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Feeding The Family: Pleasing Pasta Salad

Tessa Schatteman, Twin Cities area, Minnesota

After one final snowstorm, spring has finally sprung in Minnesota! My husband, two-year-old son, and I can’t wait for the months of countless hikes and walks. With another baby on the way and much less of Mama’s milk available, Evan is often ravenous all day long, so I’m quickly learning the best on-the-go snacks and meals for him, and the whole family.

I love pasta salad all year round, but my own favorite creamy dressings hide the colors of the salads, and my son doesn’t like the texture. I recently tried out a super simple vinaigrette dressing on pasta salad that we packed for a morning of exploring and lunch at a nearby regional park, and it was a hit! It’s simple, colorful, adaptable, and delicious. Better yet, I dressed up my own portion with some “grown up” additions to satisfy my more adventurous palate. Evan is great with silverware, but he loved using his fingers to eat the kid-sized pasta! The textures also are easy on his sore mouth, as he works through his last few molars.

It only took a few bites to know that we’ll be making this salad all summer long for outings, gatherings, or dinner outside on the deck. The recipe doubles (or more) well for a larger group or to keep around for quick lunches all week, and it easily adapts to gluten-free or vegan diets.

Kid and Adult-Pleasing Pasta Salad Makes about 6 cups (4 to 6 adult servings)

Essential Ingredients:

  • 3 C dry ditalini (pictured) or other small pasta shapes, cooked
  • 1 C frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 1/2 C turkey breast, cubed small
  • 1 1/2 C mild cheddar, cubed small
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Optional “Adult” Additions:

  • Crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • Oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper (or red pepper flakes)
  • Salad greens

After boiling the pasta according to package directions, rinse under cool water, drain well, and place in a large bowl. Add peas, turkey, and cheddar. Shake or whisk together the vinegar, oil, a generous pinch of salt, and pepper to taste (finely ground is better than freshly ground for little ones); pour over the other ingredients; and toss to coat well.

Depending on the occasion, you can divide the salad and top the grown-up portion with the remaining ingredients, or set the extra toppings out for guests to add to their own serving. Or mix it all in if your kids are very adventurous eaters! During warmer months, in-season, raw baby tomatoes make an excellent addition! If making ahead and refrigerating, let stand at room temperature about 15 to 30 minutes so the dressing loosens.

To make the salad vegan, try the following whole-food substitutions: white beans or organic tofu for turkey, avocado for cheddar cheese (tossed in a little lemon juice), kalamata olives or toasted pine nuts for gorgonzola.

To make the salad gluten free (GF), use gluten free pasta. Note that GF pasta dries out more easily when kept as leftovers, so it might be best eaten fresh.


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