This protein-packed pasta salad combines nutrient-rich carbohydrates with high-quality protein for a quick, healthy, portable meal on-the-go.
My clients are always asking me for quick, portable meal ideas that they can pack, take and eat cold on-the-go. My pasta salad is always one of my recommendations. It’s easy to make, can be made in advance and it tastes just as good on day 4 as it does the day it’s made. Plus, it’s portable and eaten cold, so you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to heat it up.
How To Make Protein-Packed Pasta Salad
Classic pasta salad is a great source of carbohydrates, but traditional recipes don’t provide much protein. That’s why I like to add some dairy and plant-based protein to the mix. It’s just as simple to make and includes all three of the macronutrients needed to create a balanced meal.
Step #1 – Cook The Pasta
To make this pasta salad, you’ll need a box of your favorite pasta. I use rotini, but you can substitute any type of pasta you want. Start by cooking the pasta according to the directions on the box for al dente pasta. Make sure not to overcook your pasta.
Step #2 – Make The Dressing
While the pasta is cooking, you can make the dressing. It’s a simple recipe that combines olive oil, red wine vinegar and salad supreme seasoning blend. Just put the three ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined. Once it is blended, put it in the refrigerator so that it stays cold until you dress the pasta.
Step #3 – Prepare Pasta Salad Ingredients
Once you make the dressing, you can start to prepare all of the other salad ingredients. If you plan to use canned kidney beans, open and drain the liquid from the beans. Then, rinse them under cool water for about 10 seconds. Keep the beans in the strainer so that they drain well, and begin dicing the onion, green pepper, cherry tomatoes and olives.
Step #4 – Cool Pasta In An Ice Bath
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain the water then rinse well with cold water. Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water, then dump the drained pasta into the bowl. This will help to cool the pasta quickly, which helps stop the cooking process and prevents your pasta from overcooking.
Step #5 – Combine All Ingredients
Once the pasta is cold to touch, dump it into a colander to drain. Make sure to sift through the pasta and toss any remaining ice cubes. Once it is well drained, transfer it to a large bowl. Add the diced cherry tomatoes, onion, bell pepper and olives to the bowl. Gently toss the pasta with the vegetables until they are well combined, then add the beans and feta cheese. Pour the dressing over pasta salad, then toss to coat. Cover and put in the refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
The recipe makes 12 cups of protein-packed pasta salad, which is great for a gathering or if you have a large family to feed. The leftovers can be eaten throughout the week for a quick meal. If you don’t want or need 12 cups of pasta salad, simply cut all of the ingredients in half and make 6 cups.
To maintain freshness, make sure to put it in a sealed container and store in the refrigerated for up to 4 days. The pasta will continue to soak up the dressing at it sits, so depending on how long it’s been stored, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of the red wine vinegar before eating.
A 1 ½ cup serving of this protein-packed pasta salad provides 450 calories, 56 grams of carbohydrate, 6 grams of fiber, 15 grams of protein, 17 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol and 730 milligrams of sodium. It also provides 10% of the daily value for calcium, 15% of the daily value for iron, 4% of the daily value for potassium.
If you like this cold protein-packed pasta salad, you might also like my whole grain wheatberry and blueberry salad, my basic lentil salad or one of my other salad recipes under salads, soups and stews.
Protein-Packed Pasta Salad
- 16 oz (1 BOX) rotinin pasta, uncooked
- 1 can (15.5 oz) kidney beans
- 6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 15 cherry tomatoes, halved or diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup olives, kalamata, sliced lengthwise
- 1/3 cup olive oil (dressing)
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (dressing)
- 4 tbsp salad supreme seasoning blend (dressing)
- Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the dressing. Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar and salad supreme seasoning blend in a bowl and whisk until combined. Keep dressing cool in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Next, prepare all of the salad ingredients. Drain the liquid from the kidney beans then rinse under cool water. Allow the beans to drain well. Dice the onion, green pepper, cherry tomatoes and olives.
- Add the diced cherry tomatoes, onion, bell pepper and olives to the bowl. Toss gently to combine, then add the beans and feta cheese.
- Pour the dressing over pasta salad, then toss to coat. Cover, then put the pasta salad in the refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
- Recipe Makes: 12 cups
- Serving Size: 1.5 cups
- Servings Per Recipe: 8
- Nutrition Facts (per serving): 450 calories, 56 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber, 15 protein, 17 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 730 mg sodium, 10% DV for calcium, 15% DV for iron, 4% DV for potassium
- Meal Planning Servings: 4 CHO + 2 PRO + 3 FAT
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Looks so good. Great for work!
This is so good and so easy to put together. You literally just throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it together. I shared this with my family and my Dad said, “you better put this away or I’ll eat it all in one sitting.”
Hello Heather. I’m planning on making this beautiful pasta dish this week and appreciate the recipe. Somehow, the olives were left out of your actual recipe section and I thought you might want to correct it. I’m sure we will all be making this dish often!! Thanks.
Fixed -Thank you! Hope you love the pasta salad as much as we do!