I know, I know, there are a TON of pasta salad recipes floating around that all seem exactly the same. Some are loaded with mayo and peas (yuck) others are swimming in a vinaigrette with more peas. In all seriousness I don’t get the peas thing other than “It’s Spring!”. Let’s start with the fact that the average home cook isn’t sitting at home shelling peas to get their true fresh flavor. They are buying them frozen. Then, if you were at home shelling spring peas, the last place you are going to put them in is a layered pasta salad with other veggies and dressing. Kinda takes away from the delicate flavor of them.
Besides the obvious “I’m not throwing peas in this pasta salad”, what am I doing different than everyone else? We can begin with grilling the veggies by adding just a bit of olive oil and salt. Grill them just long enough to get that charred flavor to them because we don’t want soggy veggies!. I like doing things like that because it adds a second level of flavor which allows you to cut back on fats while still adding loads of flavor. The second thing is adding fresh herbs. I’m always amazed when I see fresh, healthy and seasonal foods that don’t have any fresh herbs added to them.
The third thing I did to add more flavor with less fat was by adding the lemon zest into my dressing. The zest of citrus fruits are much more intense than just the juice. (Remember that)
I added some feta cheese because it’s got such a wonderful salty/briny taste to it. Feta really makes it pop and takes reminds me of the mediterranean. It’s also one of those ingredients that allows you to add other ingredients you enjoy like olives, capers or roasted red bell peppers.
Think of this healthy pasta salad recipe as a “start” and you can really do whatever you want with it!
Side note: This salad only holds for 3 days.
Grilled Spring Veggie Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces penne pasta
- 1 bundle of thick asparagus
- 2 small'ish zucchinis
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs like basil, oregano, chives and tarragon
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, minced or 1/4 cup of minced onion
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Kosher salt
- Get the grill going to high.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt and then add in the pasta. Cook to al dente, which should be 8-10 minutes.
- Prepare the veggies by cutting of the ends of the asparagus and quartering the zucchini. Toss with some olive oil, salt and throw on the grill. This should take 5-7 minutes at top.
- So, while the veggies are grilling and pasta is boiling, make the dressing combining the lemon juice, zest, shallots, garlic, mustard and honey. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until incorporated. Season with a pinch of salt and taste.
- Ok, so the pasta should be pretty much done. Taste one and see. Drain if ready.
- Head on outside and check on the veggies. The asparagus are probably done and should be pulled. Flip the zucchinis and grill for a for a couple more minutes and then pull.
- Once the veggies are cool enough to handle, cut the asparagus in 3's and the zucchini in bite size pieces. Cut the tomatoes in half.
- Mix in all the veggies, pasta, feta, herbs and dressing. Season with some salt and mix again. Taste. Adjust seasonings by adding more herbs if you like, maybe lemon juice or feta.
- If you have time. Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Egg Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Soy Free, Fish Free, Shellfish Free, Pork Free, Red Meat Free, Alcohol Free, Kosher