Sunday, July 21, 2013

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad

I love colorful food!

 This is one of our favorite recipes.  

A perfect summer salad to have along with any picnic or BBQ, or it can be a meal on it's own with some garlic bread, corn on the cob and fresh fruit. 

My husband and I came up with this recipe by simply eliminating everything 
we didn't like about pasta salads.  The kinds of meat, the cheeses, vegetables....everything! As it turned out, whenever I took this salad to gatherings, the recipe was requested.  We are more than happy to share!

And guess what? Good news, it is simple to make gluten free, just pick any shape of gluten free pasta you like. I use either the brown rice spiral or a penne shape. Use any flavor of gluten free pasta you like as well, corn, brown rice, or quinoa, whatever you're in the mood for.

This salad is best if it can sit a few hours before serving so the flavors can enhance. Just before serving a little more dressing may need to be tossed in, or offer it at the table as an option.

The ingredients in this salad are not carved in stone. More or less of any of the ingredients listed is fine, or maybe you have other items you might like to add.  Anything goes!

I would make my daughter and I a separate salad that was gluten free and didn't have swiss cheese. A type of sheep cheese called, Halloumi cheese worked well for us when used occasionally.

Vegetarians omit chicken.

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad                    
1 16 oz pkg Veggie Spiral Pasta Wacky Mac (or a gluten free option)
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2-3 baked and cubed chicken breasts (Seasoned Chicken Breast work well in this salad)
1 red, yellow or orange pepper sliced
1 small red onion - finely chopped or very thinly sliced
8 oz swiss cheese, cubed
1 can sliced olives
Italian dressing of your choice. I use Kraft Zesty Italian or Wish-Bone House Italian. Wish-Bone Light Italian is fine too if you like. All three of these dressing options are gluten free.

Bake chicken breast unless using leftovers. (This salad is a great use of leftover chicken)
Prepare pasta according to directions. Don't overcook!! Mushy noodles are not appetizing in a pasta salad. Be sure to rinse noodles immediately in cold water after cooking.  Set aside in strainer to fully drain.

Meantime, prepare the rest of the salad. Place all ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Mix all ingredients well.  Toss in about 1/4 cup of dressing at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add dressing according to taste and "zestiness." I tend to add a fair amount, I like a flavorful salad. I might add 3/4 cup at first. Then after refrigerating before serving I might add another 1/4 cup or more. This is one of those "taste as you go" recipes -  until you get a feel for how you and your family like it. That's another reason why I offer more dressing at the table,  for personal preference. 


Weight watcher followers, I think it would be just about impossible to get accurate measurements from a salad like this. I would suggest measuring your noodles separately in a bowl, then adding whatever ingredients you would like. Maybe 3/4 cup pasta, 1 oz cheese, 2 oz chicken, 1/4 cup beans, onions and peppers and 2 Tbsp light dressing. Total it all up and there are your points for the salad.

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