Planning on going on any picnics, family cookouts or neighborhood street parties this summer? If so, you can give yourself a bit of a break by making a tasty pasta salad ahead of time.
Yes, we’ve all had the pasty, bland macaroni salad that Aunt Minnie always makes.
And it’s understandable if there’s a little hesitation about being associated with bad, cold pasta – but pasta salads don’t have to be bland or boring! Done right, they’re packed with flavor and wonderful textures.
We’ve found the best tips and techniques for salads that are full of flavor, aroma and textures. Read on and give one of our zesty recipes a try for your next summer outing – make a double batch because you won’t be bringing any leftovers home!.
Pasta Salad Basics
These attractive and tasty salads are dishes that really lend themselves to being made ahead. The flavors seem to blend and improve after a couple of hours in the fridge, and they require no additional prep before serving except maybe the addition of a garnish or dressing.
Perfect for a large gathering, pasta salad is a very versatile dish. With little effort, they can be dressed up or down with a multitude of ingredients, flavor intensives, toppings and dressings.
You could also put out individual servings in edible, natural bowls, like tomatoes or cucumbers with the seeds removed.
Pasta salads are usually served chilled or at room temperature. They can be prepared with one or more types of noodle, a variety of vegetables, herbs, some intense flavor accents, and a dressing that’s either creamy with mayonnaise, or a vinaigrette.
It may be served as an appetizer, a side dish or as an entrée, and is most noted for its outdoor appearances in spring and summer months.
Ingredients will vary widely due to seasonal availability, region and personal preferences, and can cover the gamut of food groups. They include vegetables, legumes, cheeses, nuts, herbs, spices, meats, poultry, or seafood.
Broccoli, carrots, baby corn, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled artichokes, cucumbers, olives, onions, canned beans and other legumes, peppers, parmesan, feta and goat cheeses are all popular ingredients that will be found in restaurant salad bars and the deli sections of your grocery store.
On display all of these varied ingredients may look delicious, but it’s rare for a commercially produced salads to actually taste as good as it looks. The flavors can be dull, bland, overly processed and lacking depth.
Instead, it’s time to make your own!
The 5 Steps
Your pasta salads will be much more flavorful and interesting if you make them yourself. Get creative with your favorite ingredients and flavors, but do give your combinations a little thought.
For example, teriyaki chicken would be great in a salad with soba noodles, Asian greens and a rice wine vinaigrette – but not so much in one made with feta cheese and Kalamata olives.
To produce delicious pasta salads every time, just follow the following five steps to success:
1. Prepare and Cook the Pasta
Choose small, extruded pastas that are easy to eat in one bite – you should be able to eat this salad standing up, with only one hand to hold a utensil and the other to hold your plate or dish. So avoid the longer noodles like spaghetti or linguine unless specifically called for in a recipe.
Recommended pasta types are: fusilli, penne, ziti, rotelle, elbow macaroni or small shells.
Follow the package directions and cook the pasta (or make your own) in boiling water seasoned with salt until just tender, or al dente. Drain, rinse and toss with a bit of olive oil, and cool to room temperature.
You can also use the electric pressure cooker to prepare a variety of pasta shapes. Check out our tutorial for elbow macaroni!
2. Prepare the Main Ingredients
Aside from the pasta, these are the salad’s major components. Cooked and raw vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, beans and cheeses would all fall into this group.
Some will require little or no preparation to be salad ready, while others may require par-boiling, par-steaming, sautéing or grilling. Grate, chop, slice and dice as per the recipe directions, ensuring all are cut into bite sized pieces, so as not to overwhelm the pasta.
For the main ingredients, try to select at least three major flavors and let one of them take the lead. For example, chicken with broccoli and sliced red peppers is a well-used combination.
The lead ingredient can be distinguished from the others by including it in greater quantities, or using a specific cooking technique or sauce.
Some of the veggies recommended for these summer salads benefit from par-steaming for that perfect, tender-yet-crispy texture.
Use a pot with a steamer insert, or par-boil by adding the veggies to your pot of boiling noodle water for the last minute of cooking, then drain and cool with the pasta.
Good candidates for par-steaming or par-boiling are:
- Broccoli or cauliflower florets, cut into bite-size pieces
- Asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size 1” lengths
- Carrots, cleaned, peeled and cut into ¼” medallions
- Green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size lengths
- Snow peas or sugar snap peas, strings removed
- Zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced into ¼” wedges
“As Is” Vegetables
Choose your favorites from a long list of ingredients that are best served raw: bean sprouts, celery, mushrooms, cucumber, avocado, zucchini, tomatoes (grape, cherry, plum or romas), bell peppers and peas, just to name a few.
Grilling vegetables adds smoky layers of depth to the flavors, and they are well suited for these cool salads. Before grilling or broiling, brush with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and some freshly diced herbs for the best flavor.
Suitable vegetables for the grill include: eggplant, corn, fennel, large mushrooms like portobellos, squash, bell peppers and zucchini.
If your tastes run more to Asian-themed noodle salads, lightly sautéed veggies such as celery, green onions, bell peppers, carrots and broccoli are ideal.
Proteins for Main Ingredients
Some proteins suitable for consideration as main ingredients include: beans, chicken breast, Italian sausage, cooked lobster, cooked prawns or shrimp, crab, tuna, ham, cold cuts and mild cheeses.
Once your main ingredients are ready to go, mix in with the room temperature pasta.
3. Choose the Flavor Intensives
Stronger tasting than the main ingredients, these intense flavor accents should be used sparingly. Add at least one and up to three flavor intensives to your salad – again, letting one of them be the lead.
Some good options for the intensives are:
- Sharp cheeses, crumbled or cubed: feta, Parmesan, goat, Asiago, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Cheddar, Cheshire….
- Capers, drained
- Anchovies, drained and chopped
- Olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- Pepperoncini, drained and thinly sliced
- Roasted peppers, cut into strips
- Sun-dried tomatoes, drained and diced
- Bacon, fried, drained and crumbled
- Prosciutto, thinly sliced or diced
- Smoked salmon, thinly sliced, then cut into thin strips
- Pine nuts, toasted
- Roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
- Roasted or honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds, raw or roasted
- Crunchy roasted chickpeas
- Pumpkin seeds, raw or roasted
- Any kind of tree nut
Stir in your flavor intensives after the main ingredients.
4. Infuse with Herbs and Aromatics
Regardless of what else goes into your salad, always add herbs and onions. Two or three large sliced green onions, or half of a small sweet or red onion diced up, will work for pretty much any recipe.
The types of onions can be switched freely, although green onions do tend to be best for Asian-style salads.
Mince about 3 tablespoons of fresh herbs and add about a teaspoon of zest from a lemon or lime, plus a teaspoon of olive oil or another type that’s great for use in cold dishes, along with salt and pepper. Mix together in a small bowl and add to the pasta with, or just after, the flavor intensives.
- For Asian-flavored pasta salads, cilantro, basil, and citrus zests work well.
- Dill, mint and tarragon will usually work with a creamy dressing.
- Basil is a natural for Mediterranean-flavored salads.
- Rosemary, tarragon, savory, thyme and oregano are strong flavors, so you may want to tone them down with some minced parsley – half and half is a good combo.
- If you can’t decide on which herbs to use, you’ll always be safe selecting freshly minced parsley.
- And of course, pesto is superb in pasta salads.
Add herbs with the intensives or the dressing.
5. Make the Dressing
For a salad that will serve four to six people, count on adding about one cup of dressing to fully coat all the ingredients.
Make your favorite dressing ahead of time, but be sure to give it a good shake before adding it to your salad. Whether it’s mayo based or a vinaigrette, you want it to be thick and make sure all of the ingredients well emulsified before it goes on the pasta.
The pasta will absorb any separated ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar, so a well-shaken dressing is mandatory.
Remember that red wine vinegar or balsamic will discolor the noodles, and with the intense flavors already present, a mild tasting vinegar often works best.
Add the dressing and toss the salad just prior to serving.
And voilà, you have the perfect pasta salad! To try out the five steps, here are a couple of my favorite recipes to practice on.
Summer Corn Pasta Salad
This tasty dish is summer in a bowl: fresh sweet corn kernels, zesty fresh lemon, and basil leaves flavor a base of bowtie pasta. Serve this alongside a sunny summer cookout or picnic!
Pesto Pasta Salad with Green Peas
This pasta salad is creamy and dreamy with fresh pesto, and the counterpoint tart flavors of the lemon juice and Parmesan cheese are wonderful flavor bombs on your taste buds.
Sicilian Pasta Salad
Like Sicily herself, this salad is full of intense flavors – the Pecorino cheese is an aged, sharp sheep’s milk cheese that crumbles easily, a favorite grated over all types of pasta in Sicily.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.
87 thoughts on “5 Steps for a Perfect Pasta Salad”
Usually when I make pasta, I always make it with lots and lots of vegetables, and different dressings, and rarely made a sauce to go with it, because it was easy and lasted longer. Now I get to know that it actually has a name- Pasta Salad! 😀
The way I usually make has a bit of an Indian flavor to it, using coriander leaves, onions, cumin and other vegetables with some indigenous masalas.
Your Indian flavors are a natural for these types of dishes and sound delicious… will have to give it a try this summer.
I’m fairly new to vinegar, can you give some examples of more mild flavored vinegars? Your list of intensives has me craving a pasta salad, and I haven’t made one in years. This is the perfect time of year to experiment with this type of recipe, to find a few variations that will work best and be popular with my family. One of my favorite noodles to cook for dinner, as well as pasta salads, is tri-color rotini, since it adds flavor, as well as interest to whatever dish it’s used in.
I tend to react like Pavlov’s dog over the intensives too! Some milder vinegars appropriate for pasta salads would be: champagne, white wine, cane (from sugar cane), rice wine and vinegars flavored with herbs such as tarragon or rosemary will all tend to have a gentler taste to them. Let us know how your experiments turn out.
The photos all look beautiful. The vegetables make it so colorful and capture the essence of spring and summer.
They’re definately summer fare… thanks for your comments.
Lorna, you must have read my mind – I was just thinking about how much I hope there’s a new Foodal post on pasta soon! I’ve never had a salad of this type before, only cooked noodles or in a tomato-free lasagna. This sounds like it could be a real winner for when having people over, though, and I especially like all the suggestions for ingredients in here. It gives a lot of variety to choose from. You could make enough different mixes to feed a small army with all the options!
I think I’ll give this a try with rigatoni, asparagus, snap peas, feta cheese some time!
That sounds like a great combo nightwind, and you’re right – pasta salads are ideal for entertaining. Hope you enjoy your first one!
I agree, getting the flavor combination right in a pasta salad is so important. This is a great, easy-to-follow guide. Both of those recipes look amazing as well. I’d never thought to toss the freshly-cooked pasta with olive oil prior to mixing the salad, though, thanks for the tip!
Tossing the pasta with oil does help Leopard, and let’s those important flavor combos shine through!
Thanks for this article Lorna, whilst I love pasta salads, there’s nothing worse than one which is either too soggy or too starchy. I think that rinsing and thoroughly draining the pasta is key to success.
Too right mb, if you begin with well rinsed and drained pasta, chances are the rest will fall into place too…and avoid those bad, soggy/starchy pasta salads!
These are great. I’m digging the Sicilian pasta salad. Some serious comfort food that you can just eat bowls of. I actually haven’t made stuff like this too much. I’m wanting to now. Bow tie or penne pasta. I have not had the bow tie pasta in so long. It’s easier to eat and I think it digests better than the penne. Funny though I haven’t bought it much now that I think of it. I’ll be doing a gluten free one for sure. I love olives, especially black ones. The only thing about that is it raises your histamine levels. A little insomnia maybe. Maybe just a few instead. Recipe says a 16 oz can. Maybe artichokes or brussels sprouts would be a good change up.
The Sicilian is a taste treat Love2eat, and I think either artichokes, roasted red peppers or capers would work well as a sub for some of the olives.
These tips and recipes are going to be a great help to me, especially at this time of the year! I’ve been trying quite a few salads lately, and I tried out a few pasta recipes too. Sadly, they didn’t work out too well at all, and ever since I’ve only thought of them as quite bland and boring. I like these recipes a lot: the Sicilian version looks particularly good!
Well, hopefully the Sicilian version will change your mind about them… they don’t have to be bland and boring!
Wow, I’m not going to lie all of these pasta salads look amazing! I have always loved them but have never made one before. It seems to me that its usually something an older lady brings to church gatherings or something. I’m excited about the steps to making my own, so I have tips to make my own recipe as well! Hopefully I can make something that looks as delicious as those pictures!
Glad you enjoyed the post Larson15… just follow the steps and your pasta salads will be delicious. Thanks for your comments.
This article gave me plenty of great ideas to try out for new pasta salad recipes. Unfortunately a lot of the ingredients mentioned that would allow for a truly scrumptious treat, are not available in my pantry. But, there’s a recipe my partner and I came up with, that makes for a nice-light-filling-nutritious pasta salad variation. You start off with penne style noodles, cook those for 5-10 minutes in boiling water. Drain. Open two cans of tuna and one can of peas. Then drain the excess fluids. Add those to the mix. If you want adding corn or green beans also works well in this adaptation. Next, bring out parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, dill, balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar, either works, and mix it all together in whatever quantities you think will mesh well. Just eye balling the ingredients we came up with a delicious lunch out on the town. However, I will say that the addition of pine nuts, spinach, and fresh basil, may prove to be better choices, as evidenced by the pesto-pasta-salad-recipe here. I will have to try it out. What experiments have you conducted?
Sounds great GoldenLoq, thanks for sharing your recipe.
Love love love a great pasta salad as a side dish! The wonderful colors and aromas are awesome no matter what time of year (I am Italian after all). These tips are great, definitely tweaking my own recipe a bit to try this one out!
A good one is a thing of beauty Nikole! Glad you like the tips.
Usually, when mom and I make pasta, we only put sauce on it -be it pesto, tomato or carbonara. We’ve never really tried making any other pasta dish. Well, mostly because we’ve never been confident enough to try. Hopefully, we’ll be able to try this one especially since it’s almost Christmas (and new year! Time to try new stuffs!!!) 😀
Well I hope you and your Mom try a new way to enjoy pasta toradada, let us know how it turns out for you.
Can’t believe I never tried making a pasta salad! I absolutely LOVE pasta. This seems like a great food to take with you to work and eat it for lunch. I really love the pesto one! Gonna make it next week, thanks for providing me the idea and awesome recipes 🙂
A good pasta salad is a natural for lunch Ep, hope you enjoy the recipes!
This was a great read and I will definitely try and switch up the veggies I normally use with some recommended here. I tend to like spicy food and although this may be a bit odd, I add some jalapeno or habenero pepers to the mix just to add a bit of a kick. My family and friends love it and it makes the salad stand out a bit more.
The heat from the peppers definately add a bit of extra ‘oomph’ to pasta salads Humble. Thanks for the tip!
I absolutely love pasta salads, but they never taste quite as good as the ones you get at resteraunts or the ready made ones. These steps are simple and easy to follow, I really look forward to making pasta salads in the future. Thank you so much! 🙂
Sometimes it takes a bit of experimenting to get the right combo lauve, but once you do you’ll be in taste heaven! Glad you enjoyed the post.
This article is seriously making me wish I hadn’t already bought the ingredients for tonight’s dinner! I’m always at a loss when it comes to side dishes and both of those recipes look amazing, I’m going to try one tomorrow for sure. My boyfriend loves pasta and anything that I can prepare ahead of time and pull out of the fridge is a huge plus for me!
I’m totally with you on the make-ahead dishes cupcake! Hope you and your boyfriend enjoy your creation!
I’m a huge pasta enthusiast, but I’ve never made any scratch myself. I usually buy a product from the deli sections in stores already made, but you’re right that they can be bland sometimes. I love a good broccoli, crab, or pea pasta salad the most. I love making the boxed versions, especially the ranch ones which I add black olives to. So I usually just buy boxed versions and add ingredients to it myself, that way I know I’m not going to mess anything up and it’s going to be flavorful, but I may try out some of my own this summer after seeing this post!
Give a homemade version a whirl kdb890, I think you’ll find the taste to be worth the effort!
I’m such a big pasta lover that I’ll eat it in any form! Hot, cold, too soft, too starchy – anything, haha! Pasta salads are one of my favourite dishes. I love being creative and mixing different ingredients together. My favourite things to add to pasta salads are tomatoes (especially sun-dried), shrimps and cheese (I love adding feta). I really liked the recipe with pesto – I have never dried something like this before, but it looks delicious! Thank you for the article 🙂
Mmmmm, sun-dried toms, shrimp, and feta… sounds delish Cilivren! Thanks for your comments, and glad you enjoyed the post.
Pasta salads are not only healthy, but a nice light meal. I love the pictures above because they are so colorful and appealing. I generally like to use store bought dressings, but I want to start making my own. I plan to eat more of the leafy green variety during the summer to help me to lose weight. I also love these types of dishes because they’re a quick and easy way to make for lunch or dinner.
They’re wonderful any time of the year Deeishere111, but especially good in the summer for a light meal! And even better with your own dressings… thanks for your comments.
Thank you so much for this! I have been looking for a good pasta salad recipe for the longest. I normally just make tri colored wheat rotini pasta , tomato, onions , vinegar and oil. I have so many ideas now!
You’re welcome faye1232212! Drop us a line when you find your favorite concoction…
I’m a huge pasta salad fan. I used to literally keep a pasta salad in the fridge at all times. I never really plan mine out. I normally just clean I out the fridge and dump a bunch of veggies into it.
I think using this post I may try to get a little more sophisticated in my pasts salad ingredients lol!
There so versatile they can handle the ‘fridge dump’ method brandiesha! But a little sophistication never hurt either… thanks for your comments!
I absolutely love pasta salad, but have never once made my own. One reason could be that I would likely eat the entire batch myself in one sitting. Another was a misconception of difficulty. I will be condensing your fantastic post onto a recipe card for future reference, your suggestions for pairings and combinations are refreshing and helpful, I never would have thought to par-boil or par-steam veggies to help their texture better pair the overall dish. The Sicilian Pasta Salad looks absolutely delicious, I’m very sad to be reading this recipe in the late night hours and not able to make it right now to enjoy for breakfast!
Haha! Oh yes, I’ve had my share for breakfast too xina4581! And if you enjoy sharp flavors, the Sicilian is a show stopper… enjoy!
The pesto recipe looks magnificent. I’m generally a fan of pesto on just about anything, usually on noodles, in a sandwich or even on some toast with breakfast. I’d never really considered incorporating into pasta salad, but that definitely would be delicious.
Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas, Lorna. Definitely some food for thought!
I understand your pesto appreciation JoshLyman, it’s got me hooked big time! Glad you enjoyed the post, and you’re going to love the pesto version…
I love making pasta salad because of how you can mix and match the ingredients. Thanks for the great ideas on how to put the recipes together and all the great ingredient options you posted! I love to make a big batch of cold pasta salad as an easy summer meal!
Glad you enjoyed the post Lynk, they’re a summer staple in our home… have fun with the recipes!
Pasta salad or macaronj salad has always been a favorite of mine. Growing up we kept it simple with elbow macaroni, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and ranch dressing. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve tasted other kinds with vinaigrette bases and other veggies. In this article chicken was mentioned to be used which I’ve never heard of. This makes the southern in me wonder if there is a way to cross macaroni salad and chicken salad?! Grilled chicken is always great in any cold dish so now the possibilities are endless for us this summer!
Chicken is awesome in any dish CharlotteMartin, and a natural in pasta salads! Enjoy your experiments this summer…
I really can’t get on with pasta salad, it just never tastes quite right to me. The only recipe I do actually enjoy is pasta with pesto and pine nuts and parmesan. I do love pasta, just not cold.
Not everyone enjoys it ukfoodiegirl, although you may want to try the pesto version… it’s pretty tasty!
I could probably get away with a few of the recipes if the pasta was warm, but definitely not cold
Pasta salad is absolutely one of my favorites. It also serves well as a summer dish and I think it is pretty easy to make. I love the variety you can create according to individual tastes. Some days I will put different things in my concoctions depending on my cravings.
You mention that if you make your own noodles it will be more flavorful. I have NEVER made my own! It is quite intimidating to me! I am going to have to check out your tutorial you mention on this post and experiment. I think it will be interesting and give the dish a fresher taste, which is always good.
The recipes that you listed here look so wonderful. I love the simplicity in the terms of being able to alter recipes to fit individual tastes too. Thanks for sharing!
Making your own noodles certainly gives the freshest taste jamie, but it is a bit labor intensive and having a press will help too. Have fun making your own signature flavors!
Hmmm, cold pasta? I have never really tried it. I guess it’s not so commonly served where I’m from. Generally, when we talk about a noodle dish it’s often accompanied with red sauces. The redder the better. People in my circle find noodles that aren’t coated well with the red sauce a fail. So, I’m not too sure if this will work with them. As for me, I won’t mind trying this out. I have recently developed a taste for pesto, so I can just imagine how wonderful said salad would taste. Besides, I already love avocados. So, my taste buds will be happy. The Sicilian pasta looks delectable, too. We’ll see if my taste buds will agree with cold pastas.
It might be an acquired taste for you saravet, but worth a try if you enjoy pesto or the flavor intensives in the Sicilian version… and you could always make your own cold style with your favorite red sauce!
These are great ideas to jazz up otherwise uninspired pasta salads. I always like my salads to have a bit of a bite. One of my favourite things to do is make a paste of mustard seeds and olive oil and add this to the dressing. I find it adds an interesting twist. Avocados are another brilliant addition to salads. My family’s plantation has several avocado trees and growing up, the only way we ate them was mashed up with sugar. While that’s great, it seems criminal that I never even thought to experiment with it any other way! Time to make up for that. 🙂
Mustard seeds would be great for a flavor hit psanch, great idea… and enjoy your experiments with the avocados!
Does anyone know any recipes involving tomato sauce or paste? I’m a huge tomato lover and I’d love to know what would go well with pasta served with tomato sauce. My doctor also says I need to increase my intake of Vitamin C as I’m mildly deficient and I’m kind of paranoid about contracting scurvy and having all my teeth fall out!
Any recipe for hot noodles using a tomato or rose sauce would work Luis, just modify the amounts and cool the sauce first before adding to a cold version.
Great ideas, Lorna! I grew up Italian, so cold salad was just one of countless ways we served pasta; thus, I wasn’t expecting to find so many wonderful variations as you came up with here. I can see using a milder vinegar to prevent overpowering the rest of the ingredients, especially when including a real taste knock-out, such as a sharp cheese. Still, I do prefer a vinegar with a real bite to it. And olive oil is an absolute must.
I also prefer a vinegar-and-oil base to a mayonnaise base; the latter seems more suited to a standard macaroni salad (and, of course potato salad). There’s also the question of safety, if the salad has to travel anywhere, or sits out for more than a short while.
One idea I had never considered was setting out “individual servings in edible, natural bowls, like tomatoes or cucumbers with the seeds removed.” That’s brilliant! A cucumber “bowl” would be especially refreshing.
Now you’ve also got me thinking about other possibilities for edible bowls. The first thing that comes to mind is a red bell pepper (cut and seeded as if preparing stuffed bells). Raw would be just fine, but I can see grilling the bell just long enough to bring out a smoky flavor and stir up the natural juices inside, but not so long that the whole “bowl” would collapse.
I’m really looking forward to summer now! Thanks, Lorna!
Onion bowls are another good choice Mangiare, and like your idea for red peppers, lightly grilled. Lop off a third of the root end, and make a deep “X” incision into the inner rings – then gently wiggle the piece out.
Thanks for your comments, and love your enthusiasm for this delicious Italian idea!
Pasta salad? I never heard of something like this in my life but my mouth is dripping from the pictures, I imagine it tastes amazing!
I’m particularly fond of the Sicilian Pasta Salad showcased in the article, I’m a big fan of the Italian Cuisine and I’m a big sucker for rosemary and thyme.
You’re in for a treat fuzyon, particularly if you enjoy the sharp flavors and herbs of Italian cuisine. Enjoy!
I’ve always had a deep love for pasta salads and no wonder – I’m a huge pasta junkie! The only problem that I’ve always had is that I can’t get mine to turn out well no matter what I do! I don’t really get why, it must be something about the way I prepare it, but my salads always have this weird side-taste that I can’t get rid of. One day I’ll give it another go and actually try out these tips. I’m going to bookmark this page and prepare it step-by-step. Thank you!
Thanks for your comments heavymetalkilos. Hope the tips help with your weird after taste!
What would you suggest is the appropriate acidity and tartness levels for pasta salad if you are serving to a group of people?
I made pasta salad for myself last week and used a basic italian dressing. However, I found the taste someone bland and added some extra whit vinegar for some kick. I felt it was much better with the additional vinegar, but I am prone to liking extreme flavors. I would like to bring pasta salad to some picnics this summer and am concerned that my personal tastes won’t be enjoyed by a group at large.
Specialty vinegar’s like champagne or rose vinegar might give the flavor you’re looking for without being overpowering dame. Or perhaps add some of the stronger flavored herbs to your dressing for a bit of oomph… hope your salads turn out well!
I have a recurring problem with pasta salads and that is that the pasta is often slimy by the time we start to eat it. I’ve tried transporting it in different containers, or not adding the ingredients until serving time. I always toss it in a little olive oil and let it cool before packing it. Very occasionally it’s fine – but I can’t work out what I did differently. Maybe it’s the cooking time. I always cook pasta al dente, whether to eat warm, immediately or to let cool. Should pasta that is to be left to cool be cooked a minute or so less?
Have you tried letting the pasta cool before adding the oil or dressing. I am no expert on this at all. I am wondering though if it has something to do with how the oil or dressing is reacting to the heat of the warm noodle? Just tossing it out there.
I don’t think the cooking time should be adjusted Julie, but try to let the pasta cool completely before covering it for transport. Or, just cover with a clean tea towel rather than an airtight container as they can make ingredients sweat.
What a great recipe! I love pasta salad, but I always find myself making the same kind over and over. I’ve fallen into a routine of unexciting pasta dishes, but I think these new suggestions will snap me out of it! I like the idea of making bite-sized portions using hollowed out tomato or cucumber. I feel like doing this would make it perfect to bring to a cookout and fun for all to eat! Thank you for sharing this, I’ll definitely be using this information to defy the laws of pasta salads.
Rules are meant to be broken jinkies! Hope you enjoy the recipes…
I just love pasta and do not need a special occasion to gorge on it. We make ours with raw tomatoes and lots of tomato sauce. It is usually very spicy. My wife makes another variation with cream, onion and potatoes as the main ingredients. It is simple but very tasty. Your recipes look so impressive that I will probably try all of them.
Tomatoes and spices are a natural arunava2016! Your cream variation sounds pretty good too… enjoy!
Pasta salad is honestly a dish I make often in the summer. We usually make it as a side dish, but we have added grilled chicken to the recipe before and turned one of our favorite dishes into a full meal with no other accompaniments.
We like that you can make it ahead of time and it will keep for a few days in the fridge. This means we don’t have to turn on the oven on days that it is too hot. Also, if we are bringing it to a picnic or potluck, we can make it in advance and not worry about last minute cooking before the event.
Truthfully, we don’t stick to one specific recipe for ours. Normally, we use pretty much whatever is on hand. However, whether we make a salad loaded with meat or a vegetarian version, we almost always include both bell peppers and onions of some variety.
They’re wonderfully versatile Lisa, and are perfect for a pulled-together, “what’s in the fridge?” kind of meal! Thanks for your thoughts.
Well I am glad to see that they include a lot of color in this article, because I do think that pasta salad is one of the major foods where appearance does matter a lot, and more so than other foods. All of the ingredients that they have are perfect, and of course olives are a must, and I am also glad that they speak to the Asian-flavored pasta salads, because those are some of my favorite. A little sesame and teriyaki flavor is perfect for a pasta salad.
Visual appeal can make or break a dish, and salads are no exception… thanks for your thoughts rz!
I was really happy to stumble upon this blog about pasta salad. I boast myself on being able to prepare any dish given that I have the right ingredients. For some reason I always fall short in the pasta salad department. I’m not sure what the exact problem is but it seems the noodles never hold up as I expect them to and the dressing never quite tastes as I hope it will. I think I need to slightly under cook my noodles in the future as maybe I am not accounting for the dressing being absorbed by the noodle. You mention a well-shaken dressing is mandatory, and I think that also may be one of my problems. I’m excited to try these recipes as I always have improvised in the past and added whatever I thought would taste good together. First and foremost I am certainly going to be trying the pesto and pea salad recipe. Also, I think peas could be added to any pasta salad and be a nice addition.
I have always loved pasta salad but I’ve only ever had the really simple ones. These recipes seem to be so fresh and tasty and colorful. I know I’ll enjoy both making and eating pasta salad from now on.
Hope you enjoy them Norma, let us know your favorite!
I love what a fantastic blank canvas pasta is, it really can take on almost any flavor and work with all sorts of combinations. Even just served with a handful of chopped herbs, squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of a nice balsamic vinegar makes an extremely quick snack or meal accompaniment. I recently made what I thought would be a healthy pasta salad for a kids party… and included beetroot – which naturally made all the pasta a weird purple color! Remarkably, the more open-minded kids were not put off like their parents where and did end up eating most of it, even if the adults couldn’t get around the weirdness! I will definitely give the pesto salad with peas recipe a go, it looks absolutely delicious!
It is amazingly versatile, and can be dressed up or down with so many flavors. Interesting about the kids, they obviously haven’t made up their minds about what pasta art “should” look like! Hope you enjoy the peas and pesto!
I tried this recipe a couple of weeks ago and I just had to come back and leave a comment. It turned out so good, and everyone was impressed. My friends had come over for supper and it was a big hit with everyone. Thanks for sharing the recipe. It was quick and super easy to make.
Thanks for the report clair! Good to know the flavors turned out well, and that it was easy to make.