I know that pasta salad may seem a bit passé. We’re probably all tired of the greasy, mushy versions we see frequently on salad bars or as sides to sandwiches as lesser restaurants. I want to bring back pasta salad though! It’s a great base for delicious herbs, tons of fresh veggies and interesting flavor combinations.
I made a primavera style pasta salad this weekend, using all the wonderful seasonal spring veggies I had handy, plus a few leftovers I happened to have on hand. I also chose to use multi-grain pasta because it boosts the fiber and protein benefits of the dish, plus it does not get mushy or soggy in the dressing overnight, as traditional pasta often does. For the herbs, just use what you have! I grow a bunch on my garden, so I chose a mixture of basil, mint, parsley, and lemon verbena, but dill or tarragon would be nice too. Be creative and us what you have to make this dish delicious and different every time!
Primavera Pasta Salad
1 box multigrain or whole wheat penne pasta
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 ½ cups green peas
1 cup matchstick cut carrots
6 slices bacon, crumbled (omit for vegetarian salad)
½ red onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
¾ cup radishes, julienned
1 cup blanched and chopped green beans or asparagus spears
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
2 Tbsp capers
1 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1 cup reduced fat plain yogurt
1 tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/3 cup lemon juice
Peel of 1 lemon, cut into very small strips/ curls
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped fresh herbs
1 tsp crushed red pepper
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
- First, cook the pasta in salted water as directed.
- While that is cooking, chop the herbs and all the other vegetables.
- Cook the bacon to crisp. Allow to cool and crumble into the chopped vegetables.
- Blanch the peas, asparagus, and/or green beans as needed by adding to the pasta for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside to cool slightly. Do not rinse.
- Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Be sure that for the lemon peel, you use just the bright yellow outer rim, avoiding the bitter inner rind. You can choose to zest the lemon if that’s easier, but you will get a more pronounced lemon flavor from the little slivers of peel.
- Toss the dressing and veggies with the pasta and refrigerate until chilled.
You could add some shrimp and serve this on a bed of greens as a main course, enjoy it as I did with some fresh fruit for lunch, or take it to a BBQ for a change of pace. Enjoy and be sure to change up the veggies based on what is available at your local farmer’s market!