Monday, February 25, 2013

Recipe Monday: Inspired by Tuesday

Alright friends, let's get down to it.  Everyone has that one restaurant dish that simply thinking or driving by the neon sign makes your mouth water.  And although if you had the recipe you would either mess it up or you'd cook it so often it would no longer be a tasty treasure - you still secretly wish you could decode the recipe and have it anytime you want it, RIGHT (or is that just me)??

Well, I'm not ashamed to admit I have SEVERAL of these items.  And I am by no means above throwing the waiter a few extra bones if he could let me in on some of the secrets.  That being said, the recipe I'm after today was first discovered about two years ago.  Ruby Tuesday is one of those restaurants that I have always seen, but never actually frequented.  And truthfully for no reason other than we chose O'Charley's or something over Ruby's when we were looking for that kind of place, because we knew the menu better, maybe? I don't know ... it just wasn't a place we frequently dined.
However, a couple of years ago when I started working at my new marketing job, I was located directly across the street from a Ruby Tuesday's.  Since then there have been several additional restaurants that have been put in on this exit (Qdoba, Zaxby's, Logan's Roadhouse - to name a few) that have really upped the ante around lunch hour - which was much needed. But prior to this, any quick lunch meetings that needed to be held at an off-site location, and needed to be at a classier establishment than say a McDonald's or Arby's ... Ruby Tuesday's became a great meeting hub.

What I quickly learned is Ruby Tuesday was harboring one of the greatest items on their menu known to man ... plus they offer free garlic cheddar biscuits (SCORE!).  What I'm trying to say is: I'm glad I gave it a chance. You see Ruby Tuesday has an unlimited Garden Bar for about $8.00 and the ingredients are pretty fresh for a salad bar.  So it's a super simple pick up if you're needing a healthy "at your desk" lunch as well.  But the hidden little gem that is also located on said Garden Bar is their Ham and Pea Pasta Salad. OHH-EM-GEEE is this stuff good.  Now, if you don't like peas or ham - don't stop reading yet.  Because, ironically I'm not a huge fan of either item either - but in this salad - they WORK IT.


So, I set out on a mission to find a copy cat recipe for the mouthwatering, delicious concoction you see pictured above.  And here is what I've uncovered:
  1. This pasta salad has a bazillion raving fans other than myself (who knew?)
  2. There are many copy-cat recipes
  3. Lots of the copy-cat recipes call for ingredients that are CLEARLY NOT in the Ruby Tuesday pasta salad, so why do these at-home chefs think they can just add them in on their own accord?? - WHY
Alright, so I have narrowed the copy-cat recipes down to the three that sound the closest to what I taste.  I'm going to share all 3 with you, and over some time I will make all 3 and announce the winner. But for now, I just have to hold onto hope that one of these babies will be my saving grace and present us with the best pasta salad dish there ever was.  My current (pre-tested) vote goes to Recipe #3 -- I'd put all my money there just reading ingredients and what not.

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Recipe #1
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb box of rotini pasta
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 package of diced ham
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, cooked and drained
  • 1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese (note: there is no evidence of cheese in RT's recipe)
  • 2 TBS of  Paula Deen's seasoning salt (P.D.'s seasoning mix - 1 cup salt, 1/4 cup pepper, 1/4 cup garlic salt -Put it in a small bowl and mix it well. Put mix into empty salt shaker.)
Directions:
  • Cook pasta, drain and rinse
  • Mix all ingredients
  • Serve cold 
Thoughts:
  • We could be onto something with the seasoning salt, sometimes I can tell a more garlic-y or more pepper-y flavor and if they add too much or too little of one, I could see where this would effect it
  • As mentioned above - NO USE OF CHEESE in the RECIPE!
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Recipe #2
Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 8 ounces ham, 1/4" cubed, about 2 cups
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, 1/4" cubed
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions:
  • In a large bowl combine salad ingredients.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over macaroni mix and toss to blend well. 
  • Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  • Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. (More mayonnaise or sour cream may be needed.) 
Thoughts:
  • I think this recipe will be the last one I try
  • It sounds great, and there are a lot of items - but some of them I don't normally keep in my pantry, and I'm not even sure I taste them in the recipe anyways - so this just may be a fun rainy day - but I'm not betting on it
  • As mentioned above - NO USE OF CHEESE in the RECIPE!
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Recipe #3 - MY VOTE FOR FRONT RUNNER
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound rotini pasta
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 8 ounces diced ham
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese, optional and not in the original recipe
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
Directions:
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions. 
  • Drain well and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Whisk the ranch dressing, mayonnaise and seasoning salt. 
  • Toss the dressing with the pasta and then gently stir in the ham, peas, cheese and bell pepper. 
  • Taste and add more seasoning salt, if needed. 
  • Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  • Makes 8-10 side dish servings.
Thoughts:
  • This recipe gets my vote and I will be trying it soon.  I'll keep you updated on how it goes :)

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So that's all folks, Ruby Tuesday Copy Cat Pasta Salad -- Easy Peasy (no pun intended)! Have a great week.

15 comments:

  1. I have become a recent fan of Ruby Tuesday! With all my travels, they have great healthy lunch/dinner options. And those darn garlic cheddar biscuits are to-die-for!

    -Andrea

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  2. I too am obsessed with Ruby Tuesday and their salads! I am even more obsessed with the croutons! Cant wait to try these recipes!

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  3. I make this salad all of the time. I actually asked for the recipe when I was eating at Ruby Tuesday's right before I moved out of state back in 1998. The recipe they gave me was Rotini pasta, mayonaise, peas, green pepper and ham. They had their own special seasonings they added that they couldn't share so I add celery salt and seasoning salt to it also. I get requests for this often.

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  4. I made this tonight (version 1) and it was not very good. Maybe it was the brand of ranch; I only had half Hidden Valley so I used an off brand of buttermilk ranch for the other half. Anyhow, it tasted way too much like mayonnaise. I tried adding season salt. Nope. Tried straining some milk through it. Nope. Finally, I added about half a cup of cream cheese and that made it a lot better but still not like Ruby Tuesday's.

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  5. I used to work at RT (7+ yrs) and recipe 3 is the closest with the exception of the cheese and they did not use reduced fat anything. With regard to the seasoning, it was the "special" seasoning they used on their fries....they didn't make it themselves so the ingredients are a mystery to me but I do suspect it is something very similar to "Paula Deen's" special blend which is garlic powder, salt, and pepper... It was more seasoned if left to sit but when it disappeared on the salad bar, they just threw it together on the fly and got some out there.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry then, I wasn't reading recipe 1 as closely - recipe 1 seems closest as it isn't reduced fat anything ;-P. They may have added green pepper in later years, not when I was there though.

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  6. I seem to detect the taste of a little ground allspice in this dish

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  7. I also am a fan of their pasta salad. I tried the first recipe and did not like it at all. I will definitely try the last recipe. I think there is a dash of paprika in the recipe also.

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  8. I used to work at Ruby Tuesday, and as a bartender I witnessed the garden bar being refilled numerous times throughout the day, and because Ruby Tuesday insisted on freshness, sometimes that meant items were prepared literally, on the spot with ingredients from the kitchen. That was one of the things I absolutely loved about that restaurant! Of all the restaurants I've worked in, theirs is the only food I crave and would go to the ends of the earth to eat. So, recipe #3 is the closest. However, reduced fat products are not used by Ruby Tuesday, so replace the mayo and ranch with the full fat experience and you're in business. Next, there is NEVER cheese or green pepper in this recipe. EVER. Also, the only seasonings used in this particular garden bar item is salt and pepper (fresh ground pepper). Other garden bar items use their secret seasoning blend which is season salt mixed with garlic powder. The only other variation to this pasta that I've ever seen was the addition of Ruby mini's sauce (a blend of equal parts mayo and mustard). This addition was only to satisfy the tastes of a particular manager, but if you find yourself wanting a little kick, that's it! Add a small amount of mustard and mix thoroughly. It should also be noted that this pasta isn't prepared, chilled and served the next day. They simply wash their noodles in cold water, drain, and refrigerate the noodles while they mix the other ingredients. That's the most "pre-chill" this pasta gets. So you will notice a taste difference if you're preparing this and chilling overnight before eating; a lot of the sauce has time to thicken, as well as soak into the noodles leaving you with a strong taste of the ham and peas; this is meant to be a subtle combination of flavors that is SIMPLE, and pleasing. Take the overthinking out of this recipe, and you will have a better result! I'm actually making this for my sons birthday party, complete with Ruby minis!

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    Replies
    1. I work as the garden bar attendant... no cheese in the but there is green bell pepper, and rubys seasoning

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  9. I tried recipe 1 and it was awful....too salty. I simply washed the noodles and started over...Recipe 3 was perfect! :)

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  10. Don't like green pepper but can tolerate tiny pieces if its going to make a huge difference in taste. I would like to know what kind of ham to use? I have sandwich ham and I bought a center cut slice because it's thicker and taste better. Also, can I use powdered parmesan?

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  11. I've worked there before. You are indeed on the right track ma'am.

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  12. I agree with Jamie. I immediately saw that that 2 tablespoons of the salt mixture was going to be too much. I only put in 1 tablespoon and it was still too salty. Are you sure you didn't mean 2 teaspoons?

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  13. I love this pasta, but there is a spice in it that I've never had before. I don't like spices much, so its saying something when i say i love it. I have also tried to get the recipe from ruby tuesdays,they won't give it up. Of course we all know the obvious of whats in there,but what about the spice or spices that make it taste so good. It wouldn't be the same without it.

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