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Healthy pasta salads

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Pasta salad hold the mayo

Traditionally, picnic pasta salads are doused with mayonnaise or mayonnaise-based dressings which are neither healthy nor conducive to being outside for hours on a hot summer day. For all your summer picnics and BBQs this year, try making these healthy yet tasty alternatives to the classic pasta salad.

Pasta Salad

Making Pasta Salads Healthy

Load up the veggies
One of the best ways to make pasta salad healthier is to add lots of vegetables to the mix. Tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, or avocado (among many others) all make great additions to a pasta salad. No matter what kind of pasta salad you are making you can toss some veggies in for extra bulk, texture, flavor, and nutrition.

Add healthy protein
Any lean protein works great in pasta salad. Grilled chicken, canned tuna, grilled salmon, or canned beans are all examples of healthy protein that add flavor to pasta salad without adding tons of fat and calories.

Herbs add lots of flavor
Sprinkling chopped fresh herbs over the pasta salad or into the dressing adds great fresh flavors again with adding fat, calories, or sodium. Be sure to always use fresh herbs over dried. Basil, rosemary, cilantro, thyme, dill, or parsley all will make any pasta salad pop.

Swap mustard for mayo
To still get the creamy effect of a mayonnaise based dressing, substitute Dijon or whole grain mustard. Not only is mustard lower in fat and calories but it will also had a delicious tangy flavor. If you absolutely need to use mayonnaise, you still can, just substitute about half of the amount for sour cream or buttermilk. They are both good substitutes for mayonnaise just be sure to keep pasta salads made with these ingredients on ice.

Make vinaigrettes
Vinegar based dressings are probably the best way to go. They are low in fat and calories and don't need to be chilled. You can make a simple olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing with lots of herbs and spices that will add bold flavors and keep fat and calories at bay.

Recipes

Italian Style Pasta Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:
12 ounces uncooked orecchiette pasta
6 ounces canned tuna
6 ounces provolone cheese, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup roasted red pepper, sliced
6 ounces black pitted olives, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and let cool.

2. In a serving bowl combine pasta, tuna, provolone cheese, red onion, tomato, red pepper, olives, basil, and Parmesan cheese.

3. Whisk olive oil with vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, mustard, and salt and pepper.

4. Drizzle dressing over pasta mixture and gently toss to coat. Chill until ready to serve.

 

Greek Spinach Pasta Salad
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
12 ounces tri-color rotini pasta, uncooked
8 ounces grape tomatoes
6 cups baby spinach, rinsed
1 cup scallions, chopped
4 ounces toasted pine nuts
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 pieces anchovies, chopped (if desired)
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente then drain and let cool.

2. Combine pasta with tomatoes, spinach, scallions, pine nuts, feta cheese, and anchovies in a large serving bowl.

3. Whisk lemon juice with olive oil, garlic powder, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drizzle dressing over pasta salad and gently toss to combine. Chill until ready to serve.

 

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
12 ounces bow tie pasta, uncooked
3 cups grilled chicken, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 cup Asiago cheese, freshly grated
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente; Drain and let cool.

2. Combine pasta with chicken, red onion, avocado, cheese, and pecans in a large bowl.

3. Whisk mustard powder with garlic, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Drizzle dressing over pasta salad and gently toss to combine. Chill until ready to use.

 

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