Easy Summer Pasta Salad Recipe. This is loaded with summer produce and an incredible parsley dressing with NO MAYO for a light and healthy plant based meal. Perfect for meal prep, pot-luck, picnics, lunch or dinner.
Ever since I started making this Green Tahini Sauce, we have been using it on EVERYTHING. It’s a game changer to whipping up easy and tasty meals, snacks and salads. It is also the perfect answer to pasta salad when you don’t want to use mayonnaise.
This easy pasta salad recipe is light and tasty. Full of everything you crave in the summer. Fresh meals that are delicious don’t have to take a long time to make. A simple pasta salad doesn’t have to be complicated. I used some of my favorite summer staples, but you could easily change out the veggies for other times of the year.
Pasta Salad: What’s in it?
- Pasta: choose a variety that meets YOUR nutritional requirements. I love the Jovial (not sponsored) brand of rice pasta. Make sure you check in frequently when cooking. Less is more. Especially with gluten-free pasta, it can get gummy/mushy easily. I like to cook mine about 2 minutes shy of what’s instructed on the package.
- Veggies: choose what’s in season and that YOU like. I wanted to keep this EASY, so I didn’t include cooked veggies. However, you could also include roasted or steamed heartier veggies (broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts or cabbage would work well).
- DRESSING: No need to weigh this down with mayo when you can dress this with a delicious green tahini sauce that is loaded with fresh parsley for a light and tasty, creamy dairy-free dressing.
- COLOR: Eat the rainbow! It’s where the best variety of nutrients can be found. Super important to maintain a diverse gut bacteria climate. Think: purple cabbage, roasted sweet potatoes, sliced bell peppers, corn/
- CRUNCH: I love to add nuts or seeds to my pasta salad because they add crunch….and also some added protein and healthy fats.
- PROTEIN: If you’re serving this as a plant based meal, make sure there are protein sources. I’ve included beans, seeds, peas and spinach for that reason.
- FIBER: Veggies and beans are rich in fiber, which helps keep your digestive system on track. Fiber also helps us feel full and satisfied.
- BALANCE: It’s so important to balance out the carbs from the pasta with adequate protein, fiber and healthy fats. This recipe is in balance to help avoid spikes in blood sugar.
How to make this light and healthy meal:
- Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta. Stir frequently and start to test for doneness at least 2 minutes before suggested time. You’ll want your pasta al dente in this recipe.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the dressing. I promise this takes just 5 minutes in your food processor. Plus, you may not need it all: bonus already prepped salad dressing in your fridge!
- Stir the pasta again and get your veggies ready. Slice the shallot. If you don’t have one, you can sub in purple onions, scallions or chives. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Rinse and drain the chickpeas and green peas.
- When the pasta is done, save about 1/2 cup cooking liquid before draining. DO NOT RINSE THE PASTA.
- Grab a large bowl. Dump the drained pasta into the bowl. Add in the spinach, peas, tomatoes, chick peas, shallots and sunflower seeds. Pour on 1 cup dressing and mix well.
- If you find the sauce is too thick for thorough mixing, add in some of the pasta water a couple Tablespoons at a time, as needed.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper as needed. You know, I like my spice, so I add a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to mine.
That’s it. Imagine coming home to a container of this in your fridge. So good, you’ll want to make this easy summer pasta salad over and over. It will be ready in no time, so you can get back to enjoying life.
More fun ideas for summer:
- Grilled Veggie Kabobs
- Ratatouille. Because I know you have an abundance of eggplant and zucchini!
- Israeli Corn + Pickle Salad
- Simple Gazpacho
- Peanut Butter Cookies. (really, do they HAVE a season?)
- Veggie Burgers
- 12 oz. dried pasta*
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 bag (10-oz) frozen peas (1 1/2 cups), defrosted
- 1 can (15.5 oz) chick peas (1 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds*
- 1 small shallot*, sliced thin (1/4 cup)
- 1 cup green tahini sauce*
Green Tahini Sauce Ingredients
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1 cup packed fresh parsley, thick stems removed
- 1/4 cup olive oil (yes, you can sub water)
- 2 jalapenos
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Make Green Tahini Sauce. You can do this up to 5 days in advance. The easy recipe can be found here and made in just 5 minutes. Put all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.
- Bring 3 quarts water to a rolling boil. Stir in pasta. Cooking on high heat, stirring frequently. DO . NOT OVERCOOK PASTA!! Test for doneness a couple minutes BEFORE directed on the package. I use GF rice pasta. The package said to cook for 12 minutes. I found 10 minutes to be the perfect amount of time so the pasta wasn't mushy/gummy and still had a bit of bite to it. DO NOT RINSE PASTA after it's cooked.
- While pasta is cooking, prepare remaining ingredients. Thinly slice shallot and halve the tomatoes. Make the dressing if you haven't already.
- Before draining pasta, set aside 1/2 cup cooking water. Then drain, but do not rinse.
- Combine pasta, sauce, spinach, peas, chick peas, sunflower seeds and shallots. Mix well. It's OK if the spinach gets a bit wilted. If sauce is too thick to distribute evenly, add set aside pasta water 1-2 Tablespoons at a time.
- Serve warm or room temp. Pasta salad will stay good in the fridge for up to 5 days. Bring to room temp before eating for best taste.
PASTA: I used Jovial Brand Fusilli GF Rice Pasta. It cooked up perfectly in 10 minutes.
SUNFLOWER SEEDS: I toasted mine in a dry skillet, shaking the pan frequently for 3-4 minutes. You could also use any other nut or seed, raw or roasted.
SHALLOT: Good substitutes include: purple onion, spring onions, scallions or chives. Stick to 1/4 cup and slice thin or dice small.
GARNISH with additional crushed red pepper, chopped parsley or other fresh herbs, or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.
OPTIONAL: grilled corn, edamame, chopped bell peppers....steamed asparagus or green beans....any veggies you like would make great additions to this tasty salad. If you're making this in the winter, add assorted roasted veggies!
Serving Size1.5 cups
Amount Per Serving Calories 446Total Fat 27gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 22gCholesterol 0mgSodium 668mgCarbohydrates 35gFiber 8gSugar 6gProtein 16g
The nutrition calculations were done using online tools. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients you used. You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information is accurate, complete and useful.