A pasta salad: and not the kind you’re thinking (this one’s hot…and healthy!)

Typically when you hear “pasta salad”, it’s referring to a cold summer barbecue dish doused in a calorie-packed dressing. Delicious? Perhaps. Waistline-friendly? Not so much.

However, when I say “pasta salad” today, I actually mean just that: a hearty, warm pasta dish packed with veggies and an equal ratio of salad greens and pasta! This pasta dish is incredibly unique and delicious, and a perfect dish for springtime – it’s got a light sauce with a hint of sweetness that transitions us from a heavier winter pasta dish, and fresh vegetables you will soon be able to pick up at the farmers’ market! My favorite part, though, is this: I ate a nice, big plateful guilt-free, which usually would not be recommended with a pasta dish simply because of the calorie density in the pasta (and the usually calorie packed accompanying sauce) – but I happily enjoyed because the ratio of pasta to greens on my plate was heavily swayed to the heart-healthy greens!

The recipe is from my all-time favorite, Cooking Light, and could be perfect as called for – but as is my usual M.O., I made a few changes to lighten up the calories in the dish even more.

1. Swap the pasta for whole grain pasta: I always use whole wheat or whole grain pasta because of the increased fiber & nutrients (but do note that you don’t actually save any calories – so keep your same serving size!).

2. Reduce the olive oil: while olive oil is a good fat and incredibly heart healthy (and should be part of our daily diet!), it does pack calories, and I found the called-for amount just a bit too much once all mixed together.

3. Swapped the cheese: I love goat cheese, but I find that its milder flavor makes me crave more to get a taste impact in a dish (and this is my achilles heel when cooking: my eyes almost always double the cheese called for in a recipe since I usually don’t measure! It’s a bad, but delicious habit :)).

My swap to compensate for my cheese craving? Feta! Let’s be honest, it’s a totally different type of cheese and totally changes the flavor – so this is a personal call – and actually both feta and goat cheese are actually lower in calories and fat per ounce than other cheeses (both are around 75 calories and 6 grams of fat per ounce, 76 calories and 6 grams vs cheddar, for example, which has 114 calories and 9 grams of fat per ounce), so either is a good choice… But I personally swap because the 2 ounces of feta (or even try reducing to 1 1/2 ounces since the flavor goes further) get more credit in every bite!

Serve with a side salad (if you can handle more greens! my appetite for them tends to be endless) for such a unique, satisfying and healthy dish!

Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad with Goat Cheese (or Feta!)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked penne or mostaccioli (tube-shaped pasta)
  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 2 cups baby arugula or spinach
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta (or goat cheese) – and feel free to try 1 1/2 ounces!

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain and set aside.
3. Place asparagus and tomatoes on a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Toss gently to coat; arrange asparagus and tomato mixture in a single layer. Bake at 400° for 6 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Remove asparagus from pan. Place pan back in oven, and bake tomatoes an additional 4 minutes. Remove tomatoes from pan; let asparagus and tomatoes stand 10 minutes. Cut asparagus into 1-inch lengths; halve tomatoes.
4. Combine shallots and the next 4 ingredients (through honey) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
5. Place pasta, asparagus, tomato, olives, and arugula in a large bowl; toss. Drizzle juice mixture over pasta mixture; toss. Sprinkle with cheese.

To see the original recipe from Barbara Lauterbach at Cooking Light, go here!

Nutritional Information
Amount per serving

  • Calories: 408
  • Fat: 22.3g
  • Saturated fat: 5.5g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 13.7g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 2.1g
  • Protein: 11.3g
  • Carbohydrate: 42.9g
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Cholesterol: 11mg
  • Iron: 3.6mg
  • Sodium: 584mg
  • Calcium: 101mg
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