As a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that I am particularly fond of sugar and butter, which, unfortunately, is not good for me nor my waistline. That’s why I am excited to find recipes as healthy and tasty as this pasta salad. With luscious mangoes, creamy avocados, sweet tomatoes and bell peppers, I’ve found a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my diet.
The pasta and grilled chicken make a savory base for the salad while the fruit and vegetables add gorgeous color and fresh flavors. The tangy cilantro-lime dressing is light and refreshing, with a bit of Southwest flair. Another wonderful thing about this dish is its versatility and adaptability. I really enjoyed the variety of ingredients in the original recipe, but I’ll be adding different things next time around just to mix it up. Perhaps some shrimp, corn, black beans, rapini, green onions, black olives, or cotija cheese? How about you? What would you add in or take out? Use the recipe below as a guide and try this out with your favorite ingredients. Omit the chicken for a vegetarian/vegan meal or use wheat-free pasta for a filling gluten-free dish.
This pasta salad is also perfect for a picnic or outdoor gathering since it can sit out for a period of time without wilting. It can be a delicious side salad or a hearty entrée. For best results, make a day ahead to let all the flavors meld together.
Lime-Cilantro Pasta Salad
Yields 6-8 servings
6 ounces dried whole wheat or gluten-free rotini pasta (I used the multi-colored Wacky Mac Veggie Spirals)
zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 grilled chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 medium mango, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium avocado, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Lime wedges, for garnish
Sprigs of cilantro, for garnish
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse. Set aside.
To make the dressing, combine the lime zest and juice, cilantro, extra-virgin olive oil, sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper in a blender. Blend until well incorporated, about 30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine pasta, chicken, tomatoes, red onion, mango, avocado, bell peppers, and jalapeño pepper. Pour the Cilantro-Lime Dressing over pasta salad and gently toss to incorporate. Pasta salad may be served at room temperature or cold. Garnish with lime wedges and sprigs of cilantro.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.
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