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
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 simple pasta salad 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
To make this simple dinner you’ll need these ingredients:
How to Make Healthy Pasta Salad Step-by-Step
Here’s a look at the simple process involved in making this healthy pasta salad.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil to a bowl.
- Toss well and let sit.
- Cook the pasta.
- Remove the basil and garlic—you’ll get the flavor infused into the tomatoes without the raw taste/texture that some kids won’t like.
- Gather your add-ins.
- 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!
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.
Tips for Making the Best Healthy Pasta Salad
- 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.
I’d love to hear what your family thinks of this recipe if you try it, so please comment below to share!Print
This works well anytime of the year, but the flavors are particularly great in summer
- 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, very lightly packed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 ounces pasta
- 1 14.5-ounce can small white beans (like cannellini)
- 2 cups diced fully cooked chicken
- 6 ounces crumbled goat or feta cheese, or diced mozzarella
- 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.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
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.