While this blogpost may be titled the Catalina Pasta Salad, this side dish has a different name around my family's household - the Waupaca Salad. An ongoing love of this pasta salad recipe originated from the annual trips to Waupaca, Wisconsin my family and our dear friends took each summer for as long as I can remember. This recipe became a family favorite when shared by my mother's close friend, Kathy, at one of our many barbecues hosted at our rental cottage on McCrossen Lake.
This pasta salad is absolutely irresistible with its creamy, reddish-pink hue and is packed with a sweet and tangy flavor. It's simple. It's beautiful. It's delicious.
My memories of our Waupaca trips first and foremost include the preparation. We had this annual vacation down to a science regarding who brought what and the most efficient way to pack food, inflatable inner-tubes and water skis, beach towels and the clothes of women who never learned to pack lightly. My father and our friend Mike mastered the art of maximizing every square inch of their respective SUVs. The most imperative consideration when packing was to keep the bathing suits in an easily accessible place so we kids could run right into the water upon arrival.
The days were filled with swimming off the dock, our fathers whipping us around on the inner-tube or water skis off the back of a speedboat, our mothers coming up with new entertaining crafts each year for the girls (latch-hook rugs and jewelry making with safety pins to name a few) and making trips to the Wheelhouse for pizza followed by a trip to Scoopers for Blue Moon and Mackinaw Island Fudge ice cream.
Our family friends have since purchased their own house in Waupaca that has allowed us to visit occasionally over recent years. I even had the opportunity to bring my boyfriend at the time and now husband to share in a Waupaca trip. Our young relationship was tested on our first canoe trip down the Crystal River in a fiberglass canoe through unusually low water. Clearly we survived the trip and allowed it to strengthen us as a couple. These pictures above are my only digital pictures captured from recent trips - all other memories were taken with disposable cameras and are stored in memory boxes and photo albums.
This recipe was often made during the nights we barbecued in the backyard and enjoyed our meal hanging on the dock with our feet in the water. These memories come flooding back each time I make this salad, and I am overjoyed to be sharing the recipe and just a few of the memories with you.
CATALINA PASTA SALAD - "WAUPACA SALAD"
- 12 ounces medium pasta shells
- 1 -2 generous cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 stalks of green onions, diced
- 1 cup mayo (partially substitute with Greek yogurt, if desired)
- 1/2 cup catalina dressing
- Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and cool.
- In a small bowl, mix together the mayo and catalina dressing. Adjust proportions to your liking (I like to add closer to 3/4 cup catalina dressing to amplify the color and tangy flavor).
- Toss the cooled pasta, diced green onions, halved tomatoes and dressing in a large bowl.
- To keep fresh, store at a cool temperature.