There is something about summer that inspires me to make pasta and grain salads. First of all, I love any excuse to use up as many veggies as possible, but I also love that these salads are good warm or cold and can be eaten right away or enjoyed a few days later. They are the epitome of easy, healthy, summer cooking. My standby is a quinoa salad filled with grilled veggies, but I also make versions with lentils, bulgar, faro, brown rice, and quinoa pasta.
Before thinking about pasta salad, throw away all your notions about flavorless pasta covered in gobs of mayo (don’t even get me started on mayo!). This version is clean, bright, and full of summer flavor.
Pasta Salad Ingredients
1 bag of quinoa pasta (any type works, but I like fusilli because all the crevices soak up the dressing)
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 bunch of cocktail tomatoes or pint of cherry tomatoes
2 leeks or 4 scallions
1 large cucumber
1 bunch of parsley
½ cup of crumbled feta cheese
Pasta Salad Dressing
1 lemon (juiced)
1 cloves of garlic (minced)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Start a pot of salted water and begin cooking the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, chop all the fresh ingredients and put them in a mixing bowl. Be sure to crumble the feta on top of the veggies so it melts slightly when covered with the hot pasta.
It’s also best to make the dressing while the pasta is cooking to you can add it immediately to the hot pasta when you mix the salad. I find hot pasta seems to absorb the flavor better. Drain the pasta when it is finished cooking and add it to the veggies and feta. Cover with the dressing and mix together well.
Enjoy a heaping bowl right away while the pasta is still warm and pack up some containers to eat later. This salad is perfect for picnics, BBQ’s, potlucks, or a simple dinner at home. I brought a container of it with me to eat on the plane between Norway and Sweden!
One quick note about the pasta – I strongly recommend giving quinoa pasta a try if you haven’t already. It completely changes the nutritional profile of pasta from a simple carbohydrate to a complete protein, plus it is a terrific alternative for people who have gluten allergies. We switched to using quinoa pasta exclusively about three years ago and haven’t looked back.