Zesty Italian Pasta Salad


You will be delighted with the flavors of this Italian-style pasta salad. 




For increased nutrition, we added a little red lentil pasta (whose sole ingredient is healthy protein- rich red lentils). If you are only used to white pasta, this might be a bigger step than you want to take, but the whole wheat rotini is delicious and contributes fiber and nutrients that you don’t get with white.  When used in cold dishes, both the red lentil and whole-grain pastas need to be cooked post al dente as the package instructions often don’t have you cook them long enough to give the right texture.  I usually taste a piece (carefully — run under cold water) and add a minute or two  if the texture needs it.




Zesty Italian Pasta Salad

Yield – 12 (2/3 cup) servings    
Cooking Time – 11-12 minutes
Prep Time – 25-30 minutes      
Total Time – 35-40 minutes




1/2 cup liquid from the can of garbanzos

1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice                                     

4 tsp agave syrup or neutral-flavored liquid sweetener of choice, such as honey

1 1/2 tbsp  chia seeds,  preferably white — we used black in the photo

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp onion powder, oregano & sweet basil

1/2 tsp garlic powder, paprika & dried parsley flakes

1/4 tsp dried dill


SALAD INGREDIENTS:                                                       

3 cups whole-wheat rotini                                                            

2 cups broccoli, tiny florets                                                          

1 cup fresh mushrooms*, halved and sliced                            

1 cup garbanzos

1/3-1/2 cup red onion, quartered and sliced

1/2 cup sweet red pepper, quartered and sliced

3/4 cup black olives, halved

15 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup pine nuts (optional)

chopped fresh parsley for garnish, opt.

  1. For the dressing, combine the garbanzo liquid, lemon juice, sweetener, chia seeds, salt, onion and garlic powder in a blender, running on high until seeds are well blended.
  2. Add the remaining seasonings and blend on medium to lightly break down the additional herbs, but not liquefy them.  Chill.
  3. Put whole-wheat pasta into boiling water and boil for exactly 11 minutes.  When using whole-grain and lentil pastas cold, it is essential that they are well cooked in order to have the same nice mouth feel of white pastas.  Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
  4. Combine all recipe ingredients except tomatoes; continue folding together until no dressing is laying in the bottom of the bowl.  Chill and stir again just before serving, add the tomatoes at this time.   If you desire, garnish with chopped parsley.


*It is not safe to eat fresh mushrooms, so I sauté them for a brief minute, but not until they are limp!

The flavor of this salad improves as it stands, so it can be made several hours in advance, just be sure not to add the tomatoes until you are ready to serve.