Your Best Pasta Salad Recipe and Helpful Tip

Updated on July 21, 2012
M.P. asks from Peoria, IL
18 answers

I am going to make a pasta salad this weekend for a BBQ and I have only done it one other time years ago. What is your best recipe? Also I seem to remember that I had a problem with the dressing that the pasta kept absorbing it. Can I make it ahead of time??? Thanks for any advice and recipes!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the great tips! I made it al dente which really helped it to stay firm. I did it the night before with some dressing so it was really tasty (and still firm!) the next day. Thank you for all the great tips!

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answers from Chicago on

You already have some awesome receipes, but I have to share mine.

1 - 1 lb pasta (whatever you chose) cooked to le dente and run cold water over it in strainer to cool off the pasta.

1 - cup or more of each, cut up in small pieces.

Cucumber, broccoli, califlower, zucchini, bell peppers(red or yellow), onion

Mix together with salad supreme and 1/2 a bottle of Itailan salad dressing.

Put in fridge for 6 hrs or overnight.

Add tomato and other half of dressing right before serving.

You can also add meat and chees cuting in small pieces before serving as well.

Everyone loves it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I like to make a simple Caprese pasta salad.
-grape tomatoes (halved) or regular tomatoes now that they are in season
-chopped fresh basil
-fresh mozzarella cut in tiny squares
-drizzle with olive oil, a splash of lemon and some balsamic
-salt and pepper
-short pasta like farfarelle

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

Here are 2 pasta salads that are sure to please. The first one will feed a crowed or a few hungry teenager. It is really really good.

Antipasto Pasta Salad
Best EVER !!!

8 ounces sliced pepperoni , cut into ¼-inch strips
8 ounces soppressata or salami, halved and cut into ¼-inch strips
10 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 jar pepperoncini (12-ounce), drained, (2 tablespoons juice reserved), stemmed, and chopped coarse
4 garlic cloves , minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1 pound fusilli or campanelle
1 pound white mushrooms , quartered
1 cup shredded provolone cheese , aged
12 ounces roasted red peppers , drained, patted dry, and chopped coarse
1 cup chopped fresh basil

We also liked the addition of 1 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives or 1 cup jarred artichokes, drained and quartered.
Use any curly-shaped pasta for this recipe.

1. Place one paper towel on microwave-safe plate. Arrange pepperoni in single layer on paper towel. Cover with another paper towel and layer sopresatta on towel. Top with another paper towel and microwave on highest power until meat begins to render fat, about 1 minute. Set meat aside.
2. Whisk 5 tablespoons vinegar (1/2 of the 10 tablespoons in the ingredient listing), olive oil, mayonnaise, pepperoncini juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl.
3. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta, return to pot, and toss with 1/2 cup dressing and remaining vinegar. Adjust seasonings, spread dressed pasta on rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring remaining dressing to simmer in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they release their juices and are lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and cool.
5. Add meat, provolone, roasted red peppers, chopped pepperoncini, basil, and cooled pasta to mushrooms and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve at room temperature. Salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
NOTE: We loved this salad, but thought it tasted best eaten the same day it was made. The mushrooms are amazing, and I would double them, or even make just the mushrooms as a great appetizer/snack.

This pasta salad is a side dish and a good alternative to potatoe salad ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Cool and Creamy Macaroni Salad From America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

Don’t drain the macaroni too well before adding the other ingredients –a little extra moisture will keep it from drying out.
1 pound elbow macaroni
½ small red onion, minced
2-3 celery ribs, chopped
¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves or cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon or 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
Pepper and Salt to taste

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta into the boiling water and cook, stirring often, until nearly tender, about 5 minutes.
Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until cool, then drain briefly so that the macaroni remains moist.
Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients and let sit for 5-10 minutes. If made ahead of time, refrigerate and stir again before serving.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Most pasta salads taste better if made at least the day before. You might be over cooking the pasta a bit if it's absorbing too much. You want it to be a little aldente.

Here's my favorite one to use. There are never any leftovers. I usually double it to feed a crowd. Instead of macaroni I used tri color pasta. And I like using those slice pepperoni that are mini sized, because they are easier to eat. I always make this one the day before.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces macaroni
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups broccoli florets
4 ounces sliced pepperoni sausage
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


1. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
2. In large bowl, stir together oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, and salt and pepper. Toss with warm macaroni to coat well. Toss with Parmesan. Cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours.
3. Add broccoli, pepperoni, and tomatoes; toss well. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and serve.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

the trick is the my opinion. bernstein itailan is fabulous.
curly noodles, tomatos, cucumber, mozz cheese stick cut in little circles, olives, & ham/pepporoni/ salami .... your choice. There is small micro pepporoni in the deli that are just cute to add. good luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I'm not a fan of mayo-ish pasta salads. Here's an idea for something different. Corn and orzo salad.

Red wine vinegar
a little oil
salt and pepper
Diced red onion (small dice)
I can't remember if there is lime in this. If not, it could be tasty.
Mix all the above together. The vinegar mellows out the onion.

In the "salad":
Cooked orzo
Cooked corn kernels
Diced red bell pepper
Fresh basil, torn into smallish pieces

It's really, really good. I don't have the cookbook here, or I'd get you the amounts for everything. If you're good at winging it, give it a try.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If you make the night before I would put 1/2-3/4 of the dressing on when you first prepare it (you may even want to make extra dressing from the recipe you choose), then add the rest just before serving. That way the pasta can absorb some of the dressing flavor overnight and you can moisten it back up right before you put it out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Our family fave is orzo salad.

1 pkg orzo pasta, cooked al dented and rinsed just a bit
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
Olives (your favorite kind)
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Green onions, sliced
Crumbled feta cheese
1 or 2 roasted bell peppers (I prefer yellow or orange peppers), peeled and diced
Greek dressing or champagne dressing (splurge on a good quality dressing)

Cook the pasta, let it cool. Add some dressing, then add the other ingredients except the tomatoes and cheese. Refrigerate overnight. Add more dressing, tomatoes and cheese when you're ready to roll.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I use the tri colored rotini. Cook al dente. rinse with cool water add olive oil (just enough to lightly coat), chopped celery, green peppers and red peppers,maybe onions - toss.
I put in the fridge and before i searve I mix olive oil and balsalmic vinegar and then pour on top of the cold salad and toss again. Salt and or garlic salt to taste.
Best of luck! I love pasta salad!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Angel hair pasta, cook to al dente, rinse with cold water. Cut up sweet cherry tomatos and bermuda (red) onion. Mix together with Italian dressing. Yummy! You can also add chicken. I will buy a baked rotisserie chicken from Krogers and de-bone it. Add to the pasta mixture. Yummy!!! Easy!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I saw this in my foodie-teen-daughters copy of "Food Network Magazine" and think I will try it for a family BBQ next weekend. I think even I can handle it. I am NOT a cook! But I like all of the ingredients, so looks yummy to me (I am also a picky eater...I am soo doomed).

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

So easy and I actually have some of this in my fridge as I type this:
1 pgk wacky mac (cooked)
1/2 green bell pepper finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper finely chopped
2/3 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 package cheery tomatoes
1/2 cup mayo
1 heaping tbsp sweet relish
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper

Mix it all together. Boom, Pasta Salad. Make it before hand and serve chilled, it gets eaten SO FAST!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Wow, amazing recipes!!

I was going to offer up my pasta salad, but I would be shamed by the great salads already posted. :)

However... take any of the below recipes and switch out the pasta for tri-colored cheese tortellini. I bring a tortellini salad to every cook-out and I am always asked how to make it.

Have fun at the BBQ!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Where I am living abroad now -- pasta salad is made simply with olive oil and salt and then whatever you want -- dried tomatoes, taste and so forth.


answers from Los Angeles on

Seriously, mine is a doctored up store-bought pasta salad, I made it on the 4th of July.

I went to Smart and Final and purchased a tall tub of rotini pasta salad with just dressing and I believe some celery and red peppers in it. I added sliced olives, drained tuna (yes, we were having brats, hot dogs, burgers, and ribs, but my 3 year old doesn't care much for meat and I wanted him to eat something with protein in it, no one complained but of course you could leave it out) chopped red onions and a bit of Italian dressing for flavor. It was delicious and since I put it in my own bowl people thought it was homemade, but I told them if they asked ; ) Make it tonight and chill overnight and you'd be set.


answers from Redding on

The best dressing to use is the packaged one, I think 7 Seas Italian is the one I use.
Adding a little mayo on top of the oil that is already included in the dressing recipe helps to keep your pasta moist.
I usually use the sprial noodles, they seem to work the best and hold up well in the salad, cherry tomatoes, lots of red onion sliced thin, and broccoli flowerettes.



answers from Chicago on

A friend makes this easy pasta salad . It's bacon ranch . You just put in a bottle of ranch dressing and about half a bottle of bacon bits(they are fake bacon btw). Its easy and delicious!


answers from Grand Forks on

Farfalle (Bow Tie) pasta
chopped red onion
chopped red pepper
feta cheese
Club House Pasta Salad Dressing Mix (according to package directions)

Tastes best if made ahead.

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