In the summertime, I thoroughly enjoy a fresh and flavorful Italian-style pasta salad. I often eat it as an entrée rather than a side salad at lunchtime. And I don’t just enjoy eating pasta salad … I love making it. It provides an avenue in which to use leftover grilled, roasted, or raw veggie scraps—and the result is always slightly different to keep me (and everyone else) intrigued.
You can use any type of shaped pasta you prefer Since I had some whole-wheat penne on hand, I went with it for this recipe. And rather than cooking the pasta when I want a pasta salad, I tend to make the pasta in advance (and yes, I salt the cooking water), and chill it so it’s ready to go anytime.
Here’s what I do to chill it: After cooking the pasta, I drain it, then toss the drained pasta with a few ice cubes to cool it. There’s no need to run a constant stream of cold water over the pasta to cool. That’s just a waste of water—and it can make the pasta taste a bit water-logged. I store the cooked pasta in the fridge for up to three days—usually tossed with a tiny drizzle of oil to help prevent sticking. (By the way, I do the same thing with noodles, like brown rice udon noodles, for making Asian-style noodle salad, too.)
The last time I made a pasta salad, I decided to jot down what I did so I could share at least one of my newest versions with you. This is it! You can use a bottled organic Italian dressing, but I kept this one really “clean” and simple with olive oil, white wine vinegar, and sea salt. The highlight here … the basil-coated cashew cheese balls. I “cheat” and buy the cashew cheese, roll it into balls (which works best when it’s chilled), then I roll those balls in finely chopped fresh basil until fully coated. They add so much color and fun to this pasta salad. Then a crunch of pine nuts provides a perfect finish.
Hope you try it soon. Hint: It’s vegan—so it’s “Meatless Monday” friendly, too!
pasta salad with basil-coated cashew cheese balls
Yield: 2 servings
Serving size: 1¼ cups
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups cooked, cooled pasta of choice, such as whole-wheat penne
- 2/3 cup halved grape tomatoes (or veggies of choice)
- 2 ounces soft cashew cheese, such as Treeline herb-garlic treenut cheese
- 2 tablespoons packed finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts, pan-toasted
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and salt. Add the cooled pasta and grape tomatoes and toss to fully combine. Adjust seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- Roll the cashew cheese with clean hands into 8 balls. Then roll in the basil to coat. Arrange the basil-coated cashew cheese balls onto the pasta salad.
- Sprinkle with the pine nuts and any remaining chopped basil. Serve.
Per serving: 350 calories, 22g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 390mg sodium, 39g total carbohydrate, 6g dietary fiber, 2g total sugars includes 0g added sugars, 12g protein