Now that the weather is heating up, my mind is turning to warm weather dishes, like salads that can be made ahead and pulled out of the fridge as needed. I love having a salad or two ready and waiting in the fridge for a quick lunch or side dish at dinner.
I've been a pasta salad fan since Mom started making it with broken spaghetti, assorted vegetables and a package of Good Season's dressing, eons ago. The problem with a lot of pasta salads is that they can be loaded in fat, calories and Weight Watchers Points. Not a good thing, especially with swimsuit season fast approaching.
There was a great article on How to Make Healthier Pasta Salad in the June issue of EatingWell . It provided a basic healthy pasta salad template that could be used to mix-and-match ingredients in dozens of ways, along with several suggested flavor combinations.
I used it to make this Lighter Healthier Peas & Ham Pasta Salad I posted recently, which was a big hit.
Since good pasta salad is a personal favorite, I want to summarize the details here before I lose track of the article. (Am I the only one who has difficulty organizing and keeping track of their favorite recipes?)
If you like pasta salads, but not all the fat and calories, I hope you find these suggestions for making them lighter and healthier as helpful as I did.
Directions for Making Lighter Healthier Pasta Salads from EatingWell
- Use Whole Wheat Pasta. You'll want 4 cups cooked. The amount of dry to start with depends on the shape (2 cups elbows, 2-½ cups shells, 3 cups bowties or fusilli.) Cook and drain but don't rinse the pasta.
- Add a total of 4 cups of fresh vegetables/fruits, which adds interest and volume with minimal calories/points:
- Artichoke hearts
- Baby spinach
- Fennel bulb
- Add 1 to 2 cups lean protein to make the salad more satisfying. Use convenient proteins like canned beans or tuna or slamon, cooked ham or roasted chicken to keep things simple. Other proteins include:
- hard boiled eggs
- cooked chicken breast
- cooked ham
- chunk light tuna
- smoked salmon
- Boost the flavor with ½- to 1-cup salty ingredients such as:
- full flavored cheese
- sun-dried tomatoes
- Toss it with dressing using lighter versions made with low-fat mayonnaise or buttermilk or heart healthy vinaigrettes made with olive oil.
The following recipes—which make about ¾ cup dressing—should be enough for 8 cups of pasta salad.
Creamy Buttermilk Dressing
Mash 1 clove garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt into a paste. Whisk in ½ cup buttermilk, ¼ cup low fat mayonnaise, and 3-4 tablespoons fresh herbs (parsley, dill, basil, tarragon) and 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar.
Whisk ¼ cup each extra-virgin olive oil, reduced-sodium chicken broth and red wine vinegar in a bowl with 3-4 tablespoons fresh herbs and 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallts and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
*PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated WITHOUT each plan's ZeroPoint Foods (Green plan, Blue plan, Purple plan) using the WW Recipe Builder.
More Weight Watchers Friendly Pasta Salads
- Easy Italian Sub Pasta Salad (Simple Nourished Living)
- Pasta Salad with Blue Cheese and Arugula (Simple Nourished Living)
- Simple Healthy Satay Chicken Pasta Salad (Simple Nourished Living)
- Tomato, Basil and Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad (WeightWatchers)
- BLT Macaroni Salad (SkinnyTaste)
What's your favorite recipe for pasta salad?
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