Perfectly roasted cauliflower, roasted red pepper, tons of fresh basil, mozzarella cheese all tossed together in a zippy Italian dressing. Vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad will be your new favorite pasta salad recipe!
If you happen to be the salad “bringer” this summer then you should definitely “bring” this fresh basil and roasted cauliflower pasta salad to your next party.
Since I returned from my trip I haven't done very much except work, cook, and catch up on schoolwork. Luckily my sister and nephew came to visit this past weekend which was a very welcome break from my routine!
I love when they are here, even though it reached 99° on Saturday! You guys, NYC in the heat is not so fun, but we found our rhythm. We spent more time indoors, took walks in the park when it was super early or the sun was about to set, and Erika and Jonah spent many hours at the Natural History Museum (Jonah's favorite place in NYC lately). In spite of the heat, I had to get outside a little bit so we ventured out to find every frozen treat possible within a 10 block radius.
I really wanted to take Jonah to this new place that opened in my hood, Pressed Juicery. They basically take green juice and turn it into soft serve “ice cream”, called a “freeze”. They have a ton of flavors including citrus, green, roots, classic vanilla, and chocolate. The vanilla and chocolate are totally plant-based, made with an almond and date base. It's so good! I am a little bit obsessed. They also have incredible toppings like sliced almonds, fresh fruit, and almond butter sauce! I was curious what my picky little man would think. I got him a sample of the green soft serve and was convinced that he would love it. Nope. I was wrong. He took a bite and immediately declared, “Auntie, that is disgusting.” So much for green juice ice cream and kids. He also grimaced at the chocolate. Ugh, kids, they just don't know what good is 🙂
That's ok. I still love it and so does little miss P. I always save her a few licks.
When we got home from our adventure, it was time for dinner but none of us felt like anything heavy or hot. Luckily I had this pasta salad in the fridge all ready to go, it was the perfect dinner. Light, refreshing, full of fresh veggies, and packed with flavor.
I received this gorgeous colorful cauliflower from my CSA a few weeks in a row and knew it would look and taste perfect in a pasta salad. Combined with earthy roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella cheese, chickpeas, a ton of fresh basil, and a tangy hit from a white balsamic vinegar dressing. Heaven! You could definitely use regular balsamic if you don't have white, it will produce a darker colored pasta salad and a bit of a richer flavor.
Can we talk pasta salad for just a quick second? It is a ubiquitous summer cookout side dish, it's so easy to make and can typically sit out on a picnic table without fear of spoiling. The problem? Pasta salad can be totally boring and tasteless. If you combine cooked pasta with raw veggies and then just plop a jar of dressing on the table for guests to use at their discretion, nope not yummy.
Take a little bit more time, boil your pasta in salted water for flavor (this is your best opportunity to flavor your pasta!) and coax some flavor out of your veggies. Roast the cruciferous veggies (cauliflower or broccoli), roast your peppers or buy jarred roasted red peppers, chop a ton of fresh herbs and toss them in, and please don't make your guests decide how much dressing to put on the salad, dress it yourself! As soon as you drain the pasta from it's salted boiling water toss it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Season your food at every stage.
But Abra isn't pasta bad for me?
I have posted very few pasta recipes, not because pasta is bad for you but because I don't eat it very often (unless I'm in Italy, stay tuned for that post). I don't think pasta should be an everyday food, but I think there is room for all food in a truly healthy lifestyle. I honor and respect my relationship with food and that is what informs how I eat. If I label pasta as bad, then it becomes something that it isn't – a powerful mechanism that somehow can pass judgment on me. If I eat pasta then I am bad. Nope. That doesn't work in my world of healthy.
Pasta is not bad, and you are not bad if you eat it. Just determine if it's the right food for you.
If you are gluten free, use quinoa pasta (my favorite from a culinary perspective) or brown rice pasta. If you are staying away from pasta right now then try a different recipe like my sweet potato noodle salad or spaghetti squash noodle bowl.
If you happen to have a ton of seasonal veggies in your fridge, roast them, season them and toss them with your favorite pasta for a summertime treat. Then love yourself up and go for a long summer walk with someone you love (canine or human or both). That is how pasta fits into my life.
P.S. You'll notice a new feature below my recipes, a nutrition label. Over the next few weeks, I'll be updating all of my recipes to include this. I know it's important for many of you to have a sense of caloric value in your recipes. You will notice the nutrition label includes all of your macronutrients, BUT I also have a comprehensive micronutrient profile. So although this recipe contains 41 grams of carbohydrates, check out the vitamin K profile! You guys I could totally spend the next hour waxing poetic about vitamin K – but for now, just know that it's really good for you. Like super duper good for you!!!
Vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 medium head of cauliflower cut into florets*
- 1 lb. rotini pasta brown rice or quinoa pasta for gluten free
- 2 roasted red peppers jarred is fine, sliced thin
- 1 can chickpeas rinsed
- 1 cup sliced scallions green and white part
- 1 cup mini mozzarella balls
- 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil plus whole leaves for garnish
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- Toss cauliflower florets with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Spread out in layer on a roasting pan and roast in oven for 20 minutes, stirring once during cooking. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In the meantime boil pasta, in salted water, according to directions (ideally al dente)
- When pasta is cooked through and still warm toss with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper
- Prepare dressing by whisking ingredients together
- Toss all ingredients with pasta, cover with dressing and stir well to combine.
- Allow to rest for 30-45 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled
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