Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pasta Salad with Creamy Lemon Balsamic Dressing

I love summer for many reasons; but probably one of the biggest things I look forward to during the summer is all the fresh fruit and vegetables.  When spring comes around Spencer and I start talking about the garden and what all we want to try to grow.  While we love all of our fresh veggies, tomatoes are always the first thing to go in the ground every. single. year.  We love tomatoes.  Tucker is right there with us.  Last year, we not only planted our normal tomato plants, we also picked up a grape tomato plant to see how that would do.  Well, let me tell ya, it was a hit.  It would be half a second from the time we walked out the back door until Tucker made a B-line for the garden and for his "little tomato plant".  He would pick the things right off the vine and pop them in his mouth!  He loves them.  Things haven't changed much, he still spots the tomatoes and as soon as he puts his hands on them he starts popping them in his mouth just like candy.
Now that summer is here, our garden in looking good and our plants are in full bloom.  I've already used my herbs several times, but we're still waiting on the plants to start producing some veggies.  I've started craving fresh vegetables, and just couldn't practice patience anymore so I scooped some up while I was at the store so I could make a pasta salad packed full of summer's finest. 
I love pasta salad.  It's perfect for summer.  It's light, refreshing and a perfect side to accompany the big cookouts that summer's so famous for, but can easily be enjoyed as a main course, as well.  It's so versatile and the options for add-ins are endless.  You can use fresh herbs and vegetables, but roasted vegetables add another level of flavor and texture too.  Pasta salad is also one of those dishes that can be assembled ahead of time and is perfect to serve to a big crowd.  It's easy, delicious and can be make for very little cost.  Again, making it perfect for all those summer gatherings.
I've made several different types of pasta salad over the years, some with creamy dressings while others were tossed in a light vinaigrette and all varieties are delicious.  While I do love the creamy texture mayonnaise brings to many dishes, during the summer I try to stay away from the heavy, mayonnaise laden recipes.  Not only because they tend to make you feel weighed down, but it's also not the best thing to let sit out for hours on end in the hot, summer sun.  This pasta salad has that creamy element to it, but no mayonnaise!  A simple mixture of lemon white balsamic vinegar, Greek yogurt and a little olive oil is all it takes to get that creamy element!  But don't worry, if you don't have access to the delicious white balsamic, just sub a couple tablespoons of lemon juice in place of the balsamic!   
This particular salad is made with sweet peppers, avocado, tomatoes and parsely.  All of the ingredients are delicious on their own but meld together so well.  I love the pasta paired with the buttery avocado, fresh ripe tomatoes, the mini bell peppers with the pepper flavor and a touch of sweetness, salty feta cheese and it's all coated in a light creamy lemon dressing.  I served this as a side with some delicious baked lemon chicken, but you could easily enjoy this as a main course too.  For all of those people that need meat with their meals, just chop up some baked chicken or use some rotisserie chicken (lemon pepper we be delish) and toss in the salad and you've got a delicious one-pot meal perfect for those hot summer days. 

Pasta Salad with Creamy Lemon Balsamic Dressing

1/2 lb small cut pasta (I used Rotini)
1 Cup grape tomatoes, halved (quartered if large)
3 Sweet mini peppers, 1 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow, chopped
1 Ripe avocado, seed removed and chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp Feta crumbles
2 Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing-
2 Tbsp lemon flavored white balsamic vinegar*
2 1/2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
3 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

*If you don't have access to lemon white balsamic you can substitute fresh squeezed lemon juice. 


Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Season with salt and add pasta.  Cook pasta until aldente, according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl combine white balsamic vinegar and Greek yogurt and whisk to combine.  While whisking continuously, stream in the olive oil and continue stirring until ingredients are incorporated.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, tomatoes, and peppers and toss.  Add dressing and stir to completely coat ingredients.  Add the parsley, avocado and Feta and gently toss to incorporate.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

-This pasta can be served cold or room temperature.
-If making ahead of time, mix in everything but the parsley, avocado and Feta and place in the refrigerator.  Add those ingredients right before serving.

Recipe source: A Lynsey Original

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