Despite my love for outdoor dining, I shy away from the large-batch pasta salads that seem to always be part of the menu. I love the idea of a cold pasta salad, but they’re usually drenched in mayonnaise, and I just…can’t do mayonnaise. I don’t know if it’s because it includes raw eggs, or because of the strange jiggly consistency, or maybe a little bit of both (definitely a little bit of both…), but I avoid it at all costs.
I know many people dislike mayonnaise, but I’m particularly annoying about it. At work lunches I’ve been known to scrape off the inner-most layer of bread from my sandwich and remove any and all pieces of sandwich filling that have been in contact with the white stuff. This usually means that I end up eating bread crusts and a single cucumber for lunch. Worth it.
For my high school graduation party my poor mom had to call caterer after caterer in search of mayo AND meat-free pasta salad options. This reminds me that I probably owe her a 9-year-late apology. Whups.
Despite the fact that most pasta salads fall on the do-not-touch list because of mayonnaise (or “aioli” if we’re being fancy), I’m often tempted. I like carbs, I like creamy things, I like eating outside, and pasta salad usually involves all those things. Clearly the conclusion here is that I need to just make my own and stop whining.
sun-dried tomatoes, basil, garlic, tomato paste, Greek yogurt and olive oil blend together to create a thick, creamy, mayo-free sauce that clings the whole wheat shells. The pasta and sauce would be great on their own, but I added some Great Northern beans for protein and texture, red cabbage and onion for some crunch and color, feta for a bit of tang, and some tomatoes to complement the sun-dried tomato dressing. Even if you like those mayo-based salads, you need to give this simple and healthy version a try.
- 1 package whole wheat shells (or pasta of choice)
- 1 large beefsteak tomatoes, diced (if you only have small tomatoes use 2 or 3)
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 cups sliced red cabbage
- 1 15-ounce can great northern beans
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- Sun-dried tomato dressing, recipe follows
- Basil for garnish
- ½ cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (if they are packed in oil then give them a good rinse)
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup - 1½ cups Greek yogurt (depending on desired level of creaminess)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ⅛-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- In a food processor, pulse together the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and basil until mostly smooth. Add the Greek yogurt, salt and pepper, and cayenne, and pulse until it's incorporated with the sun-dried tomatoes and spices. Slowly add the olive oil while the processor is running.
- In a large bowl, combine the pasta, veggies, beans, feta, and dressing. Stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Top each serving with some fresh basil leaves for garnish.
- Optional: drizzle with hot sauce for some extra kick!
A fresh, flavorful and super healthy pasta salad completely void of the jiggly ingredients? Done. Summer picnics here I come!