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ALL THE SECRETS TO PERFECT PASTA SALAD

Perfect COLD pasta salad made JUST the way you like with al dente noodles, a tasty sauce, some meat, cheese a few veggies, it’s ALL in there! If you’ve been wondering about all the secrets to perfect pasta salad, then today’s post is for you! 

Regardless if you like your perfect pasta salad with pepperonis or tuna or ham or NO meat at all and regardless of the kind of noodles or even the kind of dressing you prefer, THIS recipe is one stop shopping for EXACTLY what you need to know to understand the perfect pasta salad!

A close up overhead view of a green bowl of pasta salad with onion, pepper and ham.

Perfect Pasta Salad

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS FOR PERFECT PASTA SALAD

  1. Everyone has their own particular likes with perfect pasta salad and this post will show you how to get the most out of yours!
  2. It showcases all of the various elements of a perfect pasta salad
  3.  Perfect Pasta salad can be the star of the show and this post will give you directions for how to make it so!
  4. This is an “everybody wins”perfect pasta salad!

PERFECT PASTA SALAD

If you are like me, perfect pasta salad is made in your home to serve one of two functions:

  1. You have a function to attend and you are taking a perfect pasta salad for the potluck
  2. You have a ton of leftovers in the fridge and they need to find a home – Hello Perfect Pasta Salad!

This is the answer for both situations. Here is the basic algebraic chemical formula for a perfect pasta salad, every single time!

WHAT GOES INTO A PERFECT PASTA SALAD?

(1 lb Pasta) +

(crunch ingredients +color ingredients) +

(protein ingredient) +

(fresh herby flavor) +

(Big Flavor ingredients) +

(Dressing) +

(salt and pepper to taste)

= PERFECT PASTA SALAD

Read on for the lists of items in each area.

A side view of a green bowl of pasta salad showcasing the parsley, ham, cheese and noodles

PERFECT PASTA SALAD

THE INGREDIENTS FOR PERFECT PASTA SALAD

Cold Perfect Pasta Salads are made just like warm ones, you simply follow the formula above and your perfect pasta salad will be perfect whether it is cold or hot.

 

PASTA  

Choose any bite size pasta that you like: If you use an entire box, that is usually ONE pound. Prepare according to the package instructions, including adding salt to the cooking water. Drain the pasta well and do not add the other ingredients until the pasta has cooled to at least room temp.

  • Macaroni
  • Penne
  • Wheels
  • Rotini
  • Corkscrews
  • Etc.

 

A photo of four colors of chopped peppers cut up on the cutting board - green, red, yellow and orange for the post all the secrets to perfect pasta salad

PERFECT PASTA SALAD

CRUNCH AND COLOR INGREDIENTS MAKE PERFECT PASTA SALAD!

Choose any combination of crunch and color ingredients that you like, do so in a ratio of 3 Cups to 1 lb  pasta .

  • Bell Peppers, any colors
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus (cut into bite size pieces)
  • Squash cut into half disks
  • Zucchini
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh Green Peas
  • Thin sliced mushrooms
  • Sugar Snap or Snow peas
  • Celery (cut small)
  • Fresh, crispy green beans

***Some of these tougher veggies, you may choose to blanche in hot water for a few minutes to soften them for the salad (hello Broccoli). If you choose not to blanch them, then cut smaller. Blanching DOES brighten their color significantly and will make a prettier salad.

***Remember that grilling or roasting some veggies also brings out whopping flavor! Try roasting some carrots, tomatoes, broccoli or bell peppers to put in your pasta salad! So delicious!

A photo of ham, a pepper, green onion on the cutting board with knife

PERFECT PASTA SALAD

PROTEIN INGREDIENTS

Choose one protein ingredient add it in a ratio of 1 Cup:1 lb of pasta. Make sure the protein is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper before adding to the salad.

  • Boiled egg
  • Canned Bean – like garbanzo, pinto, black bean
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Tuna
  • Mild Cheese – like swiss, muenster, Jack, cheddar, etc.
  • Shredded Roasted Chicken
  • Roasted or Toasted Cashews, peanuts, pine nuts or sunflower seeds

*** Beef and Pork (other than as cured meats)  are not often an additive in pasta salad – I don’t know why – so, if you feel adventurous, make sure it is fully cooked, cut very small and has a lot of flavor. My recommendation would be to go with a theme for a beef pasta salad – like a “Philly cheese steak” pasta salad adding beef, provolone chunks, bell peppers, onions,  roasted mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. ***

***Keep in mind if you will be able keep your pasta salad cold while serving. Many of these protein items will not remain fresh for long left out to the elements***

BIG FLAVOR INGREDIENTS

These ingredients gives your pasta salad a real POP! Choose any of the following in a ratio of 1 Cup to 1 lb of pasta. Mix and match at will – just stay with the total ratio.

  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Ham
  • Feta cheese
  • Blue Cheese
  • Goat Cheese
  • Red Pepper flakes
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Sundried Tomato
  • Bacon
  • Prosciutto
  • Pine nuts
  • Salmon
  • Grated Parmesan

FRESH HERBY FLAVOR

This is probably the most important ingredient of all (besides pasta).

Choose any of the following in an ratio of ⅓ Cup: 1 lb pasta

  • Red onion – sliced thin and/or chopped
  • Green onion/scallions
  • Chives
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Orange Zest
  • Lemon Zest
  • Dill (Usually works best with creamy dressings)
  • Mint (Usually works best with creamy dressings)
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Arugula
  • Rosemary (very strong and woody – use less – about 1 Tbs per lb of pasta – and chop very small)
  • Tarragon (very strong flavor – use less – about 1 Tbs per lb of pasta)

SALAD DRESSING

This is a MUST do ingredient! (if you want your perfect pasta salad to turn out right, that is). Add in a 1 Cup:1 Lb pasta salad ratio. (You can always add a tad more if you need to).

Choose any of the following or one of your own – and gently toss it in:

  • Bottled Ranch Dressing
  • Ranch Dressing you make from the dried packet
  • Bottled Italian Dressing
  • Commercially bottled  Zesty Italian
  • Bottled Green Goddess
  • Italian Dressing you make from the packets
  • Italian Dressing made from the packet and substitute lemon juice for water.

*** Use any salad dressing that you choose (you might sample it on a small bowl of the pasta salad before dumping it in to make sure you like it). The secret is to make sure the salad dressing is well mixed before adding it  – this helps it adhere to the pasta.

*** I do not recommend any Balsamic Vinegar based dressing as this usually turns the pasta a brown unappetizing color.

SALT AND PEPPER TO TASTE

Now, you have to give it a taste and add a final dose of salt and pepper. Fresh cracked pepper is always a lovely ingredient and has a little pop of flavor too. Be careful with the salt – it is easy to add too much but without it the perfect pasta salad will be a dud.

An overhead view of a green bowl of pasta salad sitting on cutting board with onion and peppers.

PERFECT PASTA SALAD

SAMPLE PASTA SALAD RECIPES FOR PERFECT PASTA SALAD:

Green Goddess Perfect Pasta Salad

  • 1 lb Pasta
  • 3 Cups broccoli and carrot slaw (available in veggie section of grocer)
  • 1 Cup Pinto Beans
  • ¾ Cup sliced black olives
  • ¼ Cup sun dried tomato
  • ⅓ Cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 Cup Green Goddess Dressing
  • All American Pasta Salad
  • 1 lb Pasta
  • 1 Cup Broccoli (blanched)
  • One Cup Carrot disks (blanched)
  • 1 Cup Red peppers chopped
  • 1 Cup Pinto Beans
  • One Cup Pepperonis
  • 1/3 Cup Arugula
  • 2 Tbs Green Onions chopped
  • 1 Cup Ranch Dressing

High Falutin Perfect Pasta Salad

  • 1 lbs Pasta
  • 3 Cups Asparagus tips – blanched
  • 1/2 Cup black beans
  • ½ Cup Toasted Walnuts – chopped fine
  • 1 cup goat cheese
  • 1 Tbs red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ Cup arugula
  • 2 Tbs chopped chives
  • ½ cup good quality olive oil
  • ½ cup good quality mild rice wine vinegar

TRY THESE OTHER LOAVES AND DISHES RECIPES TODAY!…

Chunky Guacamole

Creamy Ranch Pasta Salad

Mac and Cheese Soup

10 Minute Homemade Creamy Pasta Sauce

Andouille Ravioli

Garlic Dill Potato Salad

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions and Tips and Tricks

HOW DO I KEEP PASTA SALAD FROM DRYING OUT? 

It is important to stir your pasta salad regularly while it is sitting out for service. Don’t allow it to sit out for longer than 2 hours. 

When storing, put plastic wrap over the top or a lid on the container and store it in the refrigerator. 

HOW DO I MAKE A CREAMY PASTA SALAD? 

The creaminess is all in the dressing that you choose! If you choose a creamy dressing like Ranch or Creamy Italian, then your pasta salad will be creamy too! 

HOW DO YOU  MAKE PASTA SALAD WITH MAYONNAISE?

Follow the directions in this post for choosing different types of dressing. Mayonnaise is a type of dressing and you will want to combine it with some delicious herbs and spices as well as colorful veggies for the perfect pasta salad!

HOW MANY DAYS AHEAD CAN I MAKE PASTA SALAD?

Pasta salad is usually BEST when it is either fresh or made the day before. That is what I would recommend.

HOW LONG DOES PASTA SALAD LAST? 

Pasta salad will last about 5 days if you keep it covered and in the refrigerator. If you are leaving it out without refrigeration, it is good for about 2 hours. 

CAN I FREEZE PASTA SALAD?

Pasta salad is not a good dish for freezing. When thawed it has a different consistency and the dressing doesn’t do well when freezing. 

CAN I HEAT UP A PASTA SALAD? 

Most pasta salads can be heated, but you should think about if this will be a good taste. In many cases, pasta salads are meant to be eaten cold. 

THE RECIPE FOR ANOTHER PERFECT PASTA SALAD

A photo of four colors of chopped peppers cut up on the cutting board - green, red, yellow and orange

ALL THE SECRETS TO PERFECT PASTA SALAD

This recipe makes a perfect pasta salad loved by everyone!  There are lots of variations you can choose to make it your own! 
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Pasta Salad
Cuisine: America
Keyword: perfect pasta salad, pasta salad
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 140kcal
Author: Loaves and Dishes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Pasta
  • 1 Chopped Bell Pepper any color or mix and match
  • 2   Cups Chopped Cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Garbanzo Beans
  • ½ Cup of Ham
  • ½ Cup Muenster Cheese
  • Cup Thinly sliced and chopped red onion
  • ½ Cup Good quality Olive Oil
  • ½ Cup Lemon Juice
  • 2 packets of Italian Dressing

Instructions

  • Cook Pasta according to package instructions.  Be sure to salt the water well.  When reaches al dente (about 10 minutes), drain and cool.
  • Chop all of the remaining ingredients (except lemon juice, olive oil and italian dressing) into bite sized pieces.
  • Mix lemon juice, olive oil and italian dressing into a small glass jar with a lid and shake well.
  • Mix the pasta and chopped ingredients gently with a spatula.  Pour the dressing over the top and gently fold in with a rubber spatula.  Chill and serve cold.

Notes

  • The post for this recipe gives LOTS of alternatives for ingredients.  I hope you will check it out.
  • Cut things in small pieces that are approximately the same size so that nothing overwhelms anything else. 
  • For lots of other good ideas and different types of pasta salads, check out the post! 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
ALL THE SECRETS TO PERFECT PASTA SALAD
Amount Per Serving (3 g)
Calories 140
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @loavesanddishes or tag #loavesanddishes!

***THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 17, 2017 AND HAS BEEN UPDATED AND REPUBLISHED WITH NEW INFORMATION****

A VERSE TO SHARE

Sometimes I’m guilty of believing that I have achieved everything I have because I worked hard and made good choices. Maybe a touch of that is true.

The Bible tells us many times to be wise and make good choices.

At times, I think that I have reached goals because God is in my life? I have prayed for success and my prayers were answered sometimes.

The Bible tells us to boldly ask for what we want, right?

It also says that I am supposed to ask for what I want.

But what about people who haven’t achieved. What about people who live in poverty as adults? How did they get there?

Is it because of bad choices and laziness?

Maybe.

Personally, I have never walked in the shoes of another person.

I only know of one story where someone steps into a skin other than his own. That is the story of Jesus Christ. Do you know him?

If you do know Jesus, then you are brothers and sisters in Christ with everyone residing on this earth, regardless of financial status.

That is the only way to peace that I know.

1 John 4: 7- 21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

 We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

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