It has already started. It’s how-to-cook-dinner-without-the-stove season. Get-up-before-the-sun-to-bake weather. Eat-breakfast-in-your-underwear hot. Just to be clear, I’m not complaining. The hot weather makes me think outside the box, get creative and whip up some innovative dishes – like this Next-Level Pasta Salad.
Pasta Salad is pretty near and dear to my heart. It was a staple in the fridge when warm weather hit. My brothers and I would pull the big yellow bowl out of the fridge on summer days and grab forkfuls here and there. My mom used the pour-a-bottle-of-Italian-dressing-on-it recipe. It got us to eat veggies, took only minutes to prepare and she had three wild kids to wrangle. I still love that simple recipe and use it for pot lucks when you just need a crowd pleaser.
Today’s recipe for this Next-Level Pasta Salad is a #gamechanger. Here’s a collection of reasons you might make this recipe (aka when you’re trying to stand out):
- You just got a new job (wishful thinking, right?) and you’re invited to a co-worker’s Memorial Day BBQ.
- You’re meeting your partner’s family for the first time.
- You need a dish to pass for your 10-year class reunion (no one will even remember that awful hair cut).
- Monday dinner. Yes, your tastebuds are enough of a reason. #treatyoself
You might be asking yourself, “what exactly puts the ‘Next-Level’ in this Pasta Salad?”. I’ve got a three part answer: (1) homemade lemon-garlic vinaigrette, (2) fresh spinach and tomato, and (3) spiced and roasted chickpeas. This Next-Level Pasta Salad also calls for Israeli Couscous, which might sound a little Bougie, but I chose it because I think it’s less of a hassle to cook. You just heat up a little broth, throw in the couscous, cover and turn off the heat. No stirring, timing or draining necessary.
Next-Level Pasta Salad
Get out your sundress. It’s time to impress. This show-stopping pasta salad will be the hit of the barbecue!
Spiced, Roasted Chickpeas
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 1/3 cup Israeli Couscous
- 1 cup raw spinach
- 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette
- Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar (or maple syrup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Toss the chickpeas with the spices, olive oil and vinegar. Transfer to a sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the couscous and cover. Turn off the heat and let sit.
- When the chickpea timer goes off, add the diced zucchini to the sheet tray. Toss and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Now, make the vinaigrette. Combine the lemon juice, garlic, mustard, agave and salt in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. While the blender is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Allow the chickpeas to cool for 5-10 minutes at room temperature.
- Check the couscous. After about 8-10 minutes the pearls should have absorbed all of the broth and be al dente. Add the done couscous to the chickpeas, just pouring it over the top and allowing them to cool slightly.
- Finally, add everything to a large bowl: the chickpea and zucchini mixture, the couscous, tomatoes, spinach and onion. Pour the vinaigrette over the top (all of it!). Toss to combine. You can serve this warm, but it’ll hold up best in the fridge and can be served cold like a traditional pasta salad.