Pasta salad is loaded with nutrient-rich vegetables
It’s pasta salad season, and a recent trip to the farmers market helped determine the ingredients in today’s recipe.
Let’s start with the tomatoes. Rich in vitamins A and C, along with iron, potassium and fiber, tomatoes are a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Today’s recipe calls for grape tomatoes, but any variety will do. Just chop larger tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Popular Michigan-grown tomatoes include beefsteak, Big Boy, yellow pear and Roma (also known as plum).
Bell peppers are often referred to as sweet peppers because they lack the spiciness of hot peppers such as jalapenos or serranos. We opted for red bell peppers, but use whichever color you prefer. Though the nutrient profile of peppers varies based on their color, all bell peppers are packed with vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body make collagen, which keeps bone, muscle and other tissues in place. Collagen is also needed for healthy-looking skin.
When chopping cucumbers for today’s salad, leave on the skin as it’s a surprisingly good source of lutein, a beneficial phytonutrient best known for maintaining eye health. At your farmers market, look for cucumbers that are firm and rounded on the ends. The skin should be deep, rich green in color, not pale or yellow.
Spinach wasn’t available the day I visited my farmers market, but I added a couple of cups to this salad. I prefer baby spinach for its delicate, tender leaves and milder, less bitter flavor. Spinach is an exceptionally rich source of three carotenoids: beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. All three of these nutrients support eye health.
The best thing about today’s pasta salad is that any vegetables will do. Select those that look the freshest and best fit your budget. I found using about five cups of fresh vegetables in today’s salad was the perfect amount given the quantity of pasta and dressing.
Darlene Zimmerman is a registered dietitian in Henry Ford Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute. For questions about today’s recipe, call 313-972-1920.
Farmers Market Pasta Salad
Serves: 8 (about ⅔ cup per serving) / Prep time: 10 minutes / Total time: 20 minutes
1 ½ cups dry orecchiette pasta
3 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh minced basil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup diced red onion
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt if called for. Drain pasta and rinse under very cold water; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, basil, sugar, garlic, oregano, salt and black pepper; set aside. In a large bowl, combine pasta, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and onion. Pour dressing over pasta mixture and gently stir to combine ingredients. Chill at least 2 hours before serving, allowing flavors to blend.
Created and tested by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD for Heart Smart®, Henry Ford Health System
111 calories (32% from fat), 4 grams fat (1 gram sat. fat, 0 grams trans fat), 19 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 136 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 mg calcium, 2 grams fiber. Food exchanges: 1 starch, 1 fat.
Support local journalism and become a digital subscriber to the Free Press.