Kid-friendly pasta salad without mayo

by Holly
kid friendly pasta salad without mayo

Looking for a kid friendly pasta salad that even your picky eaters will love?

You’ve come to the right place! This kid-friendly pasta salad is perfect for lunchbox, barbecues, and picnics. Plus, it’s easy to make and can be adapted to fit any dietary needs. So give it a try today and watch your little ones gobble it up!

Why We Love This Kid-Friendly Pasta Salad

This kid-friendly pasta salad is a staple on our dining table. It’s not only nutritious, but it’s also colorful which appeals to appetite. It has good fats from the olive oil and pepitas (or pumpkin seeds) providing a substantial quantity of healthy fats, magnesium, and zinc. We love it because it’s easy to make and can be enjoyed by the whole family.

pasta salad for picky eaters

What Does This Kid-Friedly Pasta Salad Taste Like

This is an oil-based pasta (as opposed to creamy mayo-based) so it’s pretty light. It gets its flavor from basil and parmesan cheese so it tastes similar to pesto without the garlic.

Since I’m making this pasta for my kids, I let the parmesan cheese provide its natural saltness. You can add salt and pepper to taste.

What kind of pasta is best for this recipe?

When making pasta salads, always opt for dried pasta. It’s cheaper, easy to always have around, and will hold up much better when tossed with dressing and other ingredients.

Shape and size of the pasta matter too! The pasta you choose should be short and have nooks and crannies to trap in the salad dressing, herbs, and other flavorings. In today’s recipe, I used the vegetable radiatore pasta from Trader Joe’s. Other great pasta choices include farfalle, fusilli and penne, and seashell.

Ingredients

kid friendly pasta salad
  • 1 Persian cucumber or 1/2 English cucumber
  • 2 mini sweet peppers
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 scallion
  • handful basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 Cups pasta

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup raw pepitas
  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 Cup grated parmesan cheese
  • dash red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Instructions

Main ingredients preparation

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool.

NOTE: You can drizzle some extra virgin olive oil to avoid the pasta from sticking together

  • Peel the cucumber (optional) and chop it into small cubes
  • Remove sweet pepper seeds and chop into thin slices
  • Cut cherry tomatoes into half
  • Trim and discard the white part of the scallion. Cut onion greens into coins
  • Finely chop basil leaves
  • Add all the processed ingredients into the cooked pasta

Pasta dressing preparation

  • Roast pepitas over the stovetop.
    • Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. NO oil.
    • Add only enough pepitas to cover the bottom of the pan.
    • As the pepitas heat, they will puff up, some might even pop – don’t be alarmed.
    • Keep shaking the pan until they’ve turned mostly golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
    • Pour out of the hot pan onto a plate to allow them to cool.

I always roast pepitas over the stovetop because the direct heat of the skillet brings out their nutty flavor, puffs them up, and gives them a little more crunch. You can roast them in the oven or buy toasted ones in the store.

  • Grind pepitas in a food processor
  • Combine ground pepitas with the olive oil, parmesan cheese, and vinegar

Combine and Chill

Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss until well combined. Since my kids like their pasta salad a bit warm, I serve the pasta salad immediately. However, I recommend chilling the pasta salad in the fridge for about eight hours before serving. This will give the flavors time to meld. 

The pasta salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

kid friendly pasta salad without mayo
kid friendly pasta salad without mayo

KID-FRIENDLY PASTA SALAD WITHOUT MAYO

Print
Serves: 4 Prep Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • 1 Persian cucumber or 1/2 English cucumber
  • 2 mini sweet peppers
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 scallion
  • handful basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 Cups pasta
  • 1/4 Cup raw pepitas
  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 Cup grated parmesan cheese
  • dash red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Instructions

Main ingredients preparation

  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool. You can drizzle some extra virgin olive oil to avoid the pasta from sticking together.
  • Peel the cucumber (optional) and chop it into small cubes
  • Remove sweet pepper seeds and chop into thin slices
  • Cut cherry tomatoes into half
  • Trim and discard the white part of the scallion. Cut onion greens into coins
  • Finely chop basil leaves
  • Add all the processed ingredients into the cooked pasta

Pasta dressing preparation

  • Roast pepitas over the stovetop.
    • Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. NO oil.
    • Add only enough pepitas to cover the bottom of the pan.
    • As the pepitas heat, they will puff up, some might even pop – don’t be alarmed.
    • Keep shaking the pan until they’ve turned mostly golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
    • Pour out of the hot pan onto a plate to allow them to cool.
  • Grind pepitas in a food processor
  • Combine ground pepitas with the olive oil, parmesan cheese, and vinegar

Combine and Chill

Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss until well combined. chill the pasta salad in the fridge for about eight hours before serving. This will give the flavors time to meld. 

The pasta salad can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes

This recipe tastes best with the red wine vinegar. However, I’ve made it with apple cider vinegar and lemon before. If you opt for apple cider vinegar, use a little bit less as it tastes more acidic than red wine vinegar. Lemon is a great alternative as well if you don’t have vinegar at hand. I don’t recommend using balsamic vinegar as the taste can be overwhelming. You can substitute sweet peppers with diced apples or pears. Freezing the pasta salad is not recommended.

Recipe variations

Vinegar

This recipe tastes best with the red wine vinegar from Trader Joe’s. However, I’ve made it with apple cider vinegar and lemon before. If you opt for apple cider vinegar, use a little bit less as it tastes more acidic than red wine vinegar. Lemon is a great alternative as well if you don’t have vinegar at hand.

I don’t recommend using balsamic vinegar as the taste can be overwhelming.

Sweet peppers

Many kids don’t like the taste of peppers so you can substitute them with diced apples or pears. My kids don’t eat the sweet peppers but since I want to expose them to the taste of it, I always add some to this kid-friendly pasta salad. Who knows one day they’ll start eating the sweet peppers 😉


I hope you enjoy this super easy kid-friendly pasta salad. Tell me how yours turn out by leaving a comment below!

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