Spinach Pasta Salad with Lemon Balsamic Dressing

We ran a spinach contest on Recipe4Living that ended today and wound up with tons of delicious recipes that incorporated the deliciously healthy spring ingredient.

One of my favorites was this Spinach Pasta Salad with Lemon Balsamic Dressing (that just happened to be the winner, go figure!) Made with whole wheat penne pasta, the recipe’s author was careful about making healthy choices for all the ingredients, not just the spinach! Not to mention, it just sounds delicious. Fresh spinach, whole wheat pasta, lemon balsamic dressing? Nicely done.

See the recipe after the jump!

Spinach Pasta Salad with Lemon Balsamic Dressing

This recipe is the winner of Recipe4Living’s Super Spring Spinach Recipe Contest! This whole wheat pasta salad has a rich mix of flavors and a tang that brings wonderful body to chicken, fish and steak as a side dish or as a light lunch with crusty bread.

Ingredients

1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta
1 sm. onion, thinly sliced
1 bag of spinach leaves, washed and drained
2 carrots, shredded
1 med. size seedless cucumber, lightly peeled & diced
2 6-oz. containers fresh “Ciliegine” Mozzarella, drained and cut in half
1 10-oz. container sweet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 12-oz. jar roasted red peppers in oil, chopped drained and reserve oil

Dressing:
1 full bulb of garlic – roasted and cooled (directions below)
1/4 C. chopped roasted red pepper
juice of 2 fresh lemons
1/4 C. balsamic vinegar
1/4 C. fresh chopped basil leaves
1 tsp. fresh ground sea salt
1 tsp. fresh ground cracked pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 C. olive oil
1/4 C. roasted red pepper oil

Directions

Wash spinach and set aside to drain well (tear apart large leaves and remove thick stems).

Roast 1 bulb of garlic in a 400-degree oven. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the bulb cut side up on a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, drizzle with about 2 Tbs. olive oil making sure to cover each clove and then bring the sides of the foil up and seal all around. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until cloves are soft and caramel colored. Let cool until you can touch it with your hand and squeeze out each clove into a cup or dish…let cool while you make the salad.

Make pasta according to box, cook to “al dente” about 12 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water to completely cool the pasta and stop the cooking process. Turn out into a large bowl, add cucumber, tomatoes, onions, shredded carrots and roasted red peppers, add the spinach and the fresh mozzarella and toss lightly.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together in a blender EXCEPT the two oils, combine the two oils together and then slowly drizzle in the oil mixture while the blender is running and blend completely. Pour dressing over pasta salad and toss well to coat.

Chill overnight to serve the next day this will allow the flavors to blend and will slightly wilt the spinach.

Serve along side grilled chicken, fish or as a light lunch with fresh crusty bread.

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  • http://www.aldentecanoodler.wordpress.com Monique Deschaine

    I’m going to make the winning pasta recipe to take to my friend’s Pasta and Peonies Party. I”ll use Al Dente Whole Wheat Fettuccine. It cooks in just 4 minutes and has the most amazing, home-made texture. I’d love to send you a bag to try. http://www.aldentepasta.com Peace, Love and Pasta.

  • http://www.chocolatechipped.com Chocolate Chipped

    Oy, that looks soooo good. I am always looking for yummy vegetarian dishes, so this one is definitely going on my list to try. Making a grocery list now…

  • http://heavydutyblender.blogspot.com/2009/12/heavy-duty-blender.html Heavy Duty Blender

    I just LOVE the idea of spinach in a pasta. I just really had one question. DO you think that this will still work with a different style of pasta? For instance Rotini?

  • http://blackcohoshmenopause.net Black Cohosh Menopause

    Looks delicious! I’m a big fan of lemon though so this is a great choice. Ill be trying this.

    And to the commentor who asked about rotini, I think it would work with rotini but just that penne is more traditional for this style.

    Danielle

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