In warm weather I tend to rely on meals that need very little cooking such as simple and delicious salads based on grains, legumes, leafy greens and a variety of pastas. Awesome meals such as Dilled Shrimp Pasta Salad and Waldorf Chicken and Pasta Salad become my go-to favorites.
Pasta salads are fun, versatile and portable, making them ideal for summer barbeques, picnics and pool parties. With a wide range of pastas made from a variety of whole grains, including gluten-free options, there’s something for everyone. How about taking this Turkey and Pasta Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette to a friend’s barbeque, or serving this easy, veggie-packed Italian Sub Pasta Salad with Broccoli to your family?
A basic pasta salad recipe combines cooked pasta with a few simple chopped vegetables such celery and onion and salad dressing (typically mayonnaise). The fun really begins with the addition of fresh, colorful vegetables, legumes or other protein choices, fresh or dried herbs, unique seasonings and salad dressings. Adding any of the following can turn a basic pasta salad into an elegant, gorgeous meal:
Roasted seasonal veggies, lightly blanched broccoli florets or slivered leafy greens
A variety of colorful bell peppers and red or white radishes
Cubes of cheese — try goat cheese, parmesan or Romano
Cubes of marinated, baked tofu or marinated, grilled tempeh
Artichoke hearts, grated carrots and red ripe cherry or grape tomatoes
A variety of olives from kalamata to pimento to garlic-stuffed green olives
Fresh herbs and seasonings such as basil, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, dill, chives or curry powder
Boiled eggs, cubed or pulled chicken, cubed ham or turkey
Your favorite legume (I love adzuki beans and black-eyed peas!)
Consider using garlic aioli, white wine or balsamic vinegar, wasabi mayonnaise, a zesty fruit dressing, or pine nut, walnut or extra-virgin olive oil as the dressing
We have plenty of terrific pasta salads recipes. Substitute ingredients and types of pasta to fit your personal taste. Here’s a sampling:
Our Cool Pasta Salad combines bell peppers with tomatoes, olives, queso fresco and fresh herb vinaigrette.
Colorful and healthful Black Bean and Roasted Corn Pasta Salad is made with whole wheat pasta, cilantro and tomato.
Being a fan of smoked salmon, one of my long-standing favorites is Smoked Salmon and Vegetable Pasta Salad. I have made it several times with an assortment of pasta shapes and a variety of gluten-free pasta.
Artichoke and Broccoli Pasta Salad pairs champagne vinegar with garlic and extra-virgin olive oil.
Grilled Swordfish Pasta Salad with Olive Salsa combines the flavors of brined olives, fresh basil and swordfish.
Super simple Crunchy Fusilli Salad is made with ham or salami, raw veggies, cheese and Italian dressing.
What’s your idea of a great pasta salad? Got a recipe? I’d love to know.