Let me start off by saying, there is no pasta in this salad.
That’s right, the recipe I am about to share with you is a pasta-free pasta salad. It makes no sense…or does it make perfect sense?
Let me explain.
I avoid most grains and refined flours because I find that when I include them regularly in my diet, I don’t feel very well. I’m not celiac, but after 4 years of experimentation, I have directly linked grain consumption to certain undesirable side effects – anxiety to be the number one issue. I have yet to understand the scientific side of that – why does this happen? What specifically is the cause? Is it the ingredients or the preparation? Until I understand it more, I try to avoid grains and refined flours as much as possible. So in relation to this post, although I love a good pasta dish, I don’t include pasta in my diet because it contains said ingredients.->Insert sad face emoji here.<-
But hey, I’m human and so are you! Pasta tastes amazing – it’s comforting, versatile and you can smother it in a sauce. What’s not to love? But maybe you’re currently avoiding grains as well, or maybe you’re simply looking to cut back on calories and have cut out pasta from your diet for that reason. You’re doing really well and avoiding all things pasta related but gosh, after that BBQ last weekend and seeing that cold pasta salad on the table, you find yourself missing a good pasta dish. Sound familiar?
Well, you’re in luck. There are so many ways to have a pasta experience and still avoid the ingredients you want to avoid. Here are some of my favorite pasta substitutions that you can include in your own kitchen –
- Zoodles – spiralized zucchini noodles (this is my favorite, compact spiralizer)
- Sweet potato noodles – also spiralized
- Gluten free noodles – here are some of my favorites:
- Assi Glass Noodles (made from sweet potato starch)
- Capello’s Gluten Free Noodles (all the options!)
- Sea Tangle Kelp Noodles
- Spaghetti squash – baked and shredded
Today’s recipe is a zesty, cold Italian faux pasta dish featuring my favorite pasta substitution, spaghetti squash. I’ve been missing my mom’s cold pasta salad, so I set out to make something just like hers, sans the pasta. But can it be done? Can you really replace the pasta and still feel like you’re eating pasta?
Well, after this making this dish, I say YES, YES, YES. It can be done! It’s all the same flavors, with all the same comfort, but without all the refined flours and extra calories.
But hey, why take my word for it? You be the judge.
Zesty Italian Faux Pasta Salad
- (1) spaghetti squash **see notes for zoodle replacement
- (4) mini sweet peppers
- (1/4) cup red onion
- (1) cup halved cherry tomatoes
- (1/4) cup fresh basil
- (1/4) cup sliced black olives
Zesty Italian Vinaigrette Ingredients
- (1/4) cup olive oil
- (3) tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- (1) tbsp. Italian seasoning blend
- (2) garlic cloves, minced
- (1/4) tsp. sea salt
Other Tools Needed
- Cutting board
- Chef’s knife
- Baking sheet
- Medium mixing bowl
- Large serving bowl
- Small mason jar or container with lid for the vinaigrette
- 2 forks
- Large serving spoon
Preheat the oven to 375° degrees (F). Place the two halves of the spaghetti squash on your baking sheet, cut part up. When the oven is ready, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, prep the produce for the salad by dicing the peppers, onions,and basil. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and slice the black olives. Throw all ingredients in the large serving bowl and set aside.
To prepare the vinaigrette, add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning blend, minced garlic and sea salt to a mason jar, or any container with a lid. Voila! Instant vinaigrette.
When the squash is done roasting (it should be soft enough to stick a fork in the flesh easily), remove from the oven and use the two forks to shred the squash into noodle-like pieces. Place the shredded squash into the medium sized mixing and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. It should be cold to the touch before mixing the squash in with the other ingredients
When the squash has cooled, add it to the large mixing bowl with the produce and mix everything together. Then take the jar of vinaigrette, and shake, shake, shake! Good? Pour about 1/2 – 3/4 of the vinaigrette in the salad and mix it all together again. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
If you’re using zoodles (spiralized zucchini), use about 4-5 zucchini in place of the spaghetti squash for the same overall serving size. Sprinkle salt over the zoodles and let sit for 20-30 minutes to dehydrate them, as salt draws out moisture. Then, using paper towels, wring out the zoodles of excess moisture. Now saute the zoodles in a pan until tender and drain them of them of any additional excess moisture before adding them into the freezer to cool. Prepare the rest of the salad as usual.
To make this a full entree, add some protein! I loved this with some grilled chicken.
If you give this dish a try, be sure to leave a comment to let me know how you liked it. I love hearing from you!
Until next time,