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JULY FOURTH: Recipe for sun-dried tomato macaroni salad

This May 5, 2014, photo shows sun dried tomato macaroni salad in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

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This May 5, 2014, photo shows sun dried tomato macaroni salad in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

So many pasta salads start with a great base — perfectly cooked pasta and a bevy of crisp, fresh vegetables — but fall apart when it comes to the dressing.

To us, the perfect pasta salad dressing requires a balance of savory, tangy flavours, with just a hint of sweetness. To create that for this salad, we start with oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, which provide a deeply savory, rich flavour. For tang, we puree the tomatoes with a mix of light mayonnaise and plain Greek yogurt. Finally, just a tablespoon of brown sugar ties everything together with a subtle sweetness.

For our vegetables, we went with red bell pepper and fennel — along with a host of fresh herbs — but you could substitute whatever vegetables you prefer. Lightly blanched carrots or green beans, as well as chopped radishes and raw corn kernels would be a fine start.

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SUN-DRIED TOMATO MACARONI SALAD

Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 10

16 ounces dried small pasta (such as elbow or farfalle)

1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt

1 red bell pepper, cored and diced

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced

8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls (very small balls)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta and spread on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the dressing. In a blender, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, salt, pepper, brown sugar, mayonnaise and yogurt. Blend until smooth, then set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the dressing with the cooled pasta, bell pepper, fennel, mozzarella and herbs. For best flavour, cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 90 calories from fat (30 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 11 g protein; 200 mg sodium.

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