When my brother and I were little, one of our favorite dinners once spring and summer hit was my mom's chilled pasta salad loaded with shrimp and veggies. I have made a million different versions of it because the recipe is so good, variations are really simple. Add what you have on hand, what is in season, little additions you love and voila! you have the perfect weeknight dinner. 

A couple of ways I incorporate pasta into my life without feeling like I'm carb loading is: 1. choose great whole grain pasta (I use rice/quinoa - higher protein, lower carb) and 2. jam pack that pasta with veg. In this dish alone I have 5 different veggies to 8 oz of pasta and it will easily feed 6 people, depending on the size of people's appetite! No one has to feel guilty about eating a pasta like that.

Spring Pasta Primavera Salad

1 large leek, halved and sliced

1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon large grain sea salt

1 box quinoa pasta

1 yellow pepper

1 small head radicchio 

1 small bunch asparagus


1/3 cup fresh tarragon

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons ground mustard

1 small shallot


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss leeks and tomatoes with olive oil on a sheet pan, season with sea salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until veggies are soft and slightly browned. Let cool.

Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil. Add quinoa pasta, stirring occasionally and cook for 12-13 minutes (or according to package instructions). Pasta should be soft but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

Thinly slice pepper, radicchio and asparagus, place in a large bowl. Add roasted veggies and pasta.

In a mini chop or food processor, add tarragon dressing ingredients (tarragon - shallot), blend until smooth.

Toss pasta and veggies with dressing - tossing with the pasta when it is still slightly warm is optimal if possible. The sauce is able to absorb into the pasta and flavor it well that way.

Serve room temperature or chilled.

*Using quinoa pasta helps make this a complete meal without meat or dairy; but if you're not vegan, I love to top with shaved parm. If you want to add extra protein, beans, grilled shrimp or chicken work very well. 

*Some fun veggie swaps: maitake mushrooms, zucchini, sweet peas, artichoke hearts or eggplant.