Margherita Pasta Salad is a combination of my two favorite summer dishes, the flavors of margherita pizza and pasta salad. This version of pasta salad has all the best summer flavors – fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and summer squash paired with slightly sweet white balsamic dressing and loaded with as much mozzarella cheese you can get your hands on. Since this dish uses summer squash noodles, it's naturally gluten free and extremely healthy, although it doesn't taste that way.
Dave and I have been making a weekly dinner date on Saturday nights where we have been trying out new restaurants with gluten free menus. Dave has really missed being able to go out and get pizza since he found out about his gluten allergy and we have found restaurant nearby that has a very good gluten free crust. He was so excited when it was a flat crust and crispy! My favorite pizza is margherita pizza and I've been looking for ways to recreate it's flavor during the week when I tend to eat lighter meals. This margherita pasta salad was the perfect way to get all the flavors I love without all of the extra calories and carbs that come in with pizza!
Dave asked me why I eat squash noodles (zoodles) so often. I told him I used to eat whole wheat pasta thinking it was a healthy dinner option. But then I started realizing that I would eat until I was uncomfortably full and even with all of that food in my stomach I would still find myself digging around the freezer later that night looking for dessert or something more to eat. However, when I started replacing the pasta noodles with vegetables, I found that I could eat a HUGE bowl of these noodles and once I was full, I would be satisfied and didn't look like I had a baby belly when I was done eating which I would get when I ate that much wheat pasta in one sitting.
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If you just can't imagine having dinner without pasta, you can make this dish with your favorite brand or even better do half pasta and half squash noodles. That way you can get the benefits of the squash nooldes (an extra serving of vegetables, filling fiber, and none of the heavy feeling in your stomach) as well as the pasta noodles that you are used to having.
This margherita pasta salad is has an easy homemade dressing made with white balsamic vinegar, basil, garlic powder and extra virgin olive oil. For the salad, you will need summer squash or zucchini, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and any other flavors you love. I have added pepperoni to this for Dave and I've enjoyed this with avocado and chopped walnuts for lunch as well as on the side of simple salmon. This dish is really super versatile and you will be surprised how quickly it comes together.
Since you don't have to wait on the water to boil, the noodles to cook and then for the noodles to cool off before you can make the margherita pasta salad, since the base is summer squash that is already nice and chilly from the fridge. Simply chiffonade (chop into ribbons) the basil and add it to the vinegar, this will keep the basil from turning black and looking unappetizing. When I first started eating healthy, I realized that the flavors I craved were actually the spices and herbs that were in the foods, not the food themselves. So using fresh basil is an easy way to add flavor without a ton of added fat or calories.
Margherita Pasta Salad
- 2 medium summer squash - or zucchini squash cut into noodles (zoodles)
- 10-15 cherry tomatoes - cut into quarters or halved
- 2 handfuls of spinach - chopped
- 5-10 leaves of basil - rolled into a log and cut into ribbons
- 3 tbs. white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 10-12 mozzarella balls
- grilled portobello mushrooms - optionals
- Using a spiaralizer, made zoodles out of the summer squash or zucchini.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, fresh spinach and mozzarella cheese to the squash noodles.
- If adding portobello mushrooms, marinade in balsamic dressing and grill 10 minutes on a griddle or outside. on the grill.
- In a small bowl, combine the basil, white balsamic, garlic powder,olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a lid and shake vigorously.
- Pour the vignette over the pasta noodles and toss.
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What about you?
- Have you ever heard of a Margherita Pasta Salad before?
- What is your favorite pizza flavor?
- Do you have a weekly date night with a spouse, friend or group of friends?