Sweet and tangy strawberry spinach pasta salad with orange poppyseed dressing with pineapple, cashews, and tart cranberries is the perfect potluck side dish for every get together.
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been over a hundred degrees consistently this month and I have a hard time turning on the oven in these kinds of conditions, maybe it’s just that I I like the idea of taking lettuce, adding pasta and fruit or veggies, a handful of goodies like nuts and dried berries or cheese, and calling it a salad.
Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of this side dish/main dish/9pm leftovers snack.
For Memorial Day my family got together for a big barbecue to kick off Summer and my mother’s good friend Penny contributed a pasta salad to the plethora of potluck goodness. It had dried berries and spinach and penne noodles, along with pineapple, strawberries, and some kind of orange poppy seed dressing.
You see where I’m going with this.
I ate it. I love it. I had to recreate it for myself.
So this is my simplified version of that BOMB pasta salad. She actually added shredded chicken to her salad and I thought that was brilliant so if you’ve got some leftover chicken in the fridge or maybe some rotisserie chicken begging to be used up, put it in this salad. You will not regret it.
And feel free to customize this recipe, it’s very forgiving. Swap out the pineapple for mandarin oranges, or add dried blueberries or cherries instead of the cranberries. Don’t limit yourself to cashews if you prefer walnuts or pecans – go where your pantry takes you!
I like to use fresh-squeezed orange juice for the dressing but you can absolutely use that carton of OJ you’ve been reaching for at breakfast each morning.
If you want to make this salad ahead of time (more than one hour ahead) I would recommend waiting to add the dressing until just before serving. Just keep it in a covered jar until ready to serve, then toss and enjoy!
- 8 ounces penne noodles, cooked according to package directions
- 2 cups packed fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 1 cup pineapple chunks
- ¼ cup dried cranberries, or dried blueberries
- ½ cup salted cashews, or other nut like pecans or walnuts
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons honey
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
- optional: pinch of salt and pepper
- Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar, cover, and shake well. Set aside.
- Combine penne, spinach, strawberries, pineapple, cranberries, and cashews in a large bowl and toss with the prepared dressing.
- Serve immediately or cover and chill for 1 hour before serving.