My Kids Cheer for This Delicious Salad that Comes Together in Minutes

published Apr 19, 2022
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Credit: Shifrah Combiths

I have the antidote to busy weeknight evenings that start with hungry, grubby starving children who stumble in after practice and end with a too-late bedtime and frazzled parents. It’s green, it’s served on a single platter, and it has the unlikeliest of names: a Hungry Lady Salad. 

Let me back up. In one of my procrasti-scrolls, I came across Kathleen Ashmore (@kat_can_cook) on Instagram. One look at her feed and it’s easy to see how I got lost in her beautiful, healthful recipes. What really caught my attention, though, was how most of her posts feature nutritious and filling one-plate meals. Ashmore was in the middle of a Hungry Lady Salad series (that she still seems to be running, by the way) and I was intrigued. 

Since I’m always looking for ways to feed my family veggie-heavy meals that come together easily, I saved several of her recipes and started with the Pesto White Bean Salad with Garlic Croutons. After making it once, I immediately texted the recipe to close friends and family. It’s been two months and I’ve probably made the salad once a week since first discovering it. 

The salad is an entire meal in and of itself. It delivers on its promise to feed a hungry lady (*raises hand*), but it also feeds an entire hungry family! When my kids ask that wonderful question, “What’s for dinner?” and I tell them white bean salad, they cheer! The very best part is that the entire thing comes together in about fifteen minutes. Oh, and side note, it’s gorgeous. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

How to Make Pesto White Bean Salad

To make Pesto White Bean Salad with Garlic Croutons, you need arugula, olive oil, a lemon, cherry tomatoes, two cans of white beans, pesto, a loaf of bread, garlic, and balsamic glaze. 

Slice the bread into crouton-sized cubes and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and pressed garlic over the cubes. Toss and bake until the outsides are crispy. Conveniently, it’s just the right amount of time to assemble the rest of the salad. 

Spread the arugula on a platter. (I use a large oval one.) Drizzle the olive oil over the leaves and follow with lemon juice. Toss if you can but no biggie if you just leave it drizzled. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place on the bed of greens. Mix drained and rinsed white beans with a few big spoonfuls of pesto and spread on top of the tomatoes. 

Crown the salad with the croutons and finish it off with thin lines of balsamic glaze. It’s a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds and it makes every single belly at my table happy. 

My Honest Review

I love this salad so much. I’d be proud to serve it to guests because it’s just so stunning. But it isn’t time-consuming to make. A bit of slicing and stirring and scattering and poof! It’s on the table. This makes it perfect for busy weeknights when it’s too overwhelming to make a “full blown” dinner but you don’t want to feed your family fast food. 

I also love that it’s easy to have most of the ingredients on hand. Because I’ve been making it so often (with no sign of letting up any time soon) I pick up a pre-washed bag of arugula at Trader Joe’s, along with a container of cherry tomatoes, every time I go. I keep my pantry stocked with white beans and I always have a jar of Costco pesto in the fridge, so the meal is nearly a “pantry meal.” 

I know it may be a bit surprising that my kids enjoy arugula, but the creaminess of the beans and the pesto, the brightness of the lemon juice, and the sweetness of the tomatoes subdues the peppery greens into a gentle background note. The croutons make the salad fun. In fact, the kids sometimes call the dish Crouton Salad, haha! 

The combination of beans and healthy fats means the salad fills every single one of us up. Lastly, cleanup is a breeze. It’s a winner all around and I can’t wait for you to enjoy this dinner rescue meal in your own rotation. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

5 Tips for Making Pesto White Bean Salad with Garlic Croutons

1. Buy pre-washed arugula. To make sure this salad comes together as easily as possible, buy pre-washed greens. I’ve used two 7-ounce bags or one 10-ounce bag and both amounts are perfectly fine. 

2. Cherry tomatoes are better, but regular tomatoes will do. I’ve made the salad with both regular tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Regular tomatoes are faster to cut, but the cherry tomatoes really do taste best. Grabbing and using one whole container means you don’t have to worry about produce going bad. Try this cherry tomato cutting hack to make prep even faster. 

3. Freeze cubes of bread. Although it’s not a huge deal to grab that loaf of french bread when you grab that bag of arugula, having already-cubed bread on hand makes the meal come together even more quickly. If you have extra bread, cube it and store it in a gallon Ziploc bag so it’s ready to go next time. For best results, thaw the bread on the counter before baking it. 

4. Buy or make your balsamic glaze. The balsamic glaze really tops off the salad, both visually and taste-wise, so don’t skip it. You can make your own from balsamic vinegar (all you do is reduce it on the stovetop), but I like to just pick up a bottle of glaze at Trader Joe’s. 

5. Freeze extra pesto. If you find you can’t use all your Costco pesto before it expires, freeze it in muffin tins or ice cube trays for easy portioning when you need it next.