The new pasta salad

Pasta salads are in all of our repertoires. We all love them and we all make them just a little different. Traditional recipes though, are often high in calories and at the same time skimp on the good stuff like veggies and proteins.

The new thinking on pasta salads has a five step approach:
1. Pick a pasta. Use whole-wheat pasta and add 2 grams of fiber or use regular shells, elbows, fusilli or bowties.

2. Load up on veggies. Choose a variety of lettuces or spinach, add artichoke hearts, broccoli, melon, mushrooms, onion, peas, peppers, tomatoes or zucchini.

3. Add lean protein. Protein helps a salad become more satisfying. Add 1 to 2 cups of hard-boiled egg, cooked chicken or ham, canned-rinsed beans or chunk-light tuna.

4. Boost flavor. 1/2 to 1 cup of small chopped capers, cheese, olives, pepperoncini, prosciutto, salami or sun-dried tomatoes.
5. Dress it. Skip high calorie dressings and use lighter version made with low-fat mayonnaise or buttermilk. Or try a vinaigrette made with olive oil and herbs.

Combos recommended by Eating Well magazine include: To four cups cooked pasta add:

Antipasti Pasta salad
2 cups sliced fennel, 1 cup diced bell pepper, 1 cup quartered artichoke hearts, 1 cup cannellini beans, 1/2 cup cubed salami, 5 Tablespoons shredded provolone, 3 Tablespoons chopped pepperoncinis. Choose a dressing and use fresh marjoram.

Melon and Chicken Pasta Salad
2 cups cubed cantaloupe or honeydew, 2 cups thinly sliced baby spinach, 2 cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto. Add a low-fat dressing and top with fresh tarragon.

Peas and Ham Pasta Salad
2 cups sliced button mushrooms, 1 3/4 cup frozen peas (thawed), 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion, 1 cup diced ham and 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese. Add a dressing and top with fresh dill.

Broccoli and Feta Pasta Salad
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes and 2 cups chopped broccoli, 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed, 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Add a dressing and top with fresh oregano.
Source: Eating Well Magazine.

Susan Woody has been a food writer for more than 20 years and is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.

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