There’s nothing more comforting than a classic macaroni salad but you know me…I have to add an anti-inflammatory twist on everything I make for you! It’s easier than you might think to make simple changes to most recipes to increase the anti-inflammatory properties, boost the nutrition, and cut back a little on things we generally need less of – saturated fat and salt in this case with my Creamy Chilled Pasta with Dill and Basil. I’m making classic mayo-based dressing and then adding pasta with dill and fresh basil in this easy, meal-prep-friendly recipe.
We were going camping this weekend and I knew that as we meal prepped and planned for veggie burgers on night one, we’d need a macaroni salad to go with it. Camping food is easy to meal prep and plan ahead and quick, easy, crowd-pleasing recipes are exactly what you should aim for.
Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Creamy Chilled Pasta with Dill and Basil
Yup – I said it. There ARE health benefits even to your favorite comfort foods when they’re done right. This recipe is full of veggies and fresh herbs that add flavor and nutrients that are good for your body.
Whenever you’re making a recipe, get creative with how many fresh veggies and herbs you can add. Think about different colors and textures which adds so much to a basic recipe.
Key Ingredient Swaps for a Healthier Pasta Salad
I always want you to be thinking about how you can make these kinds of swaps. This is what I did for this recipe:
- Reduce the mayo. Of course we want it to be creamy but many recipes call for a cup or more mayo. Because mayo is basically egg and oil, it’s very dense in calories and a little goes a long way. I cut the mayo in a classic recipe in half and it still worked perfectly.
- Add fresh veggies. Whether you like green, red, orange, or even purple bell peppers, swap in whichever you prefer the most or find at the store. You can also add in some chopped onion if you enjoy that flavor. See the FAQs below for even more ideas.
- Add fresh herbs. Pasta with dill is the obvious flavor for this classic recipe and I add as much as I can get away with. The exciting flavor addition is the basil in this recipe. These both contain vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds that help quench damaging free radicals in the body.
Making the Creamy Pasta Salad with Dill and Basil
This is a super quick, easy recipe! Get your water boiling and cook your noodles while you prep your bell pepper and make the dressing and you can actually have the whole thing done in less than 15 minutes. I like to make this one while I’m working on other recipes at the same time. It’s totally designed for meal prepping!
Salad meal prep steps
Get your water boiling, set out your cutting board, and set aside your mixing bowl, measuring cups and measuring spoons.
Salt your water and put a cover on it to bring it to a boil faster. I chopped my bell pepper first and set it aside. I was able to pull out all my dressing ingredients before the water was boiling fully.
Put in your noodles, give it a stir and set your timer for 6-7 minutes. You really just want them to be al dente or slightly firm still.
In that quick time while the noodles are boiling, you can whip up the dressing. Simply measure out the mayo, mustard, vinegar, and hot sauce and whisk it together. Then take a wooden spoon and stir in the bell pepper.
Once the noodles are done, you want them to stop cooking so pour them out onto a large baking pan for about 5 minutes then transfer them to the dressing bowl and stir it all together gently.
The herbs are very delicate so you don’t want to add them until you’re ready to serve the Creamy Herbed Macaroni Salad. If you want to add a little extra herbs, feel free! Some people want a little extra sprinkle of salt and black pepper so that’s a nice thing to add before serving, too.
- Can I add different herbs?
Yes! Consider adding in (or swapping) chives, green onion, or parsley to this dish.
- Can I add different veggies?
Yes! You can swap out your green bell pepper for any other bell pepper color. Consider adding in some chopped yellow or red onion. Get creative by adding in some diced asparagus, diced radish, or chopped sun-dried tomato.
- Can I make this gluten-free?
Choose a macaroni (or other shaped noodle) that’s made with beans, lentils, quinoa, rice, or veggies. There are a lot of really wonderful options on the market now. Just check out the noodle aisle in your local grocery store.
- Aren’t noodles carbs and aren’t carbs bad for you?
Noodles ARE carbs and no, you don’t need to avoid them. There are actually some interesting studies out of Italy that show pasta when included in a balanced diet, equals health.
- Can I make this dairy free or vegan?
Yes! The recipe is actually naturally dairy free. Eggs aren’t in the dairy category and there’s not milk products in mayo. To be vegan, all you have to do is choose a vegan mayo variety. There are some great ones on the market!
- How long does it hold?
You can serve this dish for 3-4 days after you make it. This is one reason that it’s excellent meal prep for camping. Definitely keep it cold a mayo is egg-based and can go bad if exposed to heat.
- Can I freeze it?
You know, noodles don’t freeze particularly well. I’d suggest keeping this one in the fridge and not freezing it.
If you love the idea of meal prepping shareable salads and other sides, check out my simple edamame pasta salad, salad skewers with peanut dressing, and quinoa salad with beets and herbs. To learn more about healthy swaps and meal prepping easy recipes, be sure to check out my new e-book: “Meal Prep for Weight Loss 101”
Boil a large pot of water and while it’s heating, make the dressing. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, soy sauce, and hot sauce. Mix in the bell pepper.
Boil the pasta for 7-8 minutes then drain and spread on a large baking sheet to cool for 5 minutes.
Add the pasta to the dressing bowl then toss and stir gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate until it’s ready to serve.Immediately before serving, stir in the fresh dill and basil. Add extra salt or freshly ground pepper to taste if desired.