Whole Story

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Best Ever Pasta Salad

By Kate Rowe, June 9, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Kate Rowe
Now that the season of picnics, cookouts and all manner of summer get-togethers is officially here, I’m reviewing my recipe arsenal carefully to consider what I’ll be making in hopes of earning rave reviews at every gathering. Nobody wants to be that person who brings a dish to the party and realizes at the end that it’s hardly been touched! A key staple for summer get-togethers is pasta salad. Ever wonder why? It’s easy, endlessly adaptable, and efficient for using up leftovers. Also, it’s a good traveler for picnics and can be served at room temperature. So don’t fret about what to bring to your next summer picnic—think pasta salad! And you can’t go wrong with our Pasta Salad with Grilled Veggies and Fresh Mozzarella One of our website visitors, Coll, said: “Made this a bunch of times now. It's an easy recipe and has been a hit with whomever I've shared it. We agree that it’s a crowd pleaser, and here’s why:
  • Hold the mayo: My informal poll results indicate that 6 out of 7 people prefer a vinaigrette-based salad to a mayo base. This is a highly controversial area, but folks have strong feelings on this and, in my experience, mayo is more polarizing than vinaigrette. Our recipe uses balsamic vinaigrette —a bottled one for convenience but feel free to make it from scratch if you like.
  • Summer rainbow: Our pasta salad is colorful, and a beautiful presentation makes a dish all the more enticing. Bell peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, spinach, red onion and basil offer up a rainbow in a bowl. Who can resist that?
  • Herbalicious flavor: For color (see above) and of course fresh, fragrant flavor, don’t be shy with the herbs. Herbs, especially basil, flourish in summer heat so grow your own and be generous when adding them to summer salads.
  • Cheese, please: Fresh mozzarella is one of our summer favorites. It’s creamy and rich, and it’s a great match for grilled veggies and pasta. Cheese not your thing? Just skip it and you’ll still have a gorgeous salad.
We want to know: what’s your best ever recipe for pasta salad? Share your recipes and suggestions for what makes a great pasta salad in the comments below. Let’s see who has the best idea! Happy summer cooking!
Category: Food & Recipes




Ann Sheehy says ...
This is my favorite basil/herb pasta sauce. I plant lots of basil and make a batch to use or to put in the freezer. An edited version of my recipe was printed in the Feb/Mar "Taste of Home". Al Verde Sauce 3 cups packed basil leaves 3 cups packed Italian flat leaf parsley 1 bunch (1 ½ bunches, if small) scallions, trimmed & cut into 1-inch pieces 5 cloves of garlic Juice and zest of 1 lemon (or juice and zest of ½ lemon and ½ orange) 11 oz. bottle salad olives, drained 3 oz bottle capers, drained 1 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese or mixture Hefty dash of red pepper flakes Extra virgin olive oil With the motor running in the food processor, drop in the garlic, green onion, and zest. Process until well minced. Stop and scrape down the sides. Add as much basil and parsley as will fit. Process until “mushed”. Scrape down the sides. Process the rest. Add the olives, capers, citrus juice, hot pepper flakes, and cheese. Process likewise. With motor running, add enough olive oil to make a liquid consistency. You should get about 3 cups. 1 cup coats 1 pound of pasta. Serve at room temperature or “zapped” in microwave. Store in 1-cup containers and freeze. Unfrozen sauce keeps a month in the refrigerator. Garnish with halved cherry tomatoes, diced red onion, cucumbers, more cheese, and basil slivers
06/09/2010 2:55:39 PM CDT
Wendy says ...
Old Favorite Pasta Salad -I have made this salad for many years. You can vary the ingredients, but this version is my family's favorite. This salad would be perfect as a side dish or for lunch. Salad ingredients: 1 pound cooked, chilled tricolor pasta (fusilli or farfalle) 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered 1/2-1 lb fresh mozzarella (depending on preference, cut into bite size pieces 1/2-1 c fresh slivered basil 1 cup garbanzo beans Vinagrette: 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 1/2 cup olive oil 1 tbsp. italian dressing mix (I use Penzey's, from www.penzeys.com) Toss ingredients with desired amount of vinagrette and chill for several hours before serving.
06/09/2010 2:58:45 PM CDT
Steph says ...
To lighten things up, I just use plain balsamic rather than any oil in a vinaigrette. Still tasty and refreshing but MUCH lower in fat. My herb garden is going nuts so basil (it's 2 feet high) goes into almost any salad right now!
06/09/2010 3:32:20 PM CDT
Diane Harper says ...
Why is that you have Lemon Tahini on your salad bar but no longer sell the Whole Foods brand on the shelf? Diane, from Raleigh NC
06/09/2010 3:34:46 PM CDT
Cooking4carnivores says ...
Here is a link to how I make my pasta salad special -http://www.cooking4carnivores.com/2009/07/when-youre-sick-of-salad-have-salad.html
06/09/2010 3:47:11 PM CDT
chelsea says ...
Oh man, I am the Queen of Not-Cooking once the summer rolls around. It gets, like CRAZY hot here, and being in the kitchen is no fun. My favorite hardly cooked pasta salad is: cooked & chilled whole wheat rotini (you do have to boil this, but I prep everything else over at the table while the pasta is cooking), halved cherry tomatoes, a jar of artichoke hearts, some kalamata olives, cubed goat cheese (feta works), a TINY splash of Paul Newman's Italian Dressing to help it all stick together, and some torn basil leaves and minced chives. Maybe a strong-arm grind of black pepper or two.
06/09/2010 4:08:28 PM CDT
Susan Hill Edwards says ...
No name established yet for this one! Kid-friendly, my young boys eat this. Uncooked Squash (sliced and halved) Uncooked Zucchini (sliced and halved) Uncooked Carrots (sliced) Black Olives (sliced) Green Onions (sliced) Rotini Pasta (boiled and cooled)Or it could be tri-color and wheat Sundried Tomatoes (sliced) Italian Salad Dressing (Vinegar-based;healthy portion) Salt to taste Pepper to taste I think some spinach leaves would be good I seemed to add something almost everytime I make it. I think cucumbers would be good. I wonder if basil would be good.
06/09/2010 8:53:50 PM CDT
Barbara Kirch says ...
To modify this to be gluten free, I substitute gluten free pasta, and make my own salad dressing!
06/09/2010 10:51:35 PM CDT
andrea says ...
I make a really simple "Greek" style pasta salad, using either macaroni or rotini noodles (cooked al dente), mixed organic greens, feta crumbles, chopped cucumbers and tomatoes. I line a bowl with the greens, rinse the pasta in cold water and mix it with the veggies and cheese and Italian dressing (I like Newman's Own). A squeeze of lemon and some pepper and you're ready to go!
06/09/2010 11:07:55 PM CDT
Lyndsie says ...
McCormick makes this tasty seasoning called Salad Supreme. It's become the staple for my summer pasta salad because it simplified the ingredient list. Now, it's never been my cooking style to use measurements. I'm from the south so unless we are baking, everything is "added to taste" so I will approximate as best as possible. My pasta salad is: 1 red bell pepper 1 orange bell pepper 1 yellow bell pepper 2 medium cucumbers 8oz of cherry tomatoes 1/4 medium red onion 1 bag of your favorite pasta 1 1/2 bottles of McCormick Salad Supreme extra virgin olive oil Cook pasta to your desired texture, rinse under cold water stirring to assure that the pasta is loose and let cool. Dice all vegetables to approximately 1/2 inch pieces. Combine pasta and fresh veggies. Add the Salad Supreme seasoning and just enough oil to coat pasta and veggies so that the seasoning will stick well to all ingredients. Serve cold or at room temperature.
06/10/2010 9:58:34 AM CDT
Phluff says ...
Best Pasta salad always starts with Kamut Spirals.
06/10/2010 12:51:58 PM CDT
Terry Thomassie says ...
Try using Johnny Jambalaya's Herb Dressing & Marinade in your pasta salad next time--it's great and healthy!
06/10/2010 4:18:02 PM CDT
smilinggreenmom says ...
Love this! What an awesome thing for summer with all the rainbow colors :) I have a new herb garden that I just planted and cannot wait to make a pasta salad with fresh herbs and I love using a pasta I found made from Kamut Wheat! Pasta salads are the best, so refreshing and healthy!
06/10/2010 4:44:02 PM CDT
Kathy Harter says ...
I have made this recipe many times and it is always eaten up, with people asking for the recipe. Highly recommend your trying it! Basil, mozzarella and grilled veggies - how can one go wrong?
06/11/2010 10:41:13 PM CDT
NANCY says ...
I have an abundance of herbs as well...how do you freeze them?
06/15/2010 8:22:45 AM CDT
Elizabeth says ...
I make this pasta salad all year round. It can be eaten hot, room temp on a picnic or chilled. You could substitute the peameal bacon with chicken or turkey breast. 1 lb Barilla Companelle (or any pasta shape you like) 1 cup Sundried tomatoes, cut into small pieces 3-4 cups Arugula, torn into small pieces 1 lb Peameal bacon (sauteed, then thinly sliced) 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese 2 tbsp Olive oil pepper to taste Boil and drain pasta, when it's still hot, add peameal bacon and olive oil, toss in sundried tomatoes and parmesan, then add the arugula.
06/15/2010 8:59:17 AM CDT
Mary Margolis says ...
I make pasta salad with what is in the house at the time. The last one included whole wheat fusilli, Israeli couscous, red bell pepper, Napa cabbage, zucchini, green onion, cheddar cheese, fetta cheese, mozarella cheese, can of pinto beans, small can of sliced olives, S & P as you wish. The best part was the dressing. I used a half bottle of Kozlowski Farms Zesty Herb Dressing. The result was the best pasta salad I ever made.
06/16/2010 5:53:10 PM CDT
Sandra Britton says ...
I almost never measure the ingredients for what I am cooking, I just eyeball, and add ingredients until it looks and tastes right to me. So, I will try to guesstimate amounts and hopefully you will get the jest of what I am making. 1. about 1/2 to 3/4 package of rotelle pasta, cooked and allowed to cool 2. thinly sliced red onion, about 1/2 to 3/4 or green onions can be used, about 2 of those thinly sliced 3. about 4-5 healthy sprigs of Italian parsley lightly chopped 4. 1/2 to 3/4 of a cucumber cut in half length wise and thinly sliced 5. about 3/4 C of cherry tomatoes cut in half, or a large tomato quartered and sliced 6. 1/2 half to 3/4 red bell pepper cut in half twice and then sliced 7. about 1/2 cup of sliced Kalamata olives 8. 3/4 to 1 can of garbanzo beans 9. about 10 shakes of Napa Valley extra virgin olive oil, I am guessing about 1 tablespoon 10. about 8-10 shakes of Napa Valley red wine vinegar 11. a few shakes of Spike 12. Ground black pepper 13. about 3/4 of a 6oz pack of Sunergia soy feta Mediterranean flavor, crumbled 14. about 1/2 C walnut halves broken into small pieces Mix all ingredients together. Ingredients can be adjusted more or less according to taste. Options - for variety steamed broccoli can be added, sugar snap peas or raw baby spinach. Also, everything I use is organic, with the exception of the Spike and olives, as I am unable to find organic olives anywhere.
06/16/2010 9:34:22 PM CDT
Colleen says ...
Looks great! I make a similar salad, but vegan! I use the same pasta and add chopped red, green, and yellow peppers, halved grape tomatoes, halved green olives, and Italian dressing. Easy and refreshing!
06/19/2010 3:18:52 PM CDT
Ellen says ...
Bruschetta Pasta Salad 1-lb box ditalini pasta or penne (cooked and cooled) 4 roma tomatoes 1 med red onion 2 cloves garlic 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves 1 cup oil (I like canola) 1 lb mozzarella cheese 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese salt and pepper to taste Dice up 3 roma tomatoes, 1/2 red onion, and dice the mozzarella into 1/2 inch cubes. Mix in with chilled cooked pasta. In a blender combine oil, remaining onion, basil,garlic, and parm cheese. Add about a tsp of salt and pepper, then blend until smooth. Pour over the pasta, and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Bon Appetite
06/30/2010 10:57:01 AM CDT
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05/13/2011 5:02:29 AM CDT
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05/24/2011 10:18:58 AM CDT
Emma says ...
This is my favorite pasta recipe Ravioli, Tortellini, Agnolotti, Cappelletti, Marguerite, Star, Agnoletti, Triangolo Bring 4 litres of salted water to a boil. Add 1 kg of frozen pasta and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain thoroughly and serve with your favourite sauce. Villa Ravioli has more than 100 different Italian pastas The real taste of Italy served directly to your table… Buonissimo! source: http://www.villaravioli.com/cooking.php whats your favorite brands of pasta ?
08/21/2012 11:33:16 AM CDT
Joan Bundt says ...
I asked some checkers which was their favorite food from the deli. They said a pasta dish with smoked mozzarella cheese. could I get the recipe for that? Thank you so much.
11/08/2012 10:22:56 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JOAN - The Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad IS wonderful! We do not have a recipe on our national website for this but check with your local store to see if they have a recipe. Many times at our store locations, the Prepared Foods Department create amazing dishes so if they have a recipe, they will be happy to share it with you!
11/08/2012 11:53:16 AM CST