Pasta salad is generally a no-no in the healthy eating playbook. White, starchy pasta smothered in mayonnaise – yum. Luckily it’s not one that appeals to me in the least so it’s easy to avoid. I DO, however, adore all-in-one pasta dishes (meaning veggies, whole wheat pasta and protein in one bowl), and it makes total sense to transfer that idea to pasta salad. Easy to serve for parties, pack for lunches, and eat on sticky summer nights when warm pasta does NOT appeal.
It’s one of those sticky nights. I am sitting on the couch trying to find the cross breeze and my face is sweating. Luckily this cool, creamy pasta salad is waiting for me in the fridge for dinner – fresh, herb-tastic, and full of healthy additions. I will most likely offer to do clean up tonight and then lie to my husband, telling him there were no leftovers for his lunch. I will then hide delicious pasta salad in the fridge and nosh happily for MY next few lunches. Some meals are so great you don’t feel bad being selfish.
As you read over the ingredients, don’t be afraid of the coconut milk. It’s sold in cans in grocery store; if you can’t find light, use regular since it’s only 1/4 cup. It adds a nice complexity to this dish; not sweet, exactly, but much more fresh than you’d expect once paired with the lemon juice and herbs. Bring this to your next summer potluck OR make it on a weeknight and keep all the deliciousness to yourself. Sometimes being healthy is really fun.
Healthy Chicken, Asparagus and Herb Pasta Salad
1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped and cut into 1 in. pieces
12 oz. whole wheat rotini or penne (about 3/4 of a standard box)
1/2 c. nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 c. canned light coconut milk
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 tbsp. honey
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed in garlic press
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 small or 2 large chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1/3 c. finely chopped fresh mint
1/3 c. finely chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 c. finely chopped scallions (green onions)
1. Bring 2 quarts of water to boil (a large saucepan or pot) and add 1 tbsp. salt. Add asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Transfer with slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water. Drain after several minutes and let dry on a clean dish towel.
2. Add pasta to cooking water and boil about 10 minutes or until cooked al dente. Drain and spread on a baking sheet. Spray with nonstick spray and mix to coat. Let cool completely.
3. Whisk yogurt, coconut milk, lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl.
4. Combine asparagus, pasta, chicken and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat.
5. Chill until ready to serve. Salad is best served within 8 hours but leftovers will keep for 3-4 days.