I don’t know if you’re aware, but this Spinach Penne Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette is the first ever salad to grace Smart Cookie.
How can that be possible, you ask? After all, Smart Cookie has been around for almost a year. And in all that time, I’ve never posted a salad.
Here’s the thing: I don’t really like salad.
Go ahead and say it; everyone does: “You’re a vegetarian and you don’t like salad?” I know, I’m a walking contradiction, just like in those Starbursts commercials. My rationale is that a) I prefer veggies cooked, not raw and b) I hate dressing. It is the most rancid substance on the planet. Mother Cookie, unlike me, is a salad fiend, and she makes bowls of dressing-drenched greens almost on a daily basis. When I smell that stuff, I run for the hills. It’s stink city.
I can’t hope for you to understand my lack of love for salads. I can only hope we can move past this. Perhaps you’ll feel better when you hear this: I found a salad I like. Okay, I’m still not into the dressing. That is included for your sake, because I realize normal people like dressing on their salads. Mother Cookie can attest to this being one bangin‘ vinaigrette.
So why do I like this salad? For one, it’s got pasta, tender multi-grain penne to be exact. That’s probably my favorite kind of pasta (next to orecchiette). Plus, this salad isn’t bombarded with hard-as-rocks raw veggies like carrots, or the kind of raw veggies that are just plain boring and unpleasant when not cooked, like broccoli. Instead, it has mild spinach, sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes, and tangy olives. Not only are all three of those tolerable when not cooked; they’re plain delicious. That’s raw food I can get behind.
Oh, did I mention there’s cheese? One of my favorites: salty, tangy feta. That really amplifies this salad. Combined with the juice of the fresh tomatoes and the tang of the olives, you get one flavorful and fresh salad before the is even dressing drizzled on.
Best of all, this dynamic and nutritious salad takes mere minutes to put together. That, my friends, is salad done right.
Maybe salad and I have a relationship in the foreseeable future after all?
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- Don’t like penne? Use whatever kind of short pasta you like. However, I recommend sticking to multi-grain and whole wheat pastas. They’ve got much more protein and fiber than white pasta, plus they’re heartier.
- You could really use any greens in place of spinach.
- Some people don’t like raw tomatoes. If you’re one of those people, drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 450 degrees F until they’re juicy and bubbly.
- Don’t like Greek olives? Black olives work just fine.
- You can use store-bought dressing if you really prefer. Or try plain olive oil + vinegar.
Spinach Penne Salad with White Wine Vinegar
Adapted from Taste of Home
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta, cooked according to box directions & drained
- 1 6-oz. package fresh baby spinach
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3/4 cup crumbed feta cheese
- 1/2 cup sliced Greek or black olives
- In a small bowl, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, spinach, tomatoes, feta, and olives. Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Serve immediately.