Vegan Pasta Salad with Mediterranean Vegetables
I don’t know if it’s obvious by now- but I love pasta. See examples here, here, and here. Well here I am again with a recipe for a vegan pasta salad. With summer suggesting an appearance lately, I’ve been craving cold lunches which make me think of my travels. This pasta salad is teeming with Mediterranean vegetables, olives, and olive oil, and takes me back to the Greek islands, my favourite travel destination. Healthy and filled with the flavours of summer, this is the perfect June lunch or dish for a get together.
Is pasta salad healthy?
It’s true, pasta salads can be unhealthy when they’re made from white pasta, few veggies, and are laden with high calorie creamy dressings. However, a veggie-filled wholewheat pasta salad is a great healthy option. Whole wheat pasta contains the bran and the germ, making it much higher fiber and filled with vitamins and minerals. Extra virgin olive oil is filled with beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants, so it’s a great healthy base for the dressing. And I don’t need to tell you that vegetables are healthy for you!
What kind of pasta can I use?
Is pasta vegan? Yes! Most dried pastas you will find in the supermarket will absolutely be vegan. Make sure to check the ingredients, and look for those made from durum wheat semolina. Traditionally pasta is made with egg, and it is true that a lot of fresh pastas are not vegan. I mainly use dried pasta, as it is perfectly good, easily accessible and simple to cook. Occasionally, if I want something like tortellini or ravioli, I will buy fresh, but here you need to look out for clearly marked vegan brands.
When it comes to pasta shapes, the world is your oyster! Choose whatever short pasta you fancy for this salad, I used wholewheat fusilli, but you can go for penne, farfalle, conchiglie (shells), or even orzo if you fancy!
How to make this pasta salad
This vegan pasta salad is slightly unusual, as it contains a cooked element (besides the pasta!). However, we still use a minimal amount of cookware as we re-use the pan, and the added cooking seriously improves the flavour!
First things first is getting the pasta on the go. Cook your pasta following the packet instructions- for my wholewheat fusilli, 8 minutes gave me the perfect al-dente finish. Make sure you salt the water as this improves the flavour. Whilst the pasta is on the go in the background, heat half a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan. Add the finely chopped onion and cook until softened, around 4 minutes. Mix together the olive oil, lemon and garlic, then add the cooked onion. This will infuse into the oil beautifully whilst you prepare the rest of the salad.
In the same pan, turn up the heat slightly, and throw in the sliced courgette. This wants to be softened slightly so that it starts to release some of its natural sugars and goes slightly golden. This should take about 5 minutes. When courgette is cooked, throw it in a large bowl with the pasta, dressing, tomatoes, olives and chickpeas. Season and mix well, and you’re done! You can eat this whilst it’s still slightly warm, or allow it to cool first.
I like to top each portion with some toasted mixed nuts for a bit of extra crunch and protein- just toast these in the same pan for 3 minutes until you smell the toasted nutty goodness!
What can I serve this with?
This vegan pasta salad is delicious on its own, but I like to serve it on top of a large handful of spinach. If you want to eat it as a side dish, try it on the side of your bbq, or alongside a summery soup.
How long will pasta salad last?
This is a great dish to prepare ahead for the week as it will last perfectly well up to 5 days in the fridge. Prepare it on Sunday and pack it up for 5 days, and you won’t have to think about lunch for a whole week! The pasta will likely soak up some of the dressing- if it does, you can stir a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper through to refresh it again. It can even be eaten warm; pop it in the microwave for a few minutes until piping hot through. The tomatoes will break down a little bit, but this will only enhance the flavour.
Need some more ideas for meal prep?
Why not try out:
- A bowl of baked teriyaki tofu and cauliflower
- Mexican Buddha bowl with fajita veg
- Creamy mushroom salad with cashew dressing
- For breakfast, this apple parfait or these peanut butter and banana breakfast bars!
Vegan Pasta Salad with Mediterranean Vegetables
- 250 g pasta wholewheat or normal
- 70 g mixed seeds
- 1 small brown onion finely chopped
- 60 ml olive oil extra virgin
- 1 tbsp olive oil halved
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 courgettes thinly sliced
- 250 g baby plum tomatoes halved
- 50 g pitted black olives
- 1 can chickpeas drained
- Add the pasta to a saucepan with a little bit of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes, or until al dente.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over a medium heat, dry toast the nuts until they start to sizzle and pop quietly and smell fragrant and nutty. This should be about 3 minutes. Place to one side.
- In the same pan, heat ½ tbsp olive oil. Add the finely chopped onion and cook over a low-medium heat for 4 minutes, until soft and golden.
- In a small bowl, mix together 60ml olive oil, the cooked onion, garlic, and lemon juice. Mix well, and put to one side.
- In the same pan, heat the remaining ½ tbsp oil. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the sliced courgette. Fry for 5 minutes until starting to brown, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
- Add cooked pasta, courgette, tomatoes, olives, chickpeas and dressing to a large bowl. Mix well. Serve either warm or place in the fridge for an hour to cool. Sprinkle with the toasted seeds for serving.
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