, not plastic, as the curry powder will eventually tint plastic greenish-yellow. Add to the mayo two tablespoons yellow mustard—no Dijon or English mustard will do! Then add two tablespoons of medium or mild curry powder. The intention here is not to burn mouths, but tingle them. And then, two tablespoons of dried dill weed. Add salt and pepper, and about three tablespoons of the black olive liquid, and mix thoroughly. Dump it into the pasta/vegetable mix, and fold it in thoroughly with a slotted spoon. Ensure that the dressing is well-distributed through the pasta.

Once it’s mixed, slice another green pepper and put the rings on top of the salad. If you’re really arty, put a black olive in the middle of each pepper ring. Then, dust the top with paprika as we have a lot of white, green, and yellow colours, but no red. Then cover it and put it in the fridge to meld the flavours. Next day, take it to the picnic and enjoy!

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Author: Chris Hansen

Expat American living in London, now a British citizen as well. I was originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts, and that's where my mom raised me, so my momfood comes from New England.