Pasta salad is thrifty yet filling
Pasta salad is a favorite at summer barbecues and potlucks because it is filling and inexpensive to make.
But with the addition of some protein and a few spices, it also can be transformed into an exotic supper entree that costs only about $1.25 per serving.
This recipe for curried pasta salad with tuna is reminiscent of a hearty Waldorf salad and takes advantage of many food items you already may have. It can feed a family of four with leftovers for a couple of lunches.
Inexpensive canned chunk-light tuna and bow-tie pasta form the heart of this Indian-spiced dish. If you already have other small shapes of pasta, such as shells or elbows, they will work just as well.
Likewise, canned salmon or chicken can stand in for the tuna if it’s on sale that week or that’s what you happen to have on hand.
The dressing is made with reduced-fat mayonnaise and sour cream. Consider using less-expensive store brands of both products, since they usually are of comparable quality with major brands.
The spices that flavor the dressing can be pricey, especially if you don’t think you’d use them often.
The solution is in your grocer’s natural foods department (or a natural foods store), which often has a bulk spice section that allows you to purchase just the amount needed and at a lower price, because you are not paying for the packaging.
Fresh red grapes and celery add sweetness and crunch to the salad. Grapes tend to be at their best in both flavor and value during the summer. When buying celery, skip the pre-packaged hearts, which can cost more than $3 per pound. A 2-pound loose bunch usually costs less than $2.
Finally, cashews add flavorful protein and contribute to the Indian feel of the dish. Cashew pieces are the most economical way to buy this nut. And like spices, buying from the bulk section is cheaper. If you like, you could use peanuts, slivered almonds or even walnut pieces instead.
To complete this meal, serve the pasta salad along with sliced cucumbers drizzled in a creamy yogurt-cilantro dressing and perhaps a tropical-flavored iced tea.
Preparation time, start to finish: 30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces bow-tie pasta (or similar small pasta shape)
2 cups thinly sliced celery
1 cup halved, seedless red grapes
1 cup unsalted cashew pieces
Two 6-ounce cans chunk light tuna in water, squeezed dry and flaked
In a small, dry skillet, toast the cumin seeds over medium heat, until they just get fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the seeds onto a small plate to cool for a few minutes.
To make the dressing, in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, toasted cumin seeds, curry powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and add celery, grapes and cashews.
Add the reserved dressing and mix thoroughly to coat. Gently stir in tuna. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.