Pineapple and pear give this fruity pasta salad a sweet accent, while balsamic vinegar adds a delightful piquancy. With lean ham, cheese, fruit and vegetables all adding their own nutrients to balance the pasta, the result is a marvellous dish.
Source: Cook Smart for a Healthy Heart, Reader’s Digest Canada
Top and tail the green beans. Dice the ham or cut it into fine strips, if you prefer. Peel, core and dice the pear.
Cook the mixed pasta shapes in boiling water for approximately 10–12 minutes, or according to the package instructions, until al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water, then drain again.
Cook the beans in boiling water for about 3 minutes or until bright green and just tender, but still crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water, then drain again. Set aside.
Combine the cooked pasta with the Cheddar cheese, ham, pear, pineapple, onion, mayonnaise, yogurt, gherkin (if using) and sugar. Add a little extra gherkin or sugar, if desired. Mix together well, then adjust the flavour of the dressing with lemon juice, pepper and cayenne pepper, if using.
Dress the mixed salad greens with the sunflower oil (if using), the balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Divide the dressed leaves among 4 plates and top with the fruity pasta salad.
Arrange the green beans, walnuts and dried cranberries (if using) around the salad and serve immediately.
Fruity pasta salad variations: Omit the gherkin and instead season the pasta with a sprinkling of curry powder, stirring it in well. • Sprinkle with cashews instead of walnuts. • Low-fat mayonnaise can be used instead of the traditional type, for extra heart health. • Use 1 can (540 ml) chickpeas, well drained, instead of the ham. • Use 3 slices canned pineapple in natural juice, drained and diced, instead of fresh pineapple.
Per serving: 479 calories, 22 g protein, 15 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 64 g total carbohydrate, 12 g sugars, 6 g fibre, 766 mg sodium
Cheese is a good source of protein and a valuable source of calcium, phosphorus, niacin and vitamin B12. Using a strongly flavoured cheese, such as mature Cheddar, means that less is required for flavour in the dish, thus keeping the total fat content down.