Monday, July 2, 2012

Greek Spinach-Pasta Salad with Feta and Beans

When the heat gets absolutely unbearable outside (hello, 113 degrees this past weekend), I rely on fresh, easy-to-make, no-oven-necessary recipes to get me through. While we certainly do our fair share of grilling, pastas and salads are the main dishes I turn to during the summer months.

In addition to being relatively affordable, I love pastas and salads for their sheer flexibility. Got some fresh beans or squash from the garden that needs to be eaten? Throw 'em in. Forgot to pick up an ingredient from the grocery store? No one will notice. Plus, they're an easy way to adapt to any dietary need or appetite by adding meat, eliminating meat, going gluten free, etc.

Not into pasta? Eat it as a spinach salad
Since my husband and I are always trying to find new and creative ways to go meatless, this recipe is right up our alley. It packs a ton of protein with the beans and cheese and lots of summer flavor with lemon and fresh herbs. It can be easily adapted for gluten-free or wheat-free eaters by eliminating the pasta or, for the big time carnivores among us, a grilled chicken breast could be added to bump up the protein even more. Plus, you can eat it hot or cold.

However you prefer to tweak it for your own personal tastes, this is one great meal for when the mercury rises.

Greek Spinach-Pasta Salad with Feta and Beans
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, May 2011

5 - 6 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 15 oz. can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
4 - 6 oz. crumbled Feta cheese
1/4 c. sundried tomatoes
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. snipped fresh oregano
1 tbsp. snipped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 lb. dried penne or bowtie pasta
Shaved Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

In a large serving bowl, combine spinach, beans, Feta, tomatoes, green onions, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover; let stand at room temperature while preparing pasta or up to 2 hours; stirring occasionally.

Shortly before serving, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Toss cooked pasta and pasta water with spinach salad mixture. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

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