When most persons think healthy, they think of salads loaded with piles of greens and a few croutons to break the monotony. That doesn't have to be. Make your salad not the run of the mill with a pasta salad. And not just any ol' pasta salad. Turning your salad up a notch doesn't have to be hard. Here is how.
Turning out a far better pasta salad isn't particularly difficult. And the results are so worth the (very little) extra effort.
For our improved pasta salad, we kept the Italian inspiration, but ditched the bottle of salad dressing. Instead, we borrowed the flavours and ingredients of a classic Florentine pasta - spinach, Parmesan and tomatoes - and repackaged them in a cool, refreshing salad.
There's no mayonnaise in this pasta salad. The cloying sweetness wouldn't' sit right with the other ingredients. Instead, we went with the savoury, smooth flavour of whole-milk ricotta cheese, which complements the peppery bite of the fresh basil and the tang of the balsamic glaze.
Florentine Pasta Salad
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 pound fresh small pasta
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
16-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
(1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta, then spread on a rimmed baking sheet. While tossing lightly, sprinkle the pasta with just enough olive oil to prevent from sticking. Set aside to cool.
(2) Meanwhile, in a food processor combine the ricotta, garlic and basil. Process until the basil is well chopped and the ricotta is smooth. Season with a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper.
(3)Drain the spinach in a mesh strainer, pressing to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta mixture, spinach and cooled pasta. Spoon into a serving dish and top with the tomatoes and Parmesan. Drizzle with balsamic glaze.
Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories; 60 calories from fat (21 per cent of total calories); 7 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 240 mg sodium; 39 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 13 g protein