Summer Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

You always need a pasta salad recipe. It's one of those recipe ideas that changes each time you make it, using what you have on hand, and allowing it to be as big or small as you need - it tends to grow before your eyes! I pulled this pasta salad together quickly for lunch on Sunday, with little effort and using only a handful of ingredients. It's perfect for summer, it's light, low-fat, has a ton of veggies, and more importantly can be eaten cold! Switch out some of your junk in favor of lighter healthier fare, no one will know the difference and you can save yourself some points, calories and gram-o-fat! This recipe is kind of informal - increase or decrease the quantities as needed. I made do with what I had in the kitchen, grabbing a handful of this and a can of that. It's better if you use fresh vegetables and a homemade salad dressing, but you can take some short cuts and use a good bag of frozen veggies; a decent low calorie or fat free salad dressing, and a few canned products like - olives, capers, artichoke hearts, beans, and sundried tomatoes (not soaked in oil). You can also use fresh or dried herbs - if using fresh, you can use a lot more; dried herbs are much more intensely flavored than the fresh counterparts.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Pound Uncooked Whole Wheat Rotini
  • 1/2 Cup String Beans - blanched and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots - peeled and small dice - blanched
  • 1/2 red bell pepper - seeded and small dice
  • 2 medium celery stalks - small dice
  • 1 - 14 to 16 ounce can small or medium pitted black olives - drained
  • 1 14- 16 ounce can cecci beans (garbanzo or chick peas) - drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 Cup Loosely Packed Fresh Flat Leaf or Italian Parsley - roughly chopped
For Dressing:
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of the following dried herbs and spices: Parsley, Thyme, Basil; Garlic Powder, Onion Powder or Dried Minced Onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Salt - Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Red or White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil

Dressing Directions:
  1. In a large measuring cup or mixing bowl, combine the dried herbs and spices - herbs through the sugar. Whisk to combine.
  2. Mix in the prepared Dijon Mustard. Pour in the rice vinegar and red/white wine vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuously whisking to incorporate and emulsify.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If the dressing is too acidic, add in a bit more olive oil. If the dressing is too thin and watery, and you want to watch the oil content, whisk in more Dijon Mustard and another pinch of salt, pepper and sugar. Set dressing aside. The salad dressing will hold, refrigerated for up to 2 weeks in a tightly covered container.

Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. When the water reaches a boil, add in 2 tablespoons of salt and the dried pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente - about 12 minutes or according to package directions. When the pasta is cooked through use a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer ladle and remove the pasta from the hot water, but retain the water to blanch the vegetables. Drain, rinse and cool the pasta. Set aside in a large mixing/serving bowl.
  2. Prepare the vegetables. Use the pasta cooking water to blanch and cook the string beans until they are crisp tender - about 6 minutes. Drain, rinse and cool and add the cooked string beans to the cooked pasta.
  3. Blanche the carrots until they are tender - about 4 minutes. Drain, rinse and cook the carrots and add them to the cooked pasta.
  4. Dice the celery and peppers, adding them to the cooked pasta.
  5. Add in the olives and cecci beans.
  6. If serving later, such as the next day, cover and refrigerate the pasta salad, undressed at this point. Otherwise, mix together the salad dressing and pour it over the pasta salad. Toss to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pasta salad can be served and enjoyed cold or at room temperature. Makes 8 sides servings.

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