How to Make Pasta Salad
Although pasta salads are typically a summer bbq food, my family enjoys pasta salads all year long. My favorite thing is how diverse pasta salads can be. In my house, if I have ingredients that I want to use up, I toss them all together with a little cooked pasta. To learn how to make pasta salad, use the guide below to find a perfect flavor profile to match your pasta ingredients.
Learning how to make pasta salads is very simple, and only takes a couple minutes.
Much like homemade marinades, there are basic flavor components that come together to create a well balanced dressing. You need:
- An Oil (2 parts): Olive oil is my favorite, but if you want a creamier salad, you can opt for mayo, sour cream or yogurt.
- A Vinegar (1 part): Red wine, white wine, apple cider, rice wine and balsamic vinegar are all great choices.
- Seasonings: See below.
Depending on what type of pasta and extras you have in your pasta salad, you can cater your pasta salad dressing recipes to compliment those flavors. Here are some great additions for your dressing:
- Fresh herbs: Basil, thyme, mint, oregano, parsley, dill and cilantro are great choices.
- Alliums: Garlic, shallots, scallions and onions.
- Citrus: Fresh squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice.
- Other: Dijon mustard, sriracha, and sesame seeds.
Mix ’em Up
Once you have your oil, vinegar and seasonings, mix them together and pour your homemade dressing over your pasta salad. I usually do a ratio of 1/4 cup of dressing for 2 cups of salad, but recommend that you start with a little, and increase the amount of dressing as necessary. You can always add more, but it’s hard to take too much back!
Although you can put practically anything into a pasta salad, here are a few classic additions.
- Pasta: Cavatappi, corkscrew, shells, bowtie and rotini are a few of my favs. You can check out this pasta shapes dictionary to see how many different options there are!
- Veggies: Bell peppers, olives, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers and peas.
- Meat: Pepperoni, ham, bacon, and chicken.
- Cheese: Mozzarella, feta, cheddar and ricotta.
Easy Pasta Salad
- 1 lb rotini pasta
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup black olives
- 1/2 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup diced chicken or ham
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Once cooked, rinse pasta with cool water, and drain. Toss with remaining pasta ingredients.
To make the dressing, combine all ingredients and whisk until fully incorporated. Pour dressing over pasta and toss.
What are your favorite recipes for homemade pasta salad? Share your recipes in the comments!
I made this tonight…trying to find the perfect pasta salad for a shower, but it was so vinegary. Then I realized that the amounts in the recipe are backwards, and it’s either supposed to be 1/4 c of oil to 1/8 c vinegar, or 1/4 cup vinegar to 1/2 c oil, right?
Oh, you’re right! I am not sure how I missed that. I hope it didn’t ruin your pasta salad 🙁 I have modified the recipe above so the proportions are accurate.
Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I hope you were able to salvage the pasta!
Made this and my family gobbled it up yummy thank you for the great recipe.
Yay, I am so glad to hear you liked it!!
Cynthia L says
I could dig into that pasta salad right now! I love the salty combination of olives and mozzarella cheese! Great ideas for making a salad dressing too – I love the list of options.
Thaleia @Something2Offer.com says
So glad you posted this. My family rarely made pasta salad and so I am always at a loss for making a great one from scratch. Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks!
Mmm, I love pasta salad! Thanks for all the variation ideas, I’ll be trying them!
Merissa @ Little House Living says
These are great ideas! I’m going to pass them along to my sister, she loves pasta salads!