Italian Pasta Salad w/ Sausage & Basil

2 cups fusilli or rotelle pasta
1/2 cup ripe olives, thinly sliced
2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes (3/4 of 3 oz. pkg), thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow pepper, thinly sliced or chopped
1/2 small red or white onion sliced in rings and quartered
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced or chopped
4 to 6 artichoke hearts thinly sliced and halved
1 cup sliced mushrooms porcini, domestic or a combination of each
1/2 lb. Low fat sweet or spicy Italian turkey or chicken sausage, cooked and drained of any fat
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/1 cup low fat mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fat free white or red wine vinaigrette dressing
1 small clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crumbled oregano
fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions without salt and oil. Do not overcook, pasta should be al dente. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. If you don’t plan on assembling the salad until later, lightly spray pasta with cooking spray, tossing gently to mix. This will prevent pasta from sticking together.

2. Soak tomatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes to soften, unless package indicates other wise (some brands come ready to use). Remove tomatoes from water. Slice tomatoes into thin strips, cover and set side.

3. In a small bowl mix choice of dressing, with garlic, olive oil, oregano, and black pepper and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, add cooled pasta with olives, onion, peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, sausage, cheeses, and basil.

5. Gently toss 3/4 of dressing with pasta mixture. Refrigerate salad and remaining dressing until chilled, 2 to 3 hours. Just before serving, toss salad with remaining dressing.

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