No picnic or barbecue is complete without a big bowl of pasta salad. What’s not to love? Tender pasta, crunchy vegetables and a delicious dressing to tie it all together!
But we’re changing up our execution of this buffet staple this year. We say bring on the carbs, but hold the mayonnaise. Yes, you read that right. No pasta salad of ours will be getting a kiss from that creamy condiment. Instead, we are adding oodles of oomph with these smart and delicious swaps.
Take a Trip on the Light Side
According to Rachelle Cadwell, pastry chef extraordinaire of Dough Bakeshop Toronto and Beast restaurant, skipping the mayonnaise is taking a break from the boring. “Pasta salads made with vinegar and citrus-based dressings are much lighter in flavour. Think of it as a more refreshing, Mediterranean-style,” she says. Make your own from scratch or go for convenience with the store-bought version. Balsamic dressing, Italian vinaigrette, Greek salad dressing — yes, all those bottles hiding in the back of the fridge? Use them!
Say Yes to Yogurt
There’s probably a tub lying in the fridge anyway. Replace the amount of mayo called for in your usual recipe with Greek yogurt, or whisk a quarter-cup of it with some of your favourite salad dressing. Voila! You’ve upped the creamy factor without going anywhere near the mayonnaise jar. “Adding coconut milk, ricotta, mascarpone or sour cream are other ways to make a pasta salad creamy,” says Cadwell. Play around and use a combination of velvety ingredients (we like yogurt and sour cream) to perfect the taste you enjoy.
Think Like a Vegan Cook
For many, there is no such thing as pasta salad without a creamy dressing. No need to compromise — just get that richness from an alternative source. “For vegan salads, I’ve actually used coconut yogurt and changed up the other ingredients to complement it,” says Cadwell. Our go-to is the humble avocado. Blend it with some lemon juice and herbs and you have a creamy, satisfying (not to mention healthy) pasta salad dressing. We also like Minimalist Baker‘s use of silken tofu for the dressing in their Vegan Macaroni Salad recipe.
Easy Vegan Pasta Salad with Avocado Lime-Basil Aioli (Skip the vegan mayo, double the avocado)
Break Out of the Pasta Box
It’s simple — change the variety of pasta you’re using. Macaroni, penne, fusilli and rotini are all pasta salad staples, but this easy swap will make you think beyond standard mayonnaise-based dressings. Try orzo, spaghetti, linguine or Asian-style egg or rice noodles, which work better with lighter dressings so they don’t clump together. In addition, non-dairy dressings tend to have more shelf life. Concludes Cadwell: “A vinegar-based pasta salad, in general, would last longer than it’s mayo-based counterpart, but that being said, who ever has pasta salad left over?”