Memorial Day is just around the corner, so I’m busy getting recipes ready for the big cookout. Pasta salads are always a staple for such events, so I created this Gluten-Free Italian Pasta Salad with homemade dressing. If you aren’t gluten free, regular wheat pasta will work too, but if you’re cooking for someone with dietary restrictions, this is a great option.
Gluten Free Pasta
There are so many types of gluten-free pastas in the health food aisles these days. Rice, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, or any combination can constitute these pastas. I always opt for lentil or chickpea pasta because they contain extra protein. It also makes the salad more substantial for any vegetarians at your cookout.
Be careful not to overcook gluten free pasta. I find that when I do, it clumps together and is hard to mix in with the rest of the salad ingredients. Since it also has a slightly grainier texture, this becomes especially important.
Like I mentioned above, if gluten isn’t and issue for you or anyone you know, go ahead and use regular wheat pasta. You’ll get less protein, but a more favorable texture. Whole wheat is also a good choice to add some extra fiber to help stabilize your blood sugar.
As far as pasta shapes go, fusilli is my favorite for this gluten-free Italian pasta salad, but radiatori or rotini work as well. I just like having a pasta with lots of ridges and texture to catch more dressing. Nonetheless, penne, farfalle, or ziti are also good options.
Homemade Italian Dressing
Making homemade dressing for gluten-free Italian pasta salad is essential. The next time you’re at the store, check the ingredients on dressing bottles. They are full of industrial seed oils which are arguably the absolute worst “food” for your health (right along with refined sugar).
This week, I was listening to the Wise Traditions podcast where Dr. Cate Shanahan shared about the “hateful eight” oils that should have no place in any diet. They are corn, canola, cottonseed, soy, sunflower, safflower, rice bran, and grapeseed oil. These products are so harmful because the oils can manufacturers extract them with chemical solvents and very high heat. It was shocking to learn that grapeseed oil was on the list. I used to think that it was okay as long as it is expellar pressed. However, Dr. Shanahan revealed that expellar or cold pressing is only the first part of the process and that it is still heavily heated and processed after.
So what oils can we use? For plant based, I use only olive, avocado, and coconut oil. Animal based fats are safe to use too as long as they com from a sustainably source. I personally only cook with butter and avoid lard since I’m a vegetarian, but both are healthier than the industrial “vegetable” oils. I know that sounds very counter-cultural, but I encourage you to check out the podcast to learn more about it!
Basically, the best way to go, is to make your own dressing. That way you know exactly what goes in it and can be sure to avoid any toxic ingredients. For this recipe, I used olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, raw honey, lemon juice, onion, garlic, chives, basil, parsley, and oregano. Those were the fresh herbs I had on hand, but feel free to experiment with others such as thyme, rosemary, or sage. If needed, dried herbs work too–just use less than the amount called for in the recipe.
Other Salad Ingredients
For the rest of the salad, I used a variety of vegetables. Bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots all taste great in this gluten-free Italian pasta salad. Then add a few sliced black olives and cheese if you aren’t vegan or allergic to milk. There are so many cheeses that would be delicious on this salad. I went with fresh mozzarella balls from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, but feta or parmesan would be great too!
More Fresh Salad Recipes to Try
- Tangy Vegan Potato Salad
- Blueberry Kale Couscous Salad
- Avocado Feta Chickpea Salad
- Fall Harvest Couscous Salad
- Vegan Sweet-Potato Quinoa Salad
Gluten-Free Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 lb red lentil pasta
- 1 bell pepper (diced)
- 2 mini cucumbers (sliced)
- 1 carrot (peeled and diced)
- 1 6 oz can black olives (sliced)
- 1½ cups cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella balls (optional)
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1½ tsp mustard
- 1½ tsp raw honey
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 2 Tbsp yellow onion (minced)
- 1 Tbsp chives (chopped)
- 1 Tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsely (chopped)
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano (chopped)
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, chop the pepper, carrot, cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes. Toss together in a large bowl with the mozzarella balls (if using).
- When the pasta is cool, mix it in with the other ingredients.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, and lemon juice.
- Add the onion, garlic, and fresh herbs and mix well.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and stir until all the ingredients are coated.
- For best flavor, allow the salad to marinate for a couple hours before serving.