A simple pasta salad made with fresh vegetables is a satisfying meal. This is great for a full lunch, dinner or a side dish. It serves 4 lunch sized portions or 2 large portions as a full meal.
The simple lemon dressing provides a lovely citrus flavour to this salad. I’ve gone pretty light with the olive oil in the dressing, since oil adds a lot of additional calories, but you can add a little extra oil for a little richer flavour.
A Higher Protein Pasta Salad
Red lentil pasta is higher in protein than regular pasta, since red lentils are higher in protein than wheat.
Legumes such as red lentils are an excellent source of plant based protein. Adding more legumes to this salad in the form of chickpeas, makes this salad a relatively high protein meal, with around 22% of the calories coming from protein.
- 250g red lentil pasta
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1/2 a cucumber
- 10 pitted green olives
- 1 tin of chickpeas
- 15 cherry tomatoes
- A bunch of fresh basil
- Pine nuts
- Olive oil
- A lemon
- 1 tsp thyme
- Dijon mustard
- A little salt and pepper
How to make the red lentil pasta salad:
The red lentil pasta salad is very easy to make.
You start by cooking the red lentil pasta according to the packet instructions. It usually takes 8 to 10 minutes to cook.
While the pasta is cooking you can prepare the vegetables. Peel the cucumber and de-seed to bell pepper first, then chop into small pieces. Then cut the pitted olives and tomatoes into quarters. Chop the basil leaves into small pieces, keeping a few leaves aside to garnish the salad.
To toast the pine nuts, I think the easiest method is to toast them on a dry non-stick pan for a few minutes. You put the pan on the hob on a medium high heat and add the pine nuts. Give them a shake every minute or two to avoid them sticking or burning in any one place.
You can also toast them in the oven but this takes longer.
Once the pine nuts start to brown you can remove them from the heat. I recommend removing them from the pan at this point, since they can continue to cook on the hot pan even after the pan is removed from the heat.
Making the lemon mustard dressing:
The dressing is nice and easy to make. Just add the mustard, and olive oil into a cup and squeeze in the juice from the lemon. Add the dried thyme along with a little salt and pepper, and whisk everything together with a fork until the dressing is fully mixed together.
Putting everything together:
Once the pasta is cooked, you drain and place in a big salad bowl. Drain and add the chickpeas along with the chopped bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, olives and basil.
Add the dressing and sprinkle over the pine nuts. Mix everything together and garnish with a few basil leaves. Grab a few bowls to serve and tuck in.
There are lots of variations you can make to this salad recipe
Change the pasta type
You can also use regular pasta for this salad. If you wish to avoid wheat there are other pastas you can try such as those made out of chickpeas, brown rice, quino or chickpeas.
Mix up the veg:
Options are endless here. This salad is also great with some shaved carrots or some broccoli. I recommend blanching the broccoli first for two minutes but it’s also great raw. You can also add some finely chopped red onions or chives, or whatever other vegetables you like.
Adding some fresh greens such as arugula (rocket) or spinach also works really nicely, and increases the nutrition bang for your buck (or fork)
Change the herbs:
Adding some fresh parsley adds another dimension to the salad. A few mint leaves is another nice option.