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Zesty Italian Pasta Salad  ~ Gluten & Dairy-Free Options

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I love colorful food like this Zesty Italian Pasta Salad.  This is one of our favorite recipes. Every bite is full of different textures and flavors…it keeps the meal interesting and delicious.

 

Pasta salad is perfect for any picnic or barbecue. Of course, it can also be a meal on its own with some garlic bread, corn on the cob and fresh fruit.

My husband and I came up with this recipe by simply eliminating everything
we didn’t like about pasta salads.  The kinds of meats, cheeses, vegetables….everything!

As it turned out, whenever I took this salad to gatherings, the recipe was requested.  Which meant I had to write it down…something I have a habit of forgetting to do.

Good news! It is simple to make gluten-free.  Pick any shape of gluten-free pasta you like. I use either the brown rice spiral shape or a penne shape. There are so many flavors to choose from now…corn, brown rice, quinoa, and even bean pasta.

 

This zesty salad can be enjoyed immediately after it is prepared, but is best if it is refrigerated a few hours before serving. This allows the flavors to enhance. Then before serving a little more dressing may need to be tossed in, or you can offer it at the table as an option.

The ingredients in this salad are not carved in stone. More or less of any of the ingredients listed is fine, or maybe you have other items you might like to add.  Lightly steamed and cooled broccoli for example…anything goes!

I make a separate gluten and dairy-free salad for my daughter and  I substitute the Swiss cheese for sheep cheese, Halloumi cheese is our favorite.

Vegetarians omit the chicken. Vegans omit chicken and cheese; a dairy-free mozzarella would be a good substitute.

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad                    
1  16 oz pkg Veggie Spiral Pasta Wacky Mac (or a gluten-free option)
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2-3 baked and cubed chicken breasts (Seasoned Chicken Breasts and Grilled Lemon Chicken are delicious options)
* Omit meat for vegan.
1 red, yellow or orange pepper sliced
1 small red onion – finely chopped or very thinly sliced
8 oz swiss cheese, cubed (or dairy-free option)
1 can sliced olives
Italian dressing of your choice. I use Kraft Zesty Italian,  Wish-Bone House Italian, and Wish-Bone Light Italian are a few good options. All three of these dressing options are gluten-free.
Optional add-ins ~ fresh chopped basil, kale, and steamed broccoli.

Bake chicken breast unless using leftovers. (Great use of leftover chicken)

Prepare pasta according to directions. Don’t overcook!! Mushy noodles are not appetizing in a pasta salad. Be sure to rinse noodles immediately in cold water after cooking.  Set aside in a strainer to fully drain.

Meantime, prepare the rest of the salad. Place all ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Mix all ingredients well.

Toss in about 1/4 cup of dressing at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add dressing according to taste and “zestiness.” I tend to add a fair amount because I like a flavorful salad. I might add a 3/4 cup at first. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve the salad.

Before serving, I might add another 1/4 cup or more. This is one of those “taste as you go” recipes – until you get a feel for how you and your family like it. That’s another reason why I offer more dressing at the table, for personal preference.

 

 Enjoy!

Weight watcher followers, I think it would be just about impossible to get accurate measurements from a salad like this. I would suggest measuring your noodles separately in a bowl, then adding whatever ingredients you would like. Maybe 3/4 cup pasta, 1 oz cheese, 2 oz chicken, 1/4 cup beans, onions and peppers, and 2 Tbsp light dressing. Total it all up and there are your points for the salad.

 

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad

Flavorful pasta salad can be a meal or a side dish. Perfect for parties and barbecues too.
Prep Time20 mins
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: allergy-friendly, barbecue, corn-free, dairy-free, dinner, gluten-free, nut-free, pasta salad, salad, side dish, ww points

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz pkg Veggie Spiral Pasta Wacky Mac or a gluten-free option
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 baked and cubed chicken breasts Seasoned Chicken Breasts and Grilled Lemon Chicken are delicious options
  • * Omit meat for vegan.
  • 1 red yellow or orange pepper sliced
  • 1 small red onion – finely chopped or very thinly sliced
  • 8 oz swiss cheese cubed (or dairy-free option)
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • Italian dressing of your choice. I use Kraft Zesty Italian Wish-Bone House Italian and Wish-Bone Light Italian are a few good options. All three of these dressing options are gluten-free.
  • Optional add-ins ~ fresh chopped basil kale, and steamed broccoli.
  • Bake chicken breast unless using leftovers. Great use of leftover chicken

Instructions

  • Prepare pasta according to directions. Don’t overcook!! Mushy noodles are not appetizing in a pasta salad. Be sure to rinse noodles immediately in cold water after cooking. Set aside in a strainer to fully drain.
  • Meantime, prepare the rest of the salad. Place all ingredients together in a large serving bowl. Mix all ingredients well.
  • Toss in about 1/4 cup of dressing at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add dressing according to taste and “zestiness.” I tend to add a fair amount, I like a flavorful salad. I might add a 3/4 cup at first. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve the salad.
  • Before serving, I might add another 1/4 cup or more. This is one of those “taste as you go” recipes – until you get a feel for how you and your family like it. That’s another reason why I offer more dressing at the table, for personal preference.

Notes

Seasoned Chicken Breasts and Grilled Lemon Chicken
Salad can be served immediately after making or served chilled. Flavors blend best if allowed to refrigerate for several hours.
 
 

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