University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Helping you prepare healthy foods in a hurry

Alice Henneman, MS, Registered Dietitian and Extension Educator
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
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Easy, Pasta-Pleasing
Main Dish Salads

Simplify meal preparation with a hearty pasta main dish salad. Enjoy hot pasta one night and a day or two later, a cold pasta salad. Good-tasting and good-for-you! Here's one example and several pasta pointers.

  • Cook up a double batch of pasta. Some bite-size types that work well BOTH as a hot dish covered with a sauce and as a cold main dish salad include:

    • bowtie (farfalle, butterflies)
    • macaroni
    • spiral pasta (rotini)
    • medium shells
    • penne
    • wagon wheels
    • radiatore
    • ziti

      For more information about these shapes (including how to pronounce several of them!), click HERE.

  • For tips on cooking a double-batch of pasta, click HERE.

  • Learn how to cook the perfect pasta from the National Pasta Association (NPA) by clicking HERE.

  • Try using whole grain pasta for added fiber. The salad in the picture was made with whole grain macaroni.

  • For recipes for 30 Minute Meals (both hot and cold) from NPA, click HERE.

  • Learn guidelines on how much pasta you'll cook up from different amounts of dry pasta by clicking HERE.

  • The vegetables in this salad (corn, green beans and red peppers) were chosen for their color, flavor and ease of use. You can cook extra fresh green beans and corn from your garden for one meal and then use them in a pasta salad a day or two later. Or, you can "defrost" frozen corn and beans in the microwave for a few minutes following manufacturer's instructions. Another possibility is putting the frozen corn and beans in a colander and running cool water over them; this method works well for vegetables frozen in smaller pieces.

    The red peppers in this salad were thawed from peppers that had been frozen when purchased on sale earlier. For easy directions on freezing peppers, click HERE.

  • Your choice of vegetables is limited only by your imagination. Some other possibilities include broccoli, peas, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and radishes.

  • Chunks of cheese add protein to this salad. Other possibilities include sliced, hard-cooked eggs; cooked dried beans, such as kidney beans; canned tuna or salmon; and sliced meat or poultry from a previous meal. For tips on hard-cooking eggs, click HERE.

  • Dried minced onions were used for a quick flavor addition. For guidelines on using this form of onion, click HERE. Or, use a favorite fresh onion.

  • A low-fat mayonnaise was used to bind the salad ingredients together. Use fresh or dried herbs or spices for additional flavor. In this salad, fresh minced parsley was stirred into the salad. Added parsley was tossed on top before serving. Some other fresh herb possibilities include basil, oregano or dill. For more guidelines on using herbs and spices, click HERE.

    You also could use an oil and vinegar type dressing.

  • Make this salad either the night before serving or at least a half hour or so before your meal. This gives the flavors time to blend.


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Developed By:

Alice C. Henneman, MS, RD
Extension Educator
University of Nebraska
Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Fax: (402) 441-7148
Phone: (402) 441-7180
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For more information about preparing healthy meals, contact your local University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension Office; for the location of the office nearest you, click here. For a listing of Cooperative Extension Offices throughout the United States, click here.

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