Healthy Eating: Fresh vegetables star in this nutritious pasta salad

When most people think of pasta salad, they probably think of a restaurant in the 1980s with fake brick walls and hanging plants or perhaps a bland side dish at a community potluck meal. I am here to say that you can bring any pasta salad up to date as well as interesting with good quality pasta (including whole wheat pasta or alternative grain pastas) as well as garden-fresh vegetables.

We have a few weeks left at the Edmonds Saturday Farmers’ Market, so consider picking up local produce to add to this pasta salad. This is an easy and nutritious recipe that you can adjust to your personal palate as well as to what you have in your refrigerator and pantry. Consider this recipe a “template” for a pasta salad. If you are a vegetarian, leave out the meat. If you are a vegan, eliminate the cheese. Consider adding diced raw or steamed garden vegetables to the mix. Fresh peas, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, kale, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, etc. can be added to make it more vegetable forward. It will taste even better the day after you make it since all flavors will meld together. It’s a healthy and delicious dish that’s quick to make and easy to share.

I would love to see what variations you come up with!

Farm Fresh Pasta Salad

The pasta: Choose a small pasta shape such as ditalini, macaroni, rotini, mini farfalle (butterfly) or mini penne. Whatever you choose, it is important that you drain the pasta well, so the cooking water doesn’t dilute the dressing.

The chickpeas: Like the pasta, you want to make sure to do a good job of draining the chickpeas (or whatever beans you use). I like to rinse them in a colander, shake them a few times and then wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to dry them.

The onion/acid combination: Please remember to start this salad by soaking the red onion in the dressing’s vinegar and lemon juice. Doing this brings out the onion’s best flavor and tones down its sharpness.

INGREDIENTS
10 ounces dried ditalini or other small pasta, like macaroni, rotini, farfalle, penne, etc.
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
A splash of extra virgin olive oil, plus 1/2 cup
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (Feel free to use white beans, cannellini beans or edamame)
4 ounces salami, cut into matchsticks or diced prosciutto (or any other cured meat of your choice. (note: leave out if you want to omit meat)
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pepperoncini (optional if you don’t want the heat. Also feel free to use diced red sweet peppers instead)
6 ounces fontina, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (feel free to use another type of hard cheese that you have in your refrigerator such as aged cheddar, parmesan, feta, cotija, manchego, asiago, romano, or grana padano, etc )
2 cups coarsely chopped arugula or spinach
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
8 sprigs of thyme, stemmed (kay to use dry thyme if that’s what you have in the pantry)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
In a small bowl, combine the onion, vinegar, and lemon juice and let marinate while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander, place in a large bowl, and add a splash of olive oil to stop it from sticking together.

Add the chickpeas, salami, pepperoncini, fontina, arugula and/or spinach, and parsley to the pasta and toss to combine.

Whisk the 1/2 cup olive oil, honey, mustard, thyme, and salt into the onion-vinegar mixture and season with pepper. Pour over the pasta and toss to combine.

Serve the pasta on a platter and season with some fresh ground pepper. Feel free to add chili flakes if you want an additional kick of spice.

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with NED” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances 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 pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

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