Every summer as a kid, I looked forward to my mum’s pasta salad. It was dressed with mayonnaise, tossed with salmon or chicken (though this version is vegetarian) and, best of all, loaded with briny capers. My husband is not a mayo eater, so if I wanted to feed my family a version of my mum’s salad, I needed to find an alternative way to add that “creamy” factor. That’s where the yogurt comes in…plain, fat-free Greek yogurt, to be exact. When whisked with balsamic vinegar, garlic, agave nectar and just 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the yogurt turns into a creamy, low-fat vinaigrette that is brightened by the addition of fresh basil.
The variations for this pasta salad are endless. I chose to add sweet grape tomatoes, protein-rich cannellini beans and crisp romaine lettuce. However, you could take this in a completely different direction. Here are a few ideas:
Instead of cannellini beans, add:
– cooked, cubed chicken breast
– grilled salmon
– grilled, sauteed or baked pork tenderloin, chopped
Instead of tomatoes and romaine lettuce, add:
– blanched green beans
– steamed asparagus
– red bell peppers, raw or roasted
– grilled or lightly sauteed zucchini, yellow squash or eggplant
Instead of capers, add:
– kalamata olives
– green olives
Or go in a different direction and add:
– sunflower seeds
– pine nuts
– slivered or sliced almonds
– hemp seeds
– dried cherries
– dried cranberries
– feta cheese
– myzithra cheese
– goat cheese
The dressing is so versatile that it can support a range of flavors and textures. If the choice was up to me, however, I’d add an extra 1/4 cup of capers when no one was looking. Heaven!
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, balsamic vinegar, garlic, agave nectar (you can subsitute honey, if you prefer), salt and pepper.
While whisking the dressing constantly, slowly pour in the olive oil until the mixture is combined.
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cannellini beans and capers.
Pour in two-thirds of the dressing and mix well with the pasta salad. Taste and add more dressing, if desired.
Gently stir in basil. Add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve.
Other vegetarian pasta salad recipes:
Cookin’ Canuck’s Israeli Couscous with Grilled Summer Vegetables
The Perfect Pantry’s Greek Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Edible Perspective’s Lemon Dill Pasta Salad
Grown to Cook’s Pasta Salad with Cauliflower, Broccoli & Mustard Vinaigrette
- ½ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¾ tsp agave nectar
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 13 oz. box whole wheat conghlie or rotini pasta
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 2 cups bite-sized pieces romaine lettuce
- 1 (14 oz.) can cannellini beans (I prefer Bush's)
- 3 tbsp capers, drained
- 10 large leaves basil, thinly sliced
- Salt & pepper to taste
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, balsamic vinegar, garlic, agave nectar, salt and pepper.
- While whisking the dressing constantly, slowly pour in the olive oil until the mixture is combined.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cannellini beans and capers.
- Pour in two-thirds of the dressing and mix well with the pasta salad. Taste and add more dressing, if desired.
- Gently stir in basil. Add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve.