Whether for warm weather picnicking, or hunkering in with a hearty winter salad, this piquant Mediterranean pasta salad recipe is a high-protein home run. Featuring organic, gluten-free red lentil pasta and cold-pressed oregano olive oil, it’s healthier than traditional white pasta salad with mayo, and I think it tastes amazing too!
Dr. Sinatra’s Mediterranean Pasta Salad Recipe
We all like things our own way (plus, I don’t really measure my ingredients), which is why I’ve listed varying amounts of Mediterranean pasta salad ingredients. If you’re unsure of how much to use, start with lesser amounts, then taste the dish and add more until the flavor is exactly the way you like it.
- 1 8 oz package of organic red lentil pasta
- 1-2 jars of artichoke hearts marinated in water
- 2-3 cups of multicolor tomatoes – heirloom, cherry, regular vine tomatoes
- 3 to 6 ounces of organic feta cheese
- A bunch of Italian parsley, leaves pinched off – to taste
- 4 to 6 Tbsp cold-pressed oregano flavored olive oil
- 1-3 Tsp olive oil dipping blend
- Natural salt blend, to taste
- Pepper and juniper blend, to taste
- Optional – 2-4 cups of arugula OR 1-2 cups broccoli florets, steamed to al denté and cooled
Prepare the pasta according to directions on the package. Set aside to cool; you can run it under cold water and pat it dry to speed the process, if need be.
Drain the artichoke hearts and slice into quarters. Wash tomatoes and parsley in water and pat dry. Slice the tomatoes into small pieces. Pick parsley leaves from the stems, enough for desired color contrast and leafy green flavor. Combine the artichoke hearts, parsley and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add your desired amount of cooled cooked pasta, then crumble in some organic feta cheese, and mix together. Add in optional steamed (and cooled) broccoli if you like.
To dress the salad, gently stir into the mixture: 4 to 6 Tbsp of cold-pressed oregano olive oil and 1-2 Tsp Olive Oil Dipping Blend. Add a few grinds of salt blend and pepper blend, then taste the salad and add more of any these seasonings to your liking. Taste and test again, tweak seasonings until it’s perfect!
While you can enjoy this Mediterranean Pasta Salad immediately, marinating it in the fridge for a few hours will allow the flavors to meld. Serve each salad on a bed of arugula, or by itself in a bowl. A pasta salad made with the entire package of red lentil pasta will serve 3 to 6.
Alternate preparation: I originally set out to make a Greek-type pasta salad featuring both my cold-pressed lemon and oregano olive oils, but found that the Oregano oil wanted to take center stage. For a lemony variation, substitute the crushed lemon oil for the oregano olive oil and season the Mediterranean salad only with salt and pepper blends, not Dipping Blend – for a more delicate lemon flavor.
Why this Mediterranean Pasta Salad is Healthy
In a nutshell, this Mediterranean Pasta Salad is healthy because of what’s in it as well as what’s not. Let’s first discuss what’s not in it…
As a cardiologist and nutritionist, I’m not really a fan of pasta salads because most are covered in mayonnaise. Mayo may taste great, but it’s usually made from canola or soybean oil. Not only are canola and soybean oil mostly omega-6 fats, which are inflammatory when eaten in excess; the vast majority of canola and soybeans grown in the US have been genetically engineered to withstand heavy synthetic pesticide application. As environmental toxins, pesticides contribute to inflammation, and as hormone disruptors they are also linked to weight gain. Wanting to avoid pesticides is the same reason I choose organic pasta over conventionally-produced pasta. Plus, when you don’t want GMOs in your food – organic is always a safe bet.
Now, for all the good stuff in it! By using organic red-lentil pasta instead of traditional white semolina pasta, you get more protein – 15 grams per serving, to be exact! Red lentil pasta also is a good source of fiber, so it promotes a healthier blood sugar response than pasta that is more carb-heavy. (Learn more about the 3 P’s of healthy pasta in this blog.)
The oregano olive oil in this recipe is made in California by cold-pressing fresh olives with fresh oregano. Oregano imparts an herbaceous, slightly bitter flavor and distinctive mouth-watering aroma to foods, and in some cultures is used medicinally. And olive oil, well, you probably already know that it’s one of my all-time favorite superfoods – I call it “the secret sauce” of the Mediterranean Diet.
Parsley is another herb native to the Mediterranean, one that boasts a nutrient-packed phytochemical profile –chlorophyll, flavonoids, and antioxidants like vitamin C, to name a few. It’s no wonder that other cultures have used the leaves and seeds of this herb medicinally for centuries. I love to incorporate it as much as possible into my recipes (like this quinoa tabbouleh salad recipe).
Artichokes help promote detoxification – one of my Pillars of Health – and support liver function. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant that helps protect the body against harmful free radicals. If you add broccoli to the salad, you’ll get even more phytochemical bang for your buck, because the lycopene works synergistically with the sulforphane in broccoli – you get more powerful health benefits than by eating each alone. That’s why I try to combine tomatoes and broccoli in my healthy recipes whenever possible.
By using natural, unprocessed salts, as in my Salt Blend, you get a much wider variety of trace minerals than you would with processed table salt (and without the chemical agents often found in regular table salt). And here are just a few reasons why pepper pays off when it comes to health.
This Mediterranean pasta salad is really one of the healthiest pasta salads you can eat! Even more reason to try this salad is its scrumptious flavor…try it for yourself and see!
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