Healthy Eating: Fresh vegetables are the star of this nutritious pasta salad

Healthy Eating: Fresh vegetables are the star of this nutritious pasta salad

When most people think of pasta salad, they probably think of an ’80s restaurant with faux brick walls and hanging plants or perhaps a nice side dish at a community meal. I’m here to say you can bring any updated as well as interesting pasta salad with quality pasta (including whole wheat pasta or alternative pasta) plus garden fresh greens.

We have a few weeks left at Edmunds Saturday Farmers Market, so consider opting for local produce to add to this pasta salad. This is an easy and nutritious recipe that you can customize to your personal taste as well as what you have in your fridge and pantry. Consider this recipe a “model” of pasta salad. If you are a vegetarian, leave out the meat. If you are a vegetarian, exclude cheese. Consider adding diced raw or steamed vegetables to the mix. Fresh peas, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, kale, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, etc. can be added to make it more vegetable. It will taste even better the day after you make it because all the flavors will come together. It’s a healthy and delicious dish that’s quick to prepare and easy to share.

I’d like to see what differences you came up with!

Farm fresh pasta salad

the pasta: Choose a small pasta shape such as detalini, pasta, rotini, mini farfalle (butterfly), or mini penne. Whatever you choose, it’s important to drain the pasta well, so the cooking water doesn’t dilute the seasoning.

Hummus: Like pasta, you want to make sure you’re doing a good job drying the chickpeas (or whatever type of beans you use). I like to rinse it in a colander, shake it a few times and then wrap it in a clean kitchen towel to dry it out.

Onion/acid mix: Please remember to start this salad by soaking red onions in vinegar and lemon juice. Doing so brings out the best flavor of the onions and reduces their sharpness.

10 ounces dried detalini or other small pasta, such as pasta, rotini, farfalle, penne, etc.
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
A pinch of extra-virgin olive oil plus ½ cup
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (feel free to use white beans, cannellini beans, or edamame)
4 ounces salami, cut into matches or diced prosciutto (or another bacon of your choice. (Note: leave out if you want to omit the meat)
2/3 cup coarsely chopped bell pepper (optional if you don’t want the heat. Also feel free to use diced sweet red pepper instead)
6 ounces fontina, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (feel free to use another type of hard cheese you have in your fridge like aged cheddar, Parmesan, feta, Cotija, Manchego, Asiago, Romano, or Grana Padano, etc.)
2 cups arugula or coarsely chopped spinach
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
8 sprigs thyme, chopped (you can use dry thyme if that’s what you have in stock)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix the onion, vinegar, and lemon juice and let it marinate while the pasta is cooking.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until done, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta into a colander, put them in a large bowl, and add a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together.

Add chickpeas, salami, peppers, fontina, watercress and/or spinach, and parsley to pasta and toss to combine.

Whisk ½ cup olive oil, honey, mustard, thyme, and salt into the onion-vinegar mixture and season with pepper. Pour over pasta and toss to mix.

Serve pasta on a plate and season with a little freshly ground pepper. Feel free to add chili flakes if you want an extra kick of spice.

Written by Deborah Bender

Deborah Bender lives in Edmonds with her family. She “dances with NED” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie and loves to cook from scratch and share her experiences with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelanced around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the joys of a table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at

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