Pasta salads are a summer staple at barbecues and cookouts, but the usual mayo-laden sides aren’t a good choice for those of us wanting to maintain that beach body we’ve worked so hard to achieve. Lighter pasta salads featuring fresh vegetables and even fruit are a much better choice. Here are some summer pasta salad tips and recipes for your next BBQ or cookout.
Tips for healthier pasta salads
1. Toss pasta with fresh ingredients
Many popular pasta salad recipes include canned vegetables, heavily processed meats and cheeses, and pre-made dressings. To keep your pasta salad light, use fresh ingredients. Healthful picks from the farmer’s market, freshly cut herbs and high-quality cured meats and cheeses will result in summer pasta salads with first-rate flavor.
2. Finely chop your ingredients
To deliver the most welcome flavor and eye appeal, chop ingredients such as garlic, onions and peppers as small as possible. Minced garlic is far more preferable than a large chunk of a pungent clove. A good option is to mince garlic, onions and peppers, and then whisk them into the dressing. Finely chopped herbs will add a nice color. Other ingredients, such as meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits, are best cut into a medium-sized dice.
3. Dress lightly
Instead of using heavy mayonnaise-based dressings or pre-made store-bought dressings, opt for a few delicious drizzles of extra-virgin olive, balsamic vinegar or a citrus juice. Don’t mask the flavors of super-fresh salad ingredients with a heavy dressing.
4. Choose good pasta
Pasta comes in a fun array of shapes and sizes. For a salad, your best bet is a medium-sized pasta such as penne, rotini and bow ties. Noodles, like spaghetti, may be hard to eat on paper plates, and small pastas, such as orzo, can be hard to pick up with a fork and can get lost amid vegetables and dressing. Also, keep in mind that frozen pasta can become gummy after it’s cooked and cooled. Cooked dry pasta will keep its shape and texture.