This super easy and healthy Pasta Salad contains about an equal amount of pasta and other mix-ins for maximum flavor, texture, and nutrition in each bowl. Bonus: This family dinner is easy to customize and make-ahead!  

healthy pasta salad in two bowls

Healthy Pasta Salad

I love a good pasta salad because it’s easy to make and it’s so great to be able to make a main dish ahead of time—and still have it taste great whether it’s served right after cooking or hours later.

And this easy one is a wonderful one to share with the kids because it’s bursting with fresh flavors, but has pretty kid-friendly ingredients in the end.

TIP: You can serve this with the components all mixed together, or with them separated out according to your child’s preference.

ingredients in healthy pasta salad

Ingredients You need

To make this simple dinner you’ll need these ingredients:

  • Cherry tomatoes: Any color will work here.
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh garlic
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Pasta: I prefer a smaller shape like wagon wheels or elbows here.
  • White beans: A can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, works well here.
  • Cooked chicken: You can use chicken tenders or purchased grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken.
  • Cheese: Such as crumbled goat or feta, or diced mozzarella.

how to make healthy pasta salad step by step

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the simple process involved in making this healthy pasta salad. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full information.

  1. Add the tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil to a bowl.
  2. Toss well and let sit to allow the flavors to marinate.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions.
  4. Remove the basil and garlic from the bowl with the tomatoes—you’ll get the flavor infused into the tomatoes without the raw taste/texture that some kids won’t like.
  5. Gather your add-ins.
  6. Mix it all together!

TIP: This can be served at room temperature or chilled, though it’s best if it’s not ice cold.

Can I leave out the chicken?

To make this vegetarian or to just leave out the chicken, just leave it out! No big deal. You can add in another protein (shrimp, extra firm tofu, chunks of wild salmon) or you can leave it be with just the beans.

What kind of pasta is best?

Honestly, I’m going to leave that up to you—any type of pasta will work here. Since we eat pasta 1-2 times a week and my family really enjoys traditional pasta best, that’s what we use, but you can use whole wheat or a bean pasta if you prefer

. I would suggest a smaller shape such as wagon wheels, mini wagon wheels, elbows, or farfalle since they are close to the size of the rest of the ingredients—which makes the pasta salad easy to eat!

What other cheese can I use?

You can use crumbled goat or feta cheese, or diced mozzarella. You could even use shredded mozzarella or cheddar if you prefer. It’s really quite flexible!

wagon wheel pasta salad in white bowl with blue rim

Make-Ahead Pasta Salad

You can make this pasta salad the day before you intend to serve it. Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving if you can so it’s not ice cold.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

To make this gluten-free, simply use your favorite gluten-free pasta. We like the gluten-free Barilla pasta or Banza chickpea pastas. (Do be sure to follow the cooking directions and rinse them if they say to rinse them for the best texture results.)

Dairy-Free Pasta Salad

To make this easy family dinner dairy-free, simply omit the cheese. You could add roasted, salted sunflower seeds for a little extra flavor and nutrients if desired.

How to Store

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Best Tips for Success

I’d love to hear what your family thinks of this recipe if you try it, so please comment below to share!

This post was first published August 2019.

healthy pasta salad in two bowls

Healthy Pasta Salad with Chicken

This works well anytime of the year, but the flavors are particularly great in summer
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 395kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves (very lightly packed when measuring)
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces pasta
  • 14.5 ounce can small white beans (like cannellini)
  • 2 cups diced fully cooked chicken
  • 6 ounces crumbled goat cheese (or feta or diced mozzarella)

Instructions

  • Place the tomatoes, olive oil, basil leaves, garlic, and salt into a large bowl. Stir together. Set aside for about 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.
  • Remove the basil and garlic from the tomato mixture. (The flavor will be in there!) Discard.
  • Stir in the pasta, beans, chicken, and cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Notes

  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
  • Use your favorite pasta, whether traditional or a newer bean pasta from brands like Barilla or Banza.
  • Use any kind of cooked chicken you like. (I like to buy a grilled breast from the prepared foods counter to make this easy on myself!)
  • Omit the chicken to make this vegetarian.
  • Shred the basil and leave it in the pasta mixture if your kids don’t mind flecks of green.

Nutrition

Calories: 395kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 261mg, Potassium: 541mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 659IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 93mg, Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

    1. I think you should be able to, though the pasta might soften a bit once it’s thawed and I can’t guarantee that the tomatoes would have the same texture.

    2. I haven’t tried that and it’s possible that the texture of the tomatoes wouldn’t be the same after thawing. Otherwise I think it would be okay.

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you forr every other magnificent article

  2. This was pretty good! I put a little Italian dressing on mine for a little extra flavor. But my two year old refused to even look at it. He won’t try, touch, or smell anything that isn’t waffles, berries or oatmeal. The struggle is real in my house