This Italian pasta salad recipe is heart-healthy and easy to make. It is low in fat and full of raw vegetables with a flavorful flax seed oil pesto sauce.
My Dietary Transition
I have been working to transition my diet to that which follows the protocols outlined by Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn for optimal human health. (Check out the health resources link on this blog to find some of their work if you have not already.) Essentially, it is a low fat whole foods plant based diet. I was already eating a whole food plant based diet with a lot of raw food, but still eating far too many nuts and oils with the wrong proportions of omega fatty acids. I am giving their recommended 80-10-10 (carbs-protein-fat) approach a try, which hypothetically should be achieved simply by eating a varied diet of whole plant foods. If I use oil, I am trying to use flax oil exclusively for my cold dishes, as it is the only plant based oil that is higher in omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acid, and using coconut oil occasionally, but sparingly for my occasional cooked dishes (and in large amounts on my skin as a moisturizer!).
The Recipe Origins
As my grandfather recently passed away from heart disease, I’ve been encouraging my family to adopt some more heart-healthy dietary habits by preparing meals for them this week while I am visiting. I was originally going to take this recipe to a vegan potluck dinner with some friends, as I thought it would be a nice light meal that would appeal to most people. When I ended up back home over the news about my grandfather, I made it for my relatives instead.
A Note About Grains
I chose to include some grains in this recipe to make it more appealing to the audience I was preparing it for. One important thing to note is that when following the heart-healthy protocol, any grains which are consumed should be whole grains. This means that the germ, endosperm, and bran are not removed in processing. Otherwise, the grains lack fiber and nutrients. I found an organic rice pasta at my local grocery store (I LOVE PUBLIX!) that uses whole grain rice flour, which worked out really nice for the recipe. If your local hippy market doesn’t carry any such thing, you can order it from Amazon: Jovial Organic Brown Rice Fusilli.
HOWEVER, I generally prefer to limit my consumption of grains, due to their phytic acid content (which can be reduced by sprouting and fermenting, and offset by a healthy population of lactobacilli in the gut), but I digress. We can discuss that in another post at another time. Until then, EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! 😉
How to Make it Raw
The rice pasta is the only cooked ingredient in the dish, so if you’d like it to be a completely raw vegan meal, you can just make noodles out of the zucchini instead of slicing it as I did for this version of the recipe, and omit the rice pasta all together. This was my original plan for the recipe. However, if sharing with hungry omnivores, the whole grain rice pasta makes the recipe a bit more familiar.
- 3 spiral cut zucchinis OR 1/2 lb whole grain rice pasta
- If using pasta, then chop 2 zucchinis for the salad (don't chop any extra if they are your noodles)
- 1/2 heart celery, thinly sliced (appx. 1.25 cups)
- 1 cup grated carrot (appx. 3 medium carrots or 4 small organic carrots)
- 2 cups chopped grape tomatoes (1 pint package)
- 1 cup chopped yellow sweet pepper (appx 3 sweet peppers or 1 yellow bell pepper)
- 1/2 cup chopped artichoke heart (appx 5 hearts - marinaded in brine, not oil)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (up to 1/2 cup if you love parsley)
- 1 cup chopped kalamata olives (reduce to 1/2 cup to reduce the fat - stored in brine, not oil)
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions (5-6 stalks)
- 1/2 cup flax seed oil
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 1 large handful fresh basil
- 2 TB apple cider vinegar
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Cook pasta according to package instructions OR spiral cut zucchini and massage in 1/2 tsp of sea salt and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until soft and pliable, then rinse with cool water.
- Chop all vegetables as indicated and add them to a very large bowl.
- If you are using pasta noodles, then chop some zucchini for the salad. If you are using zucchini noodles, then omit zucchini from the salad.
- Add all dressing ingredients to a high speed blender (Vitamix is my preference) and blend thoroughly until everything is smooth and well incorporated.
- Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix until it is evenly distributed. Let the dressing sit on the vegetables for about 10 minutes to allow them to soften and soak in the flavor.
- Mix the pasta (either zucchini or rice noodles) into the large bowl with the salad and dressing.
- This pasta salad recipe will feed 4 people as a meal or 6-8 as a side dish. We had 6 at dinner and finished the bowl, but one of us had 3 portions and made a meal of it. 😉
- Feel free to double the recipe for an extra large or extra hungry crowd. I made a double batch so that there would be leftovers for lunch the second day.