Sunday Salad Toss-Off with Sam Cooke

There’s no doubt Miles put cool on the map but it was Sam Cooke who unmistakably got the party going. So when the invitation came in for Amber and I to attend Maneesh & Andrew’s 5th Annual Salad Toss-Off, we knew just where to turn for inspiration.

Sam Cooke’s Twistin’ Pasta Salad


  • Spiral Pasta
  • Ball of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh Sweet Grape Tomatoes
  • Spicy Italian Sausage (for our pasta salad, we used local Brooklyn Cured Hot Italian)
  • Pine Nuts

For Dressing:

  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Fresh Black Pepper
  • Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
  • Fresh Lemon Juice (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350. Spread out a handful of pine nuts on a cookie sheet and set aside. Once oven is hot, bake the pine nuts until they are lightly toasted (about 5 min). While your oven is heating up, fill a large pot with water and begin to boil. If desired, add a dash of salt and tablespoon of olive oil to the water for taste. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, cook your italian sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook it in the same way you would brown ground meat. Cut open the sausage skin before you place it in the pan. Depending on your sausage you may need to add a bit of oil to the pan so it doesn’t stick. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat and stir while cooking. Make sure all of the sausage turns a nice brown and there are no pink spots in the meat. This should take about 5-10 min then set aside to cool completely.

Wash your fresh vegetables. Cut the tomatoes in half and set aside. Break basil into medium size pieces and set aside. Cut the mozzarella into small 1/2 inch cubes and set aside. While your pasta and meat are cooling, gather your ingredients for the dressing. In a small bowl, combine 3 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar. Sprinkle in some italian seasoning, Tony Chachere’s and fresh black pepper to your desired taste. You may also add some fresh lemon juice if desired. Whisk all ingredients together until they are mixed well.

Once all ingredients are cool, combine pasta, sausage, tomatoes, basil, and cheese in a bowl and stir with a large spoon. Cover and place pasta in refrigerator until ready to serve. Keep dressing at room temperature. When you’re ready to serve, toss your salad in the dressing mixture until you’ve lightly coated the salad. Finally, sprinkle your toasted pine nuts on top and enjoy! This pasta salad also tastes just as great with no meat. Try adding some crushed red pepper flakes for some extra spice if you’re going meat-free.

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