Jun 4
2012

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad Recipe with Beans, Capers & Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad Recipe with Beans, Capers & Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

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:
– broccoli
– blanched green beans
– steamed asparagus
– red bell peppers, raw or roasted
– grilled or lightly sauteed zucchini, yellow squash or eggplant
– spinach

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

Or add:
– 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!

The recipe:

The dressing:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, balsamic vinegar, garlic, agave nectar (you can subsitute honey, if you prefer), salt and pepper.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad Recipe with Beans, Capers & Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

While whisking the dressing constantly, slowly pour in the olive oil until the mixture is combined.

The salad:
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad Recipe with Beans, Capers & Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cannellini beans and capers.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad Recipe with Beans, Capers & Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

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.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad Recipe with Beans, Capers & Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

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

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad Recipe with Beans, Capers & Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

Yield: Serves 6

From the kitchen of Cookin Canuck. www.cookincanuck.com

Ingredients

    The dressing:
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp agave nectar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • The salad:
  • 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

Instructions

    The dressing:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, balsamic vinegar, garlic, agave nectar, salt and pepper.
  2. While whisking the dressing constantly, slowly pour in the olive oil until the mixture is combined.
  3. The salad:
  4. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cannellini beans and capers.
  6. Pour in two-thirds of the dressing and mix well with the pasta salad. Taste and add more dressing, if desired.
  7. Gently stir in basil. Add additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve.

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar June 4, 2012 at 5:27 am

This sounds super tasty! Love this for summer :)

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2 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Thanks, Katrina. I have a feeling it will become a regular in our house.

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3 Barbara @ Barbara Bakes June 4, 2012 at 5:41 am

What a great way to lighten up pasta salad.

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4 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Thanks, Barbara. I love that we can eat this pasta salad without any guilt.

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5 Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef June 4, 2012 at 6:30 am

Gosh this sounds good. I love pasta salad and my husband hates mayo. Let’s see what he thinks of this one! I suspect it will be a winner.

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6 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

It sounds like your husband and my husband have the same taste buds. This yogurt balsamic dressing a great substitute for mayo-based dressings.

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7 Lori @ RecipeGirl June 4, 2012 at 6:45 am

I can see this being a great, summer potluck salad!

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8 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Absolutely, Lori! It would be the perfect accompaniment for any backyard bbq meal.

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9 Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch June 4, 2012 at 7:12 am

This looks amazing, Dara. I can’t wait to try it. All that flavor!

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10 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Thanks, Robyn. It has a great mixture of tastes and textures.

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11 Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables June 4, 2012 at 7:13 am

this dressing looks delicious Dara!

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12 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Thanks, Emilie. It’s a great substitute for higher-fat dressings.

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13 Maria June 4, 2012 at 7:26 am

Perfect pasta salad for summer!

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14 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Thanks, Maria. I know we’ll be eating this a lot over the summer.

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15 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) June 4, 2012 at 8:58 am

Yogurt and balsamic is a dressing I’ve been using more and more, on all kinds of salads. Love the variations you’ve suggested. Thanks, too, for linking to my Greek salad recipe (it’s a favorite!).

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16 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I can see why it’s a favorite. I’m looking forward to trying your recipe!

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17 Laura (Tutti Dolci) June 4, 2012 at 9:21 am

Love this as an alternative to the ubiquitous mayo-laden version. Must try the balsamic yogurt dressing!

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18 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Thanks, Laura! My husband is happy to give up the mayo-laden versions, too.

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19 Julia {The Roasted Root} June 4, 2012 at 9:41 am

The yogurt instead of mayo makes my heart soar…I’m so not a mayo person and so am a yogurt person! Great recipe, looks like there’s tons of flavor in this great summer pasta salad!

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20 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Thanks, Julia. I hope you get a chance to try it!

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21 Jennifer June 4, 2012 at 9:54 am

I love pasta salad! And I love the way you’ve modified the dressing.

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22 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Thanks, Jennifer. I adore pasta salad, too. I’d be quite happy to eat it at every summer barbecue.

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23 Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray June 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

I love the idea of subbing Greek yogurt for the mayo here! I’m not a mayo fan at all, and this definitely makes a creamy pasta salad much more palatable to me. This might wind up being a dinner in itself! :)

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24 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm

The dressing is a great substitute for mayo on many kinds of salads.

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25 Stephanie June 4, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Using the Greek yogurt to substitute it for mayonnaise is a brilliant idea! I’ll have to try this. Thank you!

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26 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) June 4, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Thanks, Stephanie! I’m just sorry it took me this long to figure it out.

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27 Laurie @SimplyScratch June 5, 2012 at 8:31 am

Yum! I love how light this salad is! Totally a perfect salad to bring for a bbq!~

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28 Bev @ Bev Cooks June 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

This looks increds. I gotsta make it.

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29 Kristen June 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm

First of all, these pics are gorgeous. Secondly, I love all the variations on this salad. What a great recipe!

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30 Becky at VintageMixer June 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I need to eat more capers! Great recipe and thanks for the inspiration :)

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31 Tickled Red June 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Girl I just love this salad! It has all of the ingredients that I love most, especially Greek yogurt. I use that for everything that calls for mayo.

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32 susan of food blogga June 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm

We were a strict no-mayo family, so this recipe appeals to me. Love all the variations too!

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33 Madison @ Espresso and Cream June 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I love the adaptability of this recipe! And I love the fact that there isn’t any mayo involved. My husband doesn’t mind mayo, but I can’t stand it!

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34 Kitty June 8, 2012 at 10:24 am

I made the yogurt dressing for my regular green salad. Love it!!!

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