Pasta and Lentil Salad

This past summer was a hot one here in Columbus.  Extreme humidity and high temperatures.  The kind of heat where even sitting indoors with the luxury of air conditioning, you still don’t want to eat anything hot.  Or heat up the kitchen.  This left me seeking out meals that we could eat cold.  A lovely cold meal that I could make ahead and pull out of the fridge when supper time rolled around was exactly what I wanted.

I am a huge fan of pasta salad despite the fact that I’m not a huge pasta eater.  However, I’m extremely picky when it comes to pasta salad as well.  So much can be done with pasta salad that using a store bought mix or bottled dressing is unnecessary.  Pasta salad is not only easy to make using ingredients you have on hand but it’s quick and the longer it sits the better it gets.

That is my kind of meal!

I love when pasta salad is loaded up on veggies!  I view pasta salad as a way to get in as many veggies as I can, not as a source for eating as much pasta as I can.  My personal opinion is that pasta is a vehicle for veggies and what better way to enjoy veggies than in their simplest form in a pasta salad!

Andrea’s Pasta and Lentil Salad

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 1C Uncooked green lentils
  • 3C Uncooked Whole Wheat Medium Sized Shells
  • 1 1/2C Shredded Carrot
  • 1 1/2C Peas (I used frozen that I let thaw)
  • 6 Green Onions, chopped, both the white and green parts
  • 1 Large Tomato chopped (do not remove seeds)
  • 1C Shredded Red Cabbage
  • 1 Small to Medium Sized Head of Broccoli, chopped in small bite size pieces

Dressing:

  • 2 1/2 – 3 Heaping TBSP of Dijon mustard
  • 1/4C White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4C Olive Oil
  • 1/2tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1tsp Sesame Oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Cook the lentils according to package directions and allow to cool.  Cook the pasta in boiling water till just shy of being “done”.  Drain and allow to cool.  You want the pasta to still have some good bite to it, otherwise it will get mushy in the salad.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, lentils, and veggies.  In a small mixing bowl combine the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together (can also be blended in a blender).  Pour the dressing over the pasta, lentils, and veggies, and stir till everything is coated.  Allow to sit in the fridge for about an hour.  Gently stir before serving.

This is not a heavily dressed pasta salad.  The dressing is meant to give the pasta and veggies a touch of added flavor.  If you want more dressing on the salad, I suggest making the initial batch, and once the salad had a chance to sit in the fridge for a bit, you can drizzle on some more right before serving.

The reason I keep the dressing simple and light is because I want the fresh veggies to be the star and not to be overpowered by a heavy vinegar dressing.  The same goes for the pasta, I like my pasta lightly dressed or with just a touch of sauce.  Otherwise the sauce takes over and you can’t focus on the pasta!

This recipe makes a good bit of pasta salad.  Scott and I were able to have this for dinner two nights in a row.  It is definitely better the next day!  The dressing will soften the veggies and the pasta the longer it sits, this is why it is important to not cook the pasta too far.  Otherwise you will be met with a bowl of mush the next day.

I topped our pasta salad with chunks of good quality extra sharp cheddar which took the dish up to the next level and provided fun little bites of creamy cheese.

You can of course, use whatever your favorite veggies are or what you happen to have on hand.  I’ve made this with kale and some red and green peppers.  You can use red onion instead of green onion.  Whatever your little heart desires. It’s pasta salad, the possibilities are endless!

The recipe itself is vegan, adding the cheese clearly makes it not vegan.  I’m sure you realized that though!

Have fun guys, and remember, always play with your food!  Enjoy!

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