Ensalada de Coditos (Pasta Salad) was always part of our family recipe repertoire, and for a long time I believe only we (meaning, our family) ate them. Children believe all kind of weird things.
When you are a kid you also tend to believe everything you read: I thought that all English ladies went picnicking once or twice a week and that they all wore long flowery dresses and big floppy hats or fascinators, sat on red and white-checkered tablecloths and sipped tea under a big, old tree.
I wondered why we didn’t do that in the Dominican Rep. Hot humid days in the sunny tropics might be a good explanation, but I suspect it is because fun wise our paseos beat an English picnic any day.
A paseo is an odd combination of picnic, noisy party, and all-purpose celebration. Any weekend a bunch of friends and relatives would get together, hop in the back of a pickup truck and head for the nearest beach or river. Instead of expensive cheese and fine wine they would bring rum or beer and a big pot full of espagueti. Oddly enough we will accompany the spaghetti with bread. No paté de foie gras and caviar, thankyouverymuch, we will buy yaniqueques and fried fish in Boca Chica beach instead.
Music is a must in a paseo. Loud, earsplitting merengue and bachata from the minute one leaves to the moment everybody returns home. This is after all a party, and there will always be the same characters in any paseo. There’s always the old lady who did the cooking, the restless children, the young couple that can’t seem to get their hands off each other, and that will probably disappear for a while some time during the trip. Someone will get drunk and have to be dragged back home. Someone will get sick from eating too much, all the more likely if they happen to come across a mango tree in season. A whole day of fun that will leave everyone tired, with funny hair and hoarse voices.
Yeah, I think I have everything all figured out. Why would anyone have a picnic if they can have a paseo?
- ½ lb [0.23 kg] of macaroni (or similar short pasta)
- 1 large carrot
- ½ lb [0.23 kg] ham (or cheese) diced into small cubes (optional)
- 1 bell pepper diced into small cubes
- 1 cup of sweet corn (from a can)
- ½ cup sweet peas (from a can)
- 1 medium red onion
- 1½ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper
- Boil the pasta until tender (it needs to be softer than al dente) adding the salt to the water.
- Separately boil carrot. Peel the carrots and dice into small cubes.
- Mix the pasta, carrots, pepper, onion, peas, corn and ham (or cheese).
- Mix with dressing of your choice. Chill before serving.
- In a separate container mix mayo, paprika, and vinegar.
- Whisk the vinegar into the olive oil, followed by the mustard.
- Season with a pinch of pepper.
Usually prepared with macaroni, you can use other type of short pasta for this dish. Ensalada de coditos goes better with barbecued meats or as a hearty entree, or to bring to a paseo. It is also a popular option for the Christmas' Eve dinner.