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One of my favorite side dishes (and even main dishes) in the summer is pasta salads. While I enjoy creamy salads, I love lighter salads that focus on fresh flavors and locally grown veggies. This Penne Fresca Salad is so so good and so very easy to make. In Italian, Fresca means “cool” or “fresh”. So for “fresca recipes”, the ingredients are typically not cooked and are ready to serve. And that is what makes this recipe so simple to make.
If you are gluten free, like me, this recipe is easily adapted into a gluten free meal by using gluten free pasta. While I haven’t tasted a plain gluten free pasta that I fully love, I’ve found that as long as my sauce and foods on my pasta are flavorful, I don’t realize that my pasta is no longer wheat based.
The ingredients in this recipe are reliant on fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes. If you don’t have cherry tomatoes, you can always substitute larger tomatoes that you cut into bite sized pieces. You will want to deseed and remove the middle juices if you do use larger tomatoes to prevent your salad from getting too watered down. This recipe also requires fresh mozzarella which is just so so good. If you want to add a Greek twist to this recipe, you can substitute feta cheese for the mozzarella cheese. If you make any variations of this recipe, I would love to hear what you did and how your salad turned out!
Penne Tomato Salad
8 ounces cooked penne
½ pint grape tomatoes
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cubed
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, slivered
2 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
1-2 cups of fresh spinach or arugula
salt and pepper
about ¼ cup of EVOO
juice from one lemon
1. Cook the penne according to package, then rinse in cold water and place into large bowl.
2. Saute garlic cloves in EVOO until lightly browned, then add in sun-dried tomatoes and cook about 1-2 more minutes; season with salt and pepper. Remove to a plate and let cool to room temperature (to speed up the process you can put it in the fridge or freezer).
3. Once room temperature, add sautéed mix to penne and drizzle with EVOO until lightly coated, then add in tomatoes and mozzarella.
4. Season mix with salt and pepper, add in spinach, drizzle with lemon juice, then mix well one last time.
5. Place on plate and top with nuts if desired (toasted pine nuts give nice texture) and enjoy!
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This recipe is adapted from Recipe International