Few things pair more perfectly than pasta and tomatoes and few dishes capture the feeling of summer better than cool pasta salad. Best of all, along with its great taste, pasta salad with tomatoes has good nutritional value. The whole-wheat pasta provides a healthy base for the dish, while the balsamic vinegar with its tart flavor gives the dish a crisp taste.
True balsamic vinegar is aged in wood containers that infuse cooked grape juice with a hint of wood flavor and a dark color. The basic difference between the red and white is that the latter is often aged in a stainless steel container. The flavors of the two are very similar, although many chefs say that the dark balsamic is slightly sweeter and tends to be a little more syrupy. Some also believe the white has more of a clean aftertaste. The main reason one would use white balsamic, rather than regular, is mostly aesthetic. It can be used with lighter colored foods, dressings, or sauces without any discoloring.
The combination of vinegar, sugar and peppers creates a flavor that is exceptionally pleasant. This fusion enables you to avoid the fat in mixtures like mayonnaise without sacrificing flavor. You can experiment with the red pepper to find the level of zesty bite that appeals to your taste.
The recipe calls for Roma tomatoes, though any variety will do. Roma tomatoes, also known as Italian or Italian plum tomatoes, are pear or egg shaped tomatoes that are meatier and have fewer seeds, so they are good for pasta salads. Tomatoes contain the cancer protective, red pigment called lycopene. The green pepper, abundant in vitamin C, also provides color and its flavor combines well with the tomatoes.
The unique feature of this summer pasta salad is the topping – toasted whole-grain, garlicky breadcrumbs. The final inclusion of fresh basil says, “It’s summer.”
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes makes a great side dish for any summer meal or cookout. Serve with grilled turkey burgers and a simple garden salad and your summer repast is complete.
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes
8 oz. whole-wheat fusilli, farfalle or other small pasta shape, cooked according to directions
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (red or white)
4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil, divided
1 tsp. turbinado sugar, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper (or to taste)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
4 plum or Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 slice whole-wheat bread (multigrain may be substituted)
In bowl, cover and chill pasta.
In large mixing bowl, combine vinegar, 2 tablespoons basil, sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper, 2 tablespoons oil and half of minced garlic. Whisk to combine well. Add pasta, bell pepper and tomatoes and toss gently until well coated.
In food processor or blender, place bread and pulse a few times to produce coarse crumbs. In a medium skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Stir in breadcrumbs and garlic. Sauté about 1½ - 2 minutes until browned and crisp. Remove from heat and let cool.
Top pasta with garlic crumbs and remaining basil. Serve.
Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 180 calories, 6 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 27 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 25 mg sodium.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.