Perfect Pasta Salad Article -
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Perfect Pasta Salad

The perfect accompaniment to a picnic, barbeque, or any meal at all; you can even make it hearty enough to be a meal all by itself. Dress it up for special occasions with primo ingredients, or prepare a last-minute "what's in the fridge?" meal.

Pasta for Every Palate

A pasta salad is only as good as the noodles that hold it all together. Have fun with different pasta shapes-short or long, narrow or wide, solid or hollow, big or small, flat or stuffed ... you can put a brand new face on the same salad simply by varying the pasta. Pasta is made from many different types of flour, and colored beautifully with many different vegetables, so be adventurous and try something out of the ordinary-from rainbow radiatore, spinach ravioli, and whole wheat fettuccine, to corn macaroni, buckwheat soba noodles, and rice vermicelli. There's no way to get bored with pasta when the choices are so deliciously endless.

It's even more important with pasta salad than with hot pasta dishes that you avoid overcooking the pasta. Overcooked pasta will fall apart when you try to toss it with dressing. Not only that, but if you allow your salad to "marinate" for several hours to let the flavors mingle, the pasta will soak up the moisture from the dressing and the other ingredients, turning slightly overcooked pasta to absolute mush. Cook the pasta just until it becomes tender, pour it into a colander in the sink, then run cold water over it to stop the cooking and cool it down quickly. As soon as the pasta feels cool to the touch, shake the colander to drain off as much water as possible. Now dump the pasta into a bowl and toss it with some oil to keep it from sticking together.

A Little of This, a Little of That...

Because pasta itself is so versatile and mild in flavor, just about everything tastes good with it. Use ingredients that will give your pasta salad lots of varied taste and texture: cook vegetables just until tender, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking before they get mushy (this is called "refreshing" or "shocking" your vegetables), or just leave the vegetables crisp and raw. Other things to add gusto are toasted nuts, dried fruit, fresh herbs, crumbled cheese, and tidbits of your favorite meat.

Dress for the Occasion

To save a little time, you can always use bottled salad dressing to toss with your pasta salad, but if you're in a "from scratch" kind of mood, the possibilities are positively tantalizing. A mixture of oil and vinegar is arguably the most popular way to dress a pasta salad, but you can also make creamy dressing with mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt.

For sautéing, it's fine to use vegetable oil, but for salad dressing, use high-quality, flavorful oils. Extra-virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, hazelnut oil, and walnut oil are all power-players in the world of taste, and you can get by with using much less oil while still adding superior flavor if you choose a bold one. To add that all-important zing to the dressing, try cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, raspberry vinegar, or even lime or lemon juice. Whatever you use as the basis of your dressing, be sure to round it out with salt and pepper, and perhaps a dash of red pepper flakes, a little bit of crushed garlic, a dab of mustard, or anything else you think will make your pasta salad distinctly divine.

mike frogge 
Sep. 16, 2009 11:09 am
we make the pasta salad all the time. we put diced ham, diced chedder,frozen peas, olaves, celery, pimentoes, and the list could go on and on
Nov. 21, 2009 8:05 pm
this will be a first i have tried others now i will try and make my own
Jan. 3, 2010 6:00 pm
My family likes this but I was wondering how to make the Italian dressing less tastable. Any suggestions?
Feb. 8, 2010 11:37 am
I love pasta salads with corkscrew pasta, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and KRAFT greek with feta and oregano dressing on it. MMMMMMMmmmmMMMMMM
Feb. 24, 2010 2:21 pm
Just love all types of salad!!!
Mar. 7, 2010 11:22 am
Mar. 17, 2010 10:52 pm
my daughter and I make a wonderful salad with elbow macaroni,a can of drained water packed tuna, chopped pimento stuffed olives and a little Ceasar salad dressing. Yum Yum!
Apr. 15, 2010 7:21 am
I've been making pasta salads for years, in a hurry, try "Zesty Italian Dressing" and a little sugar of course.
May 19, 2010 4:34 pm
To add more flavor to your Pasta Salads when you cook your pastas add some of your Salad Dressing to the water the flavors will cook into the Pasta giving the Salad great flavor. Marie
May 27, 2010 10:12 am
we had a deli and made a great pasta salad, we used ham,salami, sometimes turkey, green or black olives,ends of our different cheese, sharp,american and swiss, green peppers and red onions, tomatoes,sprinkle in some parm cheese and add balsmic dressing, everyone loved the balsmic dressing!! its a must have at family gatherings !!!!
May 29, 2010 2:54 pm
Make the day before. After you put all your ingred. in, pour some bottle italian dressing over and stir. Next morning all the dressing will be absorbed, add Mayonnaise to taste and you have delicious creamy style salad and you cut down on strong Itilian dressing.
Jun. 10, 2010 9:56 am
Fresh dill is one of my favorite seasonings to add to pasta salad. If the fresh isn't available the dried dill weed works almost as well.
Jul. 30, 2010 4:37 pm
A touch of sugar will cut the acidity of the dressing and make it less noticeable. I like to use monterey jack cheese, cubed, and cherry tomatoes in my salads. The kids love it!
Aug. 8, 2010 8:04 am
Sep. 3, 2010 5:25 pm
When adding steamed/boiled shrimp to my pasta salad, I first boil the pasta in the water I have added my shrimp seasoning too, then drain, saving the seasoned water and then steam/boil the shrimp. Gives an extra boost to the pasta, even more so the second day. Enjoy.
Sep. 8, 2010 1:47 pm
...I found a way to make a healthy pasta salad -just a little less healty! Would you believe a BLT pasta salad? ...I didn't until I tasted it. It's every bit as good as- if not better than 'the real thing'. And, I LOVE a BLT. I don't measure, so just chop some lettuce, dice some tomatoes, and add some cripy bacon. I use the Boar's head in a package already pre cooked (-no really bad stuff in it) and, you don't need very much to get a great bacon taste! Add your cooked pasta and mix it up with a little less mayo then you think you need...that's it. The 'Chicago Hot Dog' deli in downtown Orlando served this; my daughter made it for me and now you have it! Enjoy.
Oct. 22, 2010 12:15 pm
McCormick makes a spice called "Salad Supreme". There's a recipe on the container that calls for 8 oz. Italian dressing,and 4 tbs. of Salad Supreme. After I put this on the pasta, I add a few good shakes of parmesan cheese. 
Nov. 6, 2010 10:00 am
sooooo nice salad
Nov. 11, 2010 11:52 am
My kids and their friends love pasta salad I make with two types of dressing (one creamy and one oil) like Italian and Ranch mixed together and they love the addition of hard boiled eggs.
Mar. 4, 2011 8:25 am
I like to add fruit for an special sweet flavor
Mar. 18, 2011 9:13 am
I make a pasta salad with tuna mayonaise, onion, roma tomatoes, piementos, black olives and green peppers. You use tri color pasta and just mayonaise with some onion salt for the dressing. It is wonderful.
Apr. 1, 2011 12:44 pm
I use sweet vidalia onions,yellow,green & red bell peppers,celery,shredded carrot's,yellow & green zucchini, shallots,cucumber,black olives, dried cherried cranberries, and gorgonzola cheese.Always make it a day in advance:) Just before I serve it I top it off with fresh italian cilantro... Yummy!
May 6, 2011 12:41 pm
the sauce on my pasta salad always disappears, it melts in and by the time we are ready to eat, its dry as can be, even adding more mayo right before serving doesn't seem to help, what am I doing wrong??
May 12, 2011 11:08 am
To Sousa Girl,it sounds like you are dressing the pasta while it is hot.. if you don't want the mayo or dressing to dissappear, chill your pasta, or rince under cold water..this used to happen to me until I found this tip from foodnetwork.. My favorite pasta salad is pasta peas, tiny bit of onion, mayo, parsley, salt, pepper and shredded chicken.. also green pepper or celery for crunch. everyone raves at this combo!!
May 12, 2011 11:13 am
Sousa Girl,I found this step,( on this site) apparantly you should not rince the pasta, I guess so that the flavors will stick better........This is from an article on how to make perfect pasta salad......."Cook 1 pound of pasta. Select a 16-ounce box or bag of bite-size pasta. I recommend farfalle (bow ties), fusilli (corkscrews), penne, ziti, rotelle (wagon wheels), macaroni or small shells. Cook the pasta in a gallon of boiling water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt (that's right, 2 tablespoons!) until just tender. Drain but do not rinse the pasta. Instead, dump it onto a large-lipped cookie sheet to cool and dry. Don't worry if the pasta sticks together. The dressing will break it up. "
Sheri Grant 
Jun. 8, 2011 7:32 am
Tammers-I often use Ceasar dressing and olive oil mayo together, everyone raves. I personally don't care for Italian dressing myself. I can be overbearing. I also mix it up each time I make pasta salad with lots of colorful veggies.
Jun. 24, 2011 5:28 am
I use a 50/50 mix of Kraft Italian & Kraft Greek dressing toss in a handful of shredded parm, some dice red & green bell peppers, & carrots to multi-color rotini pasta and its delish!
Jul. 10, 2011 12:34 pm
MMMMMMMM,any pasta salad is great.
Jul. 31, 2011 4:19 pm
I use Ken's Lite Caesar dressing. It isn't quite as tangy. I make mine a day ahead and it is better. I use whatever fresh vegetables are in season, and add fresh tomatoes last just before serving because they don't hold up as well as the others and aren't as good left over.
Sep. 11, 2011 5:44 pm
I add in some olives and artichokes from the salad bar- works for the mac salad from a plastic tub as well-cubed cheese and pepperoni- also nice, or some chopped rotisserie chicken for protein and a complete meal. Another trick I use is wasabi in the tube for a little zing! great if you add some fresh peeled shrimp to the pasta salad.
Sep. 17, 2011 4:43 am
Balsamic vinegar, although tasty, can make the pasta dark and unappealing; been there, done that! So I stick with cider vinegar in the dressing.
Apr. 13, 2012 7:42 pm
with pasta salad, it's the dressing that really "makes" this dish taste good. I've had pasta salad made with fat free dressing that just plain tastes awful...RESIST! with fat free they take out the fat and substitute something else but it almost always lacks FLAVOR...this is the dressing I use and no matter what i put in my salad, this makes it all taste very good. If you can leave the dressing on the salad for at least 4+ hours before serving...that's a BONUS... dressing: 1 1/2 tsp salt 1 tap pepper 1 tsp oregano 3/4 cup oil YOUR CHOICE...I like canola oil 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
May 21, 2012 12:05 pm
I use Ken's light Raspberry dressing. I also use mayo and a dab of virgin olive oil. The secret is to mix together while the pasta is cool. I cut up red onions, artichote hearts, a few English Peas, and add a little paramasian cheese, and red onions cut in large circles. Everyone loves it!!!! O like to use rainbow pasta..adds so much color.
May 27, 2012 2:06 pm
I make the macaroni salad just like my mom used to make. My sister made it for her Hawaiian wedding, and the bowl was empty and everyone wanted the recipe. I use one box of salad macaroni, 6 hard boiled eggs, 1 bunch of green onions chopped, 1 16oz can of black olives sliced, 3-4 stalks of celery diced, diced sweet pickles to your liking and use mayo salt and pepper for the dressing. I also use a bit of the juice from the pickles to thin down the dressing a bit.
Jun. 27, 2012 2:59 pm
Questo è molto bello tizi :) Le migliori ricette italiane!!!
Jun. 17, 2014 1:32 pm
Be very careful to make sure you do not overcook your pasta! It has to be firm (al dente) or it will turn to mush. Thats why i choose a heavier noodle.
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