Memorial Day is right around the corner, making it the perfect time to start planning a cookout staple: pasta salad. Traditional pasta salad made with mayonnaise and white pasta is heavy and high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates. But it’s actually an easy dish to lighten up — in calories and taste — with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Making the pasta whole wheat also adds fiber, which is known to reduce cancer risk and keep you full for longer.
The vibrant colorful ingredients make this Spring Pasta Salad pop and the flavor improves as it sits. You can store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and use for leftover lunches or dinners. It is hearty enough to be served as a main, but also pairs well with grilled shrimp or salmon.
This pasta salad includes some springtime favorites of mine: asparagus and fava beans. Fava beans were new to me until relatively recently – they have a nice green color with a slightly nutty flavor and subtle crunch. They are also rich in protein, folate and cancer –protective fiber. If you have trouble finding them in supermarkets, you can buy frozen ones or substitute in edamame in this recipe.
Cooking fresh fava beans require an extra preparation step. They need to be shelled from their pods, boiled and then each individual bean has to be removed from the harder outer skin. The bit of extra effort is well worth the additional flavor, color and nutrients these beans add to a dish.
When boiling the asparagus, you can add the shelled fava beans to the same pot for the last minute of cooking. The beans and asparagus are drained and immediately plunged into ice water to stop the cooking process. The tough outer skins from the fava beans can be easily removed by pinching the bean between your thumb and forefinger.
This pasta salad is made with heart-healthy olive oil, white wine and fresh squeezed lemon to add flavor and coat the pasta shells in place of mayo used in traditional pasta salads. Cooking the red onions (you could also use spring onion or shallots) in the olive oil and white wine allows them to caramelize and turn slightly sweet.
Here’s the full recipe: Spring Pasta Salad.
What’s your favorite addition to pasta salad?
Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is the lead registered dietitian at Zesty, Inc. She is passionate about helping others improve their health through diet and physical activity and believes eating nutritious food should be easy and taste great. You can follow her on Twitter @SonjaGoedkoopRD.