7 Simple Whole-Grain Pasta Salads

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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

ARMY_MOM17 6/3/2018
...pasta salad is one of my favorite summer, cookout and picnic dishes...
6/03/18 Report
JVANAM 8/14/2017
Sometimes you get the results you wanted,
sometimes you don't.
What matters is that you did your best.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie Report
HOLLYM48 8/14/2017
Great ideas! Report
JANTHEBLONDE 8/14/2017
Love all the tips! Yummy!! Report
SCYANKEE46 8/13/2017
Love pasta salad and this just got my creative juices flowing. Thanks so much! Report
PATRICIA-CR 8/13/2017
Yummy! Report
CATNURSE1 8/13/2017
I buy ditalini pasta and mix with roasted red pepper vinaigrette, bell peppers, green olives, marinated garlic cloves, low sodium salami, and feta cheese. I don't eat it very often. I also mix farfalle with chicken, broccoli and lemon viniagrette for a quick dinner. Report
ETHELMERZ 8/13/2017
My family detests any pasta salad, period, they particularly dislike cucumbers and celery, peppers cut up and tomatoes. Report
CHERYLHURT 7/21/2017
Thanks! Report
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. Report
1HOTPEPPERVERN
This is great to have for some fast easy food. And it all looks really good too. Thanks. Report
Great ideas! I've saved this to my favorites for handy reference. Report
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 Report
BABSBARTLETT
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) Report
DIABETICLADY
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). Report
JUDYHELP
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? Report
BAHOBA
This looks so good and simple! How can I print it off? Report
K_RENEE
mmmmm.... they all sound so tasty!!! And now I have a bunch of new dinner/lunch ideas! Thanks, Chef Meg! Report
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 Report
Looks delicious. I'll have to try this sometime!! Report
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, :) Report
Great tips! I'm going to make some tonight. I never thought to use cumin, which I love, in a pasta salad. Report
2DIETORNOT2DIET
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. Report
INDIRA19
great tips...
Report
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 Report
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 ! Report
FORGODSOLOVED
Avocado, tomato pasta salad with a dab of mayo and Mrs Dash. It is as good chilled as when first made. Report
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. Report
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! Report
EAGLES_WINGS
So many great ideas! I am saving to my spark favorites! Thanks very much!!! Delicious ideas... Report
I love cucumber, onion, tomatoes with Italian dressing Report
EARLGREYHOT
For the Asian salad: Grilled or poached...? Report
These all sound really good! Report
 
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