Most people think of pasta as a warm comfort food that is great to have in the winter but if they haven’t tried a cold pasta salad in the summer they are missing something sensational!
Besides being cold, which is a good thing when the thermometer reaches 95 degrees, this salad has plenty of fresh vegetables and lean protein which makes it the perfect “get in bikini shape” lunch or dinner. I mean what could be better than vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh out of the garden bell peppers and cucumbers, basil from my herb garden that, by the way, is going bananas and zucchini. I wish I still had some arugula but it kinda died in the heat. I do have some butter crunch lettuce that is still surviving but the arugula seems to go better in this salad.
I used a whole wheat pasta this time around, packing the meal with additional protein, fiber, B vitamins and antioxidants. Studies have shown that a diet rich in whole grains helps reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. I’ve also used quinoa pasta on occasion, which provides additional protein, and rice pasta is also an option. It never fails to come out delicious whatever grain you decide to use.
I think one of the things I like most about this salad is that all the veggies and pasta get coated with a deliciously cheesy and seasoned olive oil that keeps it light but oh so flavorful. And it’s great for picnics, potluck dinners or just a simple lunch or dinner at home.
If you are on a big salad kick (like me) or it’s too hot to cook, don’t stop with this salad, try some of our other healthy options like our Hearty Quinoa Salad or Mandarin Chicken Salad. You’ll still be enjoying a healthy, tasty and light dinner that is perfect for the summer heat. Enjoy!
Summer Pasta Salad
- 1/2 lb. whole grain pasta (use gluten-free pasta if needed)
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 1/2 large cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1/2 – 1 red bell pepper or a combination of red, yellow and orange bell peppers, diced
- 1/2 large red or sweet onion, diced
- 1 small can sliced ripe olives, drained (optional)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup arugula, chopped (optional)
- 2 chicken breasts, grilled or rotisserie style, chopped
- 8-oz favorite Italian salad dressing
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon pimenton or smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- Pinch garlic powder
Cook pasta according to directions on box. Pour into colander, rinse and let drain.
In a large bowl, combine all vegetables then toss with pasta. Add chicken and mix well.
In a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients together.
Pour over pasta salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese if desired. Garnish with fresh basil.
What’s your favorite go-to summer meal?