Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Perfect Potluck Pasta Salad

Ahh, summertime...there are so many things I love about it. I love the fact that it is light outside at 5:30 in the morning. I love that it is still light outside at 7:30 at night. I love the warm weather, I love being outdoors, I love growing my herb garden, and I love eating al fresco. Especially when I get invited to a fun cookout with friends!!

On Saturday evening, my friend Allison and her husband hosted us and some other friends for a fun, casual cookout/potluck on their backyard deck. Their deck overlooks a gorgeous yard, and the weather was simply delightful. It was a fantastic evening!

I brought my favorite summer potluck dish to share - my very own chickpea-veggie-pasta salad that is always a hit with everyone, vegans and omnis alike! It's also a recipe I'm very proud of, because it is one of the first recipes I ever created and posted on VegWeb. I'm so happy I was able to take a previously seafood & mayo-laden dish and transform it into a vegan, veggie-laden dish that is truly healthy and hearty!

It's pasta (I use Trader Joe's brown rice rotini), veggies, and mashed chickpeas, tossed with a light Italian dressing spiked with a little bit of Vegenaise, dill, mustard, salt, and pepper. It's so easy to put together and it's something I can make a meal out of if there are no other vegan options available.

Here's the recipe!

Main Dish Delish Summer Pasta Salad
Serves 4 as an entree, 6-8 as a side dish

1 box (13-16 oz) of pasta of choice (I prefer brown rice rotini or whole wheat rotini)
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (white or red onion)
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
1 medium cucumber, cut into quarters and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped (grape tomatoes also work well)
1 cup vegan Italian dressing
1/4 cup Vegenaise
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 16-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Cook pasta according to box. While the pasta is cooking, finely mince the onion and wash and chop the celery, pepper, cucumber, and tomato. You want nice chunks of the veggies. Add veggies to a large bowl.

After the pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse under cold water to cool the pasta. Add cooled pasta to the veggies.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the Italian dressing, Vegenaise, dijon mustard, dill weed, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add to pasta and veggies.

Finally, add the chickpeas to the medium bowl and mash with a potato masher until crumbly. Add chickpeas to the veggies and pasta and mix well. Serve immediately or chill if desired.

You know why this recipe is so great? Let me count the ways:
1) It makes a ton.
2) It only takes about 30 minutes to make.
3) It's loaded with fresh, raw veggies.
4) It doesn't make a lot of dirty dishes.
5) You can make it ahead of time - in fact, it tastes even better the longer it sits!

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