If you love pasta but not the idea of a steaming plate of it on a hot summer day, the solution is simple: cold pasta.
Cold noodles have been a standard in Asia since…the creation of pasta? That was around 1700 B.C.E. in China (here’s the the history of pasta).
The recipes that follow were developed by the corporate chefs at Melissa’s, the largest distributor of specialty produce in the U.S. With more than 1000 items available at any given time, Melissa’s sells both domestic products and exotic fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world.
These are Asian flair, but western tomato sauces and olive oil-based sauces work as well on any cold pasta preparation you want to put together. A plate of angel hair with chilled vodka sauce or linguine with fresh (uncooked) tomato sauce—fresh basil on both—are just right on a hot day.
You can substitute conventional wheat pasta for the buckwheat (soba) and rice noodles, as well as gluten-free pasta made from legumes and other vegetables.
The chefs at Melissa’s are always whipping up something new. Even if you aren’t purchasing produce, take a look at them for inspiration.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PASTA & NOODLES
Pasta is Italian for “paste,” which refers to the paste of flour and water that is turned into ribbon noodles and short cuts (bowties, corkscrews, etc.).
Noodles, from the German word “nudel,” refer to paste made with an egg.
Noodles were introduced by immigrants from China or East Asia, and readily adopted into local cuisine, with each region creating its own combination of noodles and other ingredients (just as in Italy).
According to the food lore handed down by the Chinese, noodles should be eaten on one’s birthday for long life and good health. Chinese restaurants in the Philippines often have “birthday noodles” on their menus. These are long noodles: it wouldn’t do to serve short cuts when you seek a long life [source].
RECIPE #1: SHRIMP PANCIT
This recipe, from Melissa’s corporate chef Miki Hackney, has been taken down a notch in fat. “Pancit is usually pretty high in saturated fats,” says Chef Miki. “I have made a ‘lighter’ version by omitting the traditional frying of noodles in rendered chicken fat, then including the fried skin in the dish.”
For The Dressing
 Pancit, a Filipino specialty (photo courtesy Melissa’s).
1. COMBINE the dressing ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the seasonings to taste. The dressing should have a slight tart taste. Set aside.
2. PLACE the chicken breast in a saucepan and cover by 1 inch with water. Add salt and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.
3. REMOVE the chicken from the liquid and place it on a plate to cool. When cool enough to handle, use two forks and pull apart the breast into rough shreds. Set aside and lightly cook the shrimp.
4. HEAT the yakisoba noodles by warming in a microwave or soaking in boiling water, loosening the bunches as they heat. Toss all the ingredients but the shrimp and plate. Garnish with the shrimp and cilantro, with the lime wedge on the side.
This and the remaining recipes are by Melissa’s corporate Chef Tom Fraker.
Ingredients For 6-8 Servings
For The Chicken
1. PREPARE a hot grill. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper and red pepper. Spray the chicken with the cooking spray and place it on the grill.
2. COOK both sides until you reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Let the chicken rest for 5-6 minutes, then cut into bite-size pieces.
3. PREPARE the dressing: Place all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
4. PREPARE the noodles according to the package instructions, then rinse them with cold water and drain.
5. COMBINE all ingredients except the chicken in a bowl, add the dressing and toss. Place on a serving platter and top with the chicken.
 Grilled chicken and soba noodles.
 Yakisoba noodles (all photos courtesy Melissa’s).
RECIPE #3: THAI BEEF SUMMER YAKISOBA NOODLE SALAD
Ingredients For 4-6 Servings
1. PLACE the marinade ingredients into a sealable plastic bag and add the meat. Massage the meat and place in the refrigerator. Marinate the meat for 2 hours or overnight, agitating it every so often.
2. PREPARE a hot grill and grill the steak to your desired doneness. Let it rest for 5-6 minutes, then slice.
3. COMBINE all of the dressing ingredients and set aside.
4. PREPARE the noodles according to the package directions (without the flavor packet) and then rinse under cold water. Drain.
5. ASSEMBLE: Combine the steak, noodles, cucumbers, carrots, tomato and onion in a bowl. Add the dressing and mix well to combine.
RECIPE #4: GRILLED SHRIMP & SOBA NOODLE SALAD
1. PREPARE a hot grill. Season the shrimp with the salt and pepper and place on the grill. Cook on both sides until the shrimp is opaque, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp and squeeze the juice from the lime over them. Set aside.
2. SPRAY the bell peppers and onion with the cooking spray and place on the grill. Cook until you get nice grill marks on both sides and then remove from the grill. Once cooled, slice the bell peppers and dice the onion.
3. PREPARE the soba noodles according to the package directions, then cool them under cold water. Drain.
4. ASSEMBLE: Combine the noodles, bell peppers, onions, pear and basil in a bowl. Place the salad on a serving platter, top with the shrimp and serve with the dressing. Makes about 4-6 servings.