We are entering one of the most important seasons of the year: potluck season. Grills will be lit, coolers packed, and plastic silverware upgraded to the status of fine china. I’m bringing my A game and a giant bowl of this Healthy Pepperoni Pasta Salad.
“A” game in this case being my “appetite” game, and Pepperoni Pasta Salad being the potluck MVP!
On any sunny summer Saturday or Sunday, you’ll find Ben and me at his parent’s house, which is situated on a lake 20 minutes from us. During the summer, my in-laws graciously open their home (and pontoon boat) to the two of us, along with any of our friends who care to join.
We are very popular in the summer.
Without fail, our afternoons on the lake turn into impromptu potlucks. Ben’s parents keep a big stash of Italian sausages and burgers on hand for grilling, and friends who come for the day bring their favorite six packs and a side dishes to share.
During the last few summers on the lake, I’ve tasted and observed dozens of different potluck side dishes in action, and while there are many that I love (including this light and easy Shrimp Pasta Salad), classic Italian Pepperoni Pasta Salad is the consistent crowd favorite.
Traditional Italian pasta salad recipes often call for bottled Italian dressing and a slew of less-than-wholesome ingredients. I decided to give the classic recipe an update by using fresh ingredients: yummy, crunchy veggies, lean turkey pepperoni, whole wheat noodles, and an easy homemade Italian dressing.
The pontoon boat isn’t in the water yet, so I may be speaking too soon, but this Pepperoni Italian Pasta Salad could end up being the top-requested potluck side of the summer.
The spice of the pepperoni combined with the creaminess of the feta, chewiness of the pasta, zip from the Italian dressing, and crispness of the veggies is absolutely addictive. This Pepperoni Pasta Salad reminds me of a fabulous slice of pizza, but in light, bright pasta salad form.
Because this Pepperoni Pasta Salad is on the healthy side, it’s ideal paired with summertime grilling favorites, like the pub burgers currently being offered by our local grocery store Pick ‘N Save. The burger patties are available in both a full size and a slider size and are made fresh, meaning I can enjoy homemade burger taste and save time, since they come ready to grill. The flavor options range from classic, to cheddar and jalapeno, to the juicy onion and garlic patties I paired with this Healthy Pepperoni Pasta Salad. The two are a match made in summertime grilling heaven!
Whether your next potluck is on a lake, in your backyard, or crowded around your coffee table, this Healthy Pepperoni Pasta Salad will be sure hit with guests. In the unlikely event of leftovers, it’s easy to pack for lunch and makes for a light and lovely summertime dinner too.
Tools I Used to Make This Recipe
Healthy Pepperoni Pasta Salad
For the Pepperoni Pasta Salad:
- 8 ounces uncooked whole wheat rotini fusilli, or similar pasta
- 1 ½ cups small-cut broccoli florets
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes halved
- 1 small orange bell pepper (or yellow) cored and diced
- ⅓ cup sliced turkey pepperoni quartered
- ¼ cup diced red onion about ½ small
- 1 small can sliced black olives (2.25 ounces), rinsed and drained
- ½ cup reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
For the Italian Dressing
- 1 small, ripe tomato, halved
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried basil
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool, then transfer to a large serving bowl.
- Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the pasta: broccoli, tomatoes, bell pepper, pepperoni, red onion, black olives, feta cheese and parsley.
- Prepare the Italian dressing: Slice the tomato in half. Rub the inside edges (non-peel side) against a coarse grater over a small bowl. Grate all of the tomato’s interior (juices and flesh) into the bowl, then discard the peel. Whisk in the remaining dressing ingredients until smooth. Pour dressing over the pasta bowl.
- Toss the Pepperoni Pasta Salad gently to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
- Pepperoni Pasta Salad can be prepared up to 1 day in advance. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss up to 4 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.
- Leftovers will keep for a few days in the refrigerator but may dry out a little. If you know you will be serving leftovers, consider making a little extra dressing, then storing the dressing separately. Just before serving, toss the extra dressing with the pasta to moisten it.
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