How to Make Better Pasta Salad

Whole wheat pasta and chickpeas provide fiber and other nutrients to support health.

Pasta salad is a staple at summertime picnics and BBQs across America. While this perennial favorite gets gobbled up by the ton every year, I cannot say that I am a fan of the classic pasta salad recipe.

While I like the idea of a cold pasta dish, I don’t go for combining overcooked pasta with a mayonnaise-based dressing and a smattering of chopped celery and bell pepper. To be fair, while this is the most common way, it’s not the only way to make pasta salad. There are dozens of recipes out there with all kinds of interesting ingredients.

Pasta salad can be served as a side dish or made into a meal.

Pasta salad is no “guilty pleasure” that should be relegated to the warmer months. Cooked and cooled pasta is a source of resistant starch, a type of fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut that help prevent colon cancer and to support overall health. Legumes, and cooked and cooled potatoes, also provide resistant starch. Foods rich in fiber can help prevent, and manage, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

I like a hearty pasta salad that’s more than a side dish.  Here’s how I build a better pasta salad to enjoy as a meatless meal or side dish all year long.

Whole wheat pasta. Whole wheat pasta is a great way to include at least three servings a day of whole grains, which, generally speaking, have more nutrients than refined grains. I like the slightly nutty taste of whole wheat pasta, which is higher in fiber than the regular kind. I favor shapes such as rotini because the ridges hold onto the dressing.

Whole wheat pasta is brimming with manganese, a mineral you need for strong bones and cartilage, and for many other bodily functions.

Why carbohydrates are so good for you

Legumes. Chickpeas and pasta are a satisfying combo that you can really sink your teeth into.  Legumes supply protein, and fiber, which helps to better regulate your energy levels. Legumes are also packed with iron, folate, and plant compounds that protect your cells from damage.

Cottage cheese. I like cheese in my pasta salad for the taste, as well as the protein and calcium. Using low fat cottage cheese in place of some of the feta cheese cuts down on calories and saturated fat.

Low fat cottage cheese has 11 times less saturated fat than feta cheese, but is lower in calcium.

Whole Wheat Pasta and Chickpea Salad

Makes 12 servings.

16 ounces (dry) whole wheat rotini pasta

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

2 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 cup chopped parsley

½ cup diced red onion

½ cup low fat cottage cheese

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, diced

½ teaspoon salt, or more, if desired

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta until just about done (al dente). Drain well and place pasta in a large serving bowl. Add the beans, tomatoes, parsley, onion, cottage cheese, and feta cheese. Combine well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Add the dressing to the pasta mixture and toss until well combined. Serve chilled.

Per serving: 253 calories; 10 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber; 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 6 milligrams cholesterol; 284 milligrams sodium; 80 milligrams calcium.

Add more vegetables, such as chopped yellow bell pepper, and serve over a bed of greens to make Whole Wheat Pasta and Chickpea salad into a delicious, meatless meal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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