Great Things Come In Small Packages; Parmesan Cup Pasta Salad

by Marjan
Parmesan cheese is one ingredient I have at all times in my refrigerator. Not only does this versatile cheese make any pasta dish even more delicious, it has a long shelf life in the fridge; therefore, storing it and using it on hand is easy. I love the tangy, salty, hard texture of this famous Italian cheese. At times when I'm hungry and just want a satisfying bite, I'll break off a small piece of parmesan and savor each satisfying bite.
Recently, I've discovered an easy technique for making my own parmesan cups and filling them with an simple, delicious pasta salad to serve at my parties. Both can be prepared in advance and served minutes prior to arrival of guests.  These elegant, crispy, fun to eat, salty bite size cups will be the talk of your next party.
Parmesan cheese, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and pasta together in one beautiful, salty, crispy, decorative bite; what's missing? The perfect bottle of wine, great friends, and a good reason to celebrate.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Parmesan Cups
1 cup coarsely shredded Parmesan cheese (large grade on shredder)
1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (small grade on shredder)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, toss together different grades of shredded cheese along with black pepper. Spoon 1 tablespoon of cheese onto baking sheet; using your fingers, spread cheese slightly, yet maintaining cheese lightly together in a circular outline. Space each spoon full of cheese 2 inches apart as they will spread while melting. Place in the oven and bake for 7-9 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and wait 30 seconds prior to touching cheese (very hot cheese may cause deep burns). Using a flat metal spatula or wide knife, remove one melted cheese at a time and place the middle of the cheese over bottom of a shot glass to form a cup shape. Using palm of your hand, very gently bend over onto shot glass sides of cheese, to create a cup. Wait a couple of minutes and remove cheese. Repeat with remaining cheese.
** Cheese cools quickly and will become brittle making it difficult to form cup shape.  Therefore, I recommend either making small batches at a time or having assistance from one more person to quickly remove and shape cheese while hot/warm.

Pasta Salad
1 cup uncooked decorative pasta (flowers, alphabet, or any other variety)
1/2 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomato
2-3 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
1 lemon; zest and juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Follow manufactures instructions for cooking pasta (I recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon salt into boiling water to cook pasta al dente). Cool to room temperature. In a medium size bowl, toss together pasta, sun-dried tomato, basil, lemon juice with zest, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place one tablespoon of pasta salad into each parmesan cup and sprinkle 2-3 pine nuts on top. Serve in a beautiful platter and enjoy!


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