Blog · Lunch recipes - Main dishes

Protein-packed quick and easy pasta salad

Let me share with you another new quick lunch idea: a nutritious, delicious pasta salad recipe. This pasta salad is ideal for busy days when you don’t have much time for making lunch. Or you can make it ahead and keep it in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Plus it is a great lunch box food, as it is packed with protein and veggies. The perfect balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.

This quick lunch is very versatile. The ingredients are flexible, I used veggies from the fridge, leftover chicken, and some beans. You can add more veggies to it, maybe some spinach or arugula.

Pasta salad ingredients and substitutions

For this meal you’ll need:

  • Veggies: The combination of veggies adds color and crunch to the salad. I love adding bell pepper, olives, halved cherry tomatoes, and red onion (or scallions). You can add other vegetables, too. Try sliced fennel, grated carrots, radish, cucumbers, or zucchini, dried tomatoes. Roasted winter squash and beets are a nice alternative in fall and winter. Adding a handful of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand is an excellent idea, too. The more color and flavor, the better! Veggies are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Pasta: The core of the recipe. Recommended types of dried pasta for pasta salad are fusilli, penne, rotini, or farfalle. I used simple wheat pasta, you can use whole wheat, gluten-free. Any type you prefer.
  • Protein: In this recipe, roast chicken and beans are the main sources of protein. I had both of them at home, so I used both. If you are vegan you may leave the chicken or if you don’t like beans you can use only chicken. Or you may change the beans to chickpeas if you like them more.
  • Cheese: I used feta cheese. Other cheeses will work, too. Parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar. For a vegan pasta salad, chose a vegan cheese substitute.
  • Dressing: This dressing was inspired by Italian dressing but a little bit different. And I added some tahini which you can leave if you don’t like.

How to make this wonderful pasta salad?

Wash your veggies (tomatoes, bell pepper). Chop up tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion to the desired shape. Heat one tsp olive oil in a pan and toss the red onion, and the cherry tomatoes for a few minutes until they soften a bit. Drain and rinse the beans. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, 6 to 10 minutes (check the package for recommended cook time). Drain and rinse well under cold water. While the pasta cooks, in the bottom of a large bowl, make the dressing. Whisk the dressing ingredients until blended. Add the drained and rinsed pasta to the dressing and mix well. Stir in the veggies, olives, beans, roast chicken. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. You can serve it with some feta cheese on top and with fresh basil.

Happy cooking! Let me know if you try this recipe…you can use #cutecuisine on instagram. Let us connect. 🙂

For other lunch recipes click here.

Protein packed pasta salad

This pasta salad is packed with protein, easy, and quick to make. Very versatile, and good for leftover food and veggie saving. Nutritious and delicious! 🙂

  • pan
  • pasta drainer
  • bowl
  • chopping board
  • knife
  • 150 g cherry tomatoes (1 cup)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 6-8 pitted black olives
  • roast chicken leftover (optional, we had leftover chicken)
  • 1 can red beans (250 g, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can white beans (250 g, drained and rinsed)
  • 250 g dried pasta like fusilli, penne, rotini or farfalle (1 cup)
  • feta cheese (again optional, another leftover)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fresh basil

Dressing

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 0,5 tsp oregan
  • 0,5 tsp basil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp tahini (if you don't like tahini leave it)
  • 1 clove garlic
  1. Wash your veggies (tomatoes, bell pepper). Chop up tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion to the desired shape.

  2. Heat one tsp olive oil in a pan and toss the red onion, and the cherry tomatoes for a few minutes until they soften a bit.

  3. Drain and rinse the beans.

  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, 6 to 10 minutes (check the package for recommended cook time). Drain and rinse well under cold water.

  5. While the pasta cooks, in the bottom of a large bowl, make the dressing. Whisk the dressing ingredients until blended. Add the drained and rinsed pasta to the dressing and mix well.

  6. Stir in the veggies, olives, beans, roast chicken. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

  7. You can serve it with some feta cheese on top and with fresh basil.

  8. Serve or for the best results, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

One portion provides 555 calories, 13 g fat, 44 g carbohydrates, 17 g protein.

Main Course, Side Dish
pasta salad, quick lunch

2 thoughts on “Protein-packed quick and easy pasta salad

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