7 Simple Whole-Grain Pasta Salads

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
7/18/2011 2:00 PM   :  24 comments   :  18,800 Views

Today's cooking blog is a lesson in cooking without a recipe. Once you know which ingredients pair well together, how big a serving size is, you can start to combine them to suit your needs. We're starting with a dish that anyone, regardless of their cooking skills can make: pasta salad.

Pasta salad is an easy, go-to meal when the weather is warm, but most of the recipes we know and love are mayo-based, which means they're not so great for us. The easiest swap is to use lowfat plain yogurt instead of mayo.

But what about when you're tired of your same-old pasta salad? Here's an easy way to turn one box of pasta into dinner for four or a side dish for your next neighborhood gathering.

You don't even need a recipe. Adjust the portions as needed, and learn to cook "without a net." This is a great chance to experiment in the kitchen without taking a big risk.
 
TIPS:
  • "Cook" this dish the night before. The flavors taste even better the next day.
     
  • Undercook your pasta slightly--it should be al dente. Drain and rinse your pasta with cool water, then immediately combine with the other ingredients. Overcooked pasta yields a gummy glob of pasta salad.
     
  • You'll also want to use a bite-size pasta in this dish.
     
  • For vegetables, figure on 1/2 cup of each per person.
     
  • For protein, you'll want 12 ounces cooked for four people.
     
  • For the extras like nuts, bacon, or cheese, keep portions small: 1/2 ounce per person.

    Cook your protein ahead of time for an even faster meal!
To one box of pasta (preferably whole wheat), add little of this, a little of that, and--voila!--an instant meal or side dish that's ready in no time.

Cool Summer Sliced grapes or cherries Diced celery and cucumbers Cubed poached or grilled chicken Toasted walnuts or pecans Cucumber-yogurt dressing
All American BLT Chopped Romaine Chopped green onions Sliced grape or cherry tomatoes Chopped turkey bacon, cooked Tomato-yogurt dressing* swap 1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes for fresh
Grilled Grilled Romaine Grilled eggplant Grilled summer squash and zucchini Parmesan cheese No dressing--just drizzle your veggies with balsamic, pepper and olive oil
Asian Snow peas Bean sprouts Shredded carrots Grilled or poached chicken Sesame ginger dressing
Italian Chopped tomatoes--fresh or roasted Thinly sliced red onions Chopped parsley and basil Feta cheese Your favorite vinaigrette
My Favorite! Wilted spinach or arugula Artichoke hearts (packed in water and drained) White beans (drained and rinsed) Steamed asparagus Basil vinaigrette or pesto (homemade or jarred)
Southwest Grilled shrimp with a spice rub Roasted corn Black beans (drained and rinsed) Chopped tomatoes Cubed Monterey or pepper Jack cheese (no dressing needed)
 
What is your favorite pasta salad recipe?


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Comments

  • 24
    I cook quite a bit of pasta & chill it, plain, in the refrigerator along with chopped celery, onion, green & red pepper, zucchini & carrots. At dinner time we place one serving of pasta & veggies on our plates mix in low fat dressing. - 8/21/2011   7:42:42 PM
  • 1HOTPEPPERVERN
    23
    This is great to have for some fast easy food. And it all looks really good too. Thanks. - 8/3/2011   1:10:44 PM
  • 22
    Great ideas! I've saved this to my favorites for handy reference. - 8/3/2011   10:21:58 AM
  • 21
    My Favourite is Greek, grape tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, chicken or seafood grilled, and seasoned with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, oregano and olive oil vinegrette - 7/29/2011   8:03:52 AM
  • BABSBARTLETT
    20
    For those of you wanting to print this...I just copied it and dropped it into a Word doc. It came out great! (you do have to copy the dressings individually though) - 7/26/2011   2:12:42 PM
  • DIABETICLADY
    19
    A wonderful VARIETY of Pasta Salads .. and imho summer time is the perfect time to include it in one's menu (for either lunch or dinner). - 7/26/2011   10:55:40 AM
  • JUDYHELP
    18
    This looks really good! How do you print it off? I really like ranch dressing, but I do use it on the side. I'm trying to come up with another one, which doesnt have all the calories. Any suggestions? - 7/26/2011   9:32:09 AM
  • BAHOBA
    17
    This looks so good and simple! How can I print it off? - 7/23/2011   11:32:10 AM
  • K_RENEE
    16
    mmmmm.... they all sound so tasty!!! And now I have a bunch of new dinner/lunch ideas! Thanks, Chef Meg! - 7/22/2011   9:56:07 PM
  • 15
    I favor vinaigrette dressings and usually add some sort of bean, red pepper, green onions, sometimes corn or green beans, and occasionally feta or romano cheese - 7/21/2011   6:54:34 PM
  • 14
    Looks delicious. I'll have to try this sometime!! - 7/19/2011   12:32:25 PM
  • 13
    My problem is that I only like two-three different dressings, so even if I switch up the veggies, my salads always taste pretty darn similar, :) - 7/19/2011   11:45:01 AM
  • 12
    Great tips! I'm going to make some tonight. I never thought to use cumin, which I love, in a pasta salad. - 7/19/2011   11:17:19 AM
  • 2DIETORNOT2DIET
    11
    I use wacky mac (its multi colored) and go to town on vegies, season to taste and use white balsamic and a touch of olive oil for the dressing everyone loves it. - 7/19/2011   10:14:44 AM
  • INDIRA19
    10
    great tips...
    - 7/19/2011   9:05:39 AM
  • 9
    This is how i cook most days,,, whether 'good' or bad... Great point about learning what measurements are like! Super combo table.

    Thanks Chef Meg,
    dD - 7/19/2011   12:25:36 AM
  • 8
    WOW I never thought of using plain low fat yogurt ! NEAT ! TY so much and also for the other tips. I am ALWAYS at a LOSS on what to fix,,,I am clearly going to do this ! YEAH ! I have some chicken in the fridge now, so tomorrow night it's going into this ! TY SO MUCH !!! horray ! - 7/18/2011   11:22:06 PM
  • FORGODSOLOVED
    7
    Avocado, tomato pasta salad with a dab of mayo and Mrs Dash. It is as good chilled as when first made. - 7/18/2011   4:45:10 PM
  • 6
    I made one last night that was whole wheat pasta, tomatoes, capers, fresh basil. I did sliced garlic in a bit of extra virgin olive oil and then marinated the tomatoes in that while I cooked the pasta. It was fantastic. - 7/18/2011   4:12:51 PM
  • 5
    my favorite is grilled vegetables (season with cumin/ garlic) toss with pasta and a dash of olive oil (+/- balsamic vinegar)., I make a huge batch and eat for lunch for the rest of the week! - 7/18/2011   3:18:31 PM
  • EAGLES_WINGS
    4
    So many great ideas! I am saving to my spark favorites! Thanks very much!!! Delicious ideas... - 7/18/2011   3:08:15 PM
  • 3
    I love cucumber, onion, tomatoes with Italian dressing - 7/18/2011   2:58:03 PM
  • EARLGREYHOT
    2
    For the Asian salad: Grilled or poached...? - 7/18/2011   2:57:24 PM
  • 1
    These all sound really good! - 7/18/2011   2:46:02 PM

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