Assembled Ingredients: Organic pasta (1 package), sun-dried tomatoes (1/2 cup), garbanzo beans (1 can), baby carrots (1 cup), baby spinach (2 cups), mozzarella (6 pieces), cucumber (1/3 of full size) & your favorite Italian dressing! As you can probably tell, everything but the salad dressing was purchased at Trader Joe's.
Cook pasta as per package directions. I like using this tri-colored veggie pasta for it's color, but feel free to substitute for any bite sized pasta of your choice.
While the pasta is cooking, prep the other ingredients. I like to chop everything to roughly the same size pieces. I love the way the different colors look all lined up together waiting to be added together. Feel free to experiment with quantities of ingredients to get the blend of pasta & toppings that you prefer.
Rinse & drain pasta repeatedly until it becomes cool to touch, then transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Add 1 can of organic garbanzo beans (rinsed & drained to remove excess sodium)
Add prepped toppings (not pictured 2 cups of baby spinach added after this step).
Add salad dressing to taste. Personally, I try to use as little as possible and extend the flavor by adding in 1/2 a fresh squeezed lemon, 1 tsp of crushed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes & Cholula (my favorite hot sauce of choice!) Mix everything together and you're done!
From start to finish this dish should take 15-20 minutes in total making it a great healthy "quick" meal fallback recipe that I keep in my arsenal. This is a great dish to make for BBQs or Potlucks, or keep it in the fridge and you have a healthy lunch to bring to work! I love how easy it is to incorporate several servings of different types of vegetables ensuring that your body gets a wide sampling of different nutrients. You can easily tailor this salad to your current dietary needs/goals without committing yourself to being stuck in the kitchen for hours on end.
As you can imagine the permutations for this recipe are pretty much endless, here are a few suggestions that I came up with:
Swap mozarella for avocado to make a vegan version of this pasta salad.
Add grilled chicken or tuna for the lean meat lovers out there (tofu or meat substitutes to keep it vegetarian friendly).
Swap quinoa for pasta to make a protein packed power salad, you could even add in hard boiled eggs whites to amp it up further.
Grill zucchini, squash, carrots & eggplant with some extra virgin olive oil for a rustic summer flavor.