This July, we had the hottest month on record! I’ve been staying indoors, drinking plenty of water and barely cooking, relying on salads and in particular, pasta salads. Being that I love a variety of natural whole grains, I’m thankful for pasta made from an alphabet of whole grains like amaranth, buckwheat, brown rice, corn, quinoa, spelt and whole wheat. These easy salads are portable, which makes them ideal for picnics, parties and barbeques. In its basic form, pasta is dough from which a myriad of shapes and sizes are formed. Americans are most familiar with macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, an Italian favorite we love to smother in sauce. Yet pasta is so much more. It can be made with or without eggs and from an assortment of grains, including gluten-free grains. It can be stuffed, like tortellini or ravioli, or made with potatoes like gnocchi. Pasta can be purchased dried or fresh. Dried varieties keep in a pantry for a long time, but freshly made pasta must be kept cold and cooked within a few days. A basic pasta salad recipe combines cooked pasta of any shape, size or grain with added chopped veggies and a favorite salad dressing. But the fun really starts with the addition of herbs, seasonings and so much more. Bottom line: Have fun! Here’s a good start:
- Add fruit to pasta salad. Try blueberries, sliced strawberries, mango or papaya
- Although originating in Africa and popular in the Middle East, couscous is pasta, too. It’s made from crushed, steamed semolina wheat. It’s quick and easy and mingles elegantly with the flavors of whatever you pair it with. Try this Sun-Dried Tomato and Salami Couscous Salad.
- Add dried fruit to pasta salad. I love couscous salad with raisins or chopped dates.
- Add legumes such as white beans to pasta salad for a complete protein and a heartier meal.
- While mayonnaise is good on pasta salad, try a lovely vinaigrette such as this Hazelnut Vinaigrette, one of my very favorites for pasta salad.
- Make colorful pasta salad with broccoli, kale and green peppers. This gorgeous Artichoke and Broccoli Pasta Salad is beautiful.
- Turkey, chicken, shrimp, scallops tofu or tempeh make a hearty delicious addition to pasta salad. Try this recipe for Turkey and Pasta Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette.
- Try an assortment of cheese with your pasta salad. This Roasted Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad is made with blue cheese.
- Get creative with all kinds of shapes and sizes. Did you know that Orzo is pasta, even though it looks like rice? You will love our recipe for Chicken Orzo Salad.
- Add fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, chives and parsley to pasta salad.
- Here’s a Southwestern Couscous Salad that will temp your taste buds with cilantro, chili and lime, and this Lentil and Couscous Salad with Arugula will melt your heart with basil pesto and cherry tomatoes.
Do pasta salads have a purpose in your life, too? Do you have a favorite recipe or idea? I would love to hear!