A light and refreshing pasta salad packed with fruits, vegetables, and some pecans. The homemade dressing is simple and healthy.
I adore pasta salads.
I love big green salads too, but I’m usually hungry after like ten minutes.
After a pasta salad, it’s more around thirty minutes. Just kidding guys. I really don’t eat every 10-30 minutes. Not usually anyways.
There are those days though….
But this isn’t your typical poppy-seed dressing. It’s pretty healthy. In fact, no sugar added kind of healthy. And made with good-for-you fats namely olive oil.
It tastes light and refreshing, but very flavorful. The fresh lemon (zest + juice) and poppyseeds plus some honey are the main contributors to that flavor.
And there is a tiny bit of mayo, but I use the olive oil or light mayo. This time – light mayo made it in this dressing. And then just a touch of dijon mustard with a few spices.
And of course there is vinegar. I used rice vinegar to make it more mild, but you can use white wine vinegar if you want a little bit of a more prominent flavor.
Butttt confession time, I’m not even really sure how to pronounce it.
So good thing I’m writing this. Because it would be totally embarrassing if I had to tell you what pasta to use, out loud.
It’s Radiatore. I try to roll the end and make it sound Italian because that is fun. Until someone is listening.
This salad is so customizable. Let’s just talk about the options for a minute.
I used lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that complement each other well in this dish. Even my burger and fry loving husband ate his portions in minutes and loved it.
The fruit – strawberries and grapes. And craisins – would those be considered fruit? Anyhow, you could leave out the craisins if you wanted to. I love em, but they aren’t a real important player in this salad. If you don’t like strawberries or grapes you could replace them with other fruits or just use double of one of them (double grapes or double strawberries). Other fruit options: raspberries, blueberries, and green grapes would all work great in this salad.
For the veggies I used yellow peppers. I love the mini ones because I think they are so cute, but you can use a large one if you’d rather. Not quite sure on the conversion, but I’d imagine one or one and a half would equal the 6 miniature peppers I used. You could try broccoli in place of the peppers if desired.
Celery adds crunch and gets pretty flavorful once the dressing is all mixed in. Cucumbers could replace the celery, or again – broccoli is a good option.
Chicken – I just cooked two boneless skinless chicken breasts on the stovetop and then chopped them up to put in this salad. However, you can totally leave out the chicken (I would recommend adding more veggies or fruits) for a vegetarian salad. Or you can prepare the chicken differently – shredded perhaps.
The pecans are finely chopped and could also be left out if desired. Or you could change em out for a different kind of nut. I’m wanting to try sliced almonds the next time I make this.
Which will be very soon. It went all too fast in my house…
- 1 box (16 ounces) Radiatore Pasta
- 2 cups chopped chicken (2 boneless skinless chicken breasts)*
- 1 cup chopped strawberries, stems removed
- 1 cup red grapes, sliced in half
- 5-6 miniature yellow bell peppers (or 1 and 1/2 large one)
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans, or sub slivered almonds
- 1/3 cup feta cheese
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries, optional
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon light mayo
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard (do not use regular)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoon poppyseeds
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon zest of a lemon
- Cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Drain and rinse in cool water.
- Meanwhile prepare the fruits and vegetables - chop the strawberries (remove stems, halve the grapes, chop and remove the stems and seeds from the yellow peppers, chop the celery.
- Combine the fruits and vegetables with the chopped pecans and craisins. Mix together gently.
- Stir in the pasta and mix gently.
- Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and (if desired) Mrs. Dash chicken grilling blends to taste.
- Lightly coat your skillet with 2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil.
- Preheat the skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Place the chicken in the skillet and then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear, about 8 to 12 minutes.
- As the chicken cooks, turn it occasionally so it browns evenly. If it starts to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Remove the chicken, allow to cool, and chop. Add to the salad.
- Meanwhile combine all of the dressing ingredients in a large jar. Shake well to combine.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and mix until completely combined.
- Sprinkle feta cheese over the salad.
- Serve immediately or chill in the fridge.
- Return any leftovers to the fridge in an airtight container.
Craving some more salad?