Lots of mayo can easily turn a pasta salad into a 400 calorie or 500 calorie side dish. Here are some tips you can follow to make a healthy pasta salad.
A whole-wheat pasta salad is a great way to add whole grains and there are many brands on the market to choose from that actually taste good. Traditional pasta salads call for about two cups of pasta per person, without any dressing or add-ins. On its own, that’s 400 calories. And portions still matter, even when you’re using whole-grain pasta. Aim for about one-cup servings of cooked pasta.
Since pasta portions can quickly up the calories, it’s important add bulk to your dish by adding vegetables. Olives, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, scallions, cauliflower, grape tomatoes and cucumbers are great options, but there’s no limit to the amount of vegetables you can add.
Get flavor without adding calories by mixing in seasonal fresh herbs. Basil, mint and parsley all work well in a pasta salad. Herbs also contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, which helps make your pasta salad even healthier.
Cheese, corn and beans are several high-calorie ingredients typically found in pasta salads. If you do add cheese, sprinkle about one tablespoon per serving to add flavor. For corn or beans, two tablespoons per serving should be enough.
Many dressings drown a pasta salad in calories. You want just enough dressing to cover the ingredients, without totally saturating them. This also allows the flavors of the vegetables and fresh herbs to come though. There are also many ways to make a healthier dressing: Combine light mayonnaise with nonfat Greek yogurt to cut overall calories or use a vinaigrette dressing instead of mayonnaise. Whichever you choose, a good rule of thumb is to use two tablespoons of dressing per serving.
Farfalle Salad with Fennel, Prosciutto and Parmesan
- 8 oz farfalle pasta (bow ties)
- 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound), sliced as thin as possible
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 1/4 pound thin-sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
- 1/4-pound chunk Parmesan cheese, shaved
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 14 minutes. Drain.
In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, fennel, oil, lemon juice, salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Add the prosciutto and toss again.
Mound the salad on plates. Top with strips of Parmesan shaved from the chunk of cheese with a vegetable peeler.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper over the cheese.
Shrimp, Lemon and Gemelli Pasta Salad
- 1 lb gemelli or cavatappi pasta
- 1 lb large shrimp
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1/2 peeled cucumber, sliced
Heat a large covered saucepan of salted water to boiling. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than the label directs, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked. Drain well.
Grate 1 teaspoon peel from the lemon and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice into large bowl. Add oil, vinegar, dill, capers, mustard, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine.
Stir in tomatoes and cucumber.
Add pasta and shrimp to the large bowl; toss until well-coated. Serve warm or refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 day ahead.
Spaghetti with Pesto and Tomato-Mozzarella Salad
- 1 lb thin spaghetti
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1/2 teaspoon. salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 pints red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
Heat a large saucepan of salted water to boiling. Add spaghetti and cook as label directs for al dente.
Reserve 12 small basil leaves for garnish.
From the remaining basil, remove enough leaves to equal 2 cups firmly packed.
In a food processor, process basil leaves, garlic, 1/4 cup oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until pureed, stopping processor and scrape bowl occasionally.
Add Parmesan; pulse to combine. Set pesto aside.
In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper the with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently stir in mozzarella.
Drain spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup spaghetti of the cooking water. Return spaghetti and reserved cooking water to the saucepan; add pesto and toss well.
Spoon spaghetti mixture into the bowl with the tomato-mozzarella salad. Garnish with reserved basil leaves. Serve at room temperature.
Chicken and Penne Salad
- 2 cups penne (tube-shaped) pasta
- 2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans (about 1/2 pound)
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
- 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red bell pepper, drained and cut into thin strips
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cook pasta in boiling water 7 minutes. Add green beans; cook 4 minutes. Drain well.
Combine pasta, green beans, chicken, onion, basil, parsley and roasted peppers in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine.
Combine oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over pasta mixture; toss gently to coat. Chill.
Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad
- 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini (1 medium)
- 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped yellow summer squash(1 medium)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped red onion (1 large)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fennel bulb
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped green sweet pepper (1 medium)
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped red sweet pepper (1 medium)
- 1 small eggplant (about 10 ounces), coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 ounces dried whole wheat penne pasta
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup torn fresh basil
- 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- Ground black pepper
- Snipped fresh basil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a roasting pan combine zucchini, summer squash, onion, fennel, sweet peppers and eggplant. Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons oil; toss to coat. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring twice. Transfer to a very large bowl; cool.
Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and cool slightly.
Add the pasta to the roasted vegetables. Mix gently.
For the walnut pesto:
In a blender combine garlic, the 1 cup torn basil, the cheese and walnuts; cover and pulse with several on/off turns until chopped. With blender running, gradually add the 1/2 cup oil, the lemon juice and the 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Add the pesto to the pasta-vegetable mixture, stirring gently to coat. Stir in cherry tomatoes. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.
Serve at room temperature sprinkled with additional basil.