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Your Favorite Pasta Salad

My standard go-to salad that I always make is pretty basic... but i *love* it and have a hard time getting away from it!

A chicken ceasar pasta salad. With bow tie noodles, scallions, romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and a creamy ceasar (or creamy garlic) (or creamy peppercorn) (or whatever I feel like making) dressing....

So what's yours?

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  1. Mmmm sounds good. I love bowties in pasta salad.

    I have two favorites:
    Bowties (or tortellini) with red peppers, fresh mozzarella, black olives and artichokes in an italian dressing
    Orzo with feta, tomato and a ton of fresh basil in a lemon-pepper dressing

    1. I haven't made it in a while, but fusili with grilled chicken or shrimp, roasted red bell pepper, asparagus or broccoli and pesto - homemade with fresh basil, reggiano, garlic, pine nuts and evoo.

      1. Tricolor fusilli with blanched broccoli and carrot, green onion cut on the bias, and a dressing of rice vinegar and just a little sesame oil. Low fat and full of flavor. You can add chicken or shrimp for protein if you wish (tofu would work too) and many other vegetables will work as well-- asparagus is especially good and in season right now.

        1. My SIL makes an easy one, which for some reason I just love- and it is reallly a throwback to the 70's, I think. It is pasta, cubed sharp cheddar, sliced green olives and a bit of mayo.
          I also like your favorite pasta, lots of fresh garlic( i like to add both roasted and raw- sliced really thin), salt, fresh thyme and oilive oil. I like this served with grilled chicken or shrimp. Again- it is easy and good- but you have to really love garlic.

          1. Orzo with grape tomatoes, black olives, feta, lightly cooked snow peas, red bell peppers and a mustardy vinaigrette. You can add fish, chicken, seafood or whatever protein you like to make it a complete meal. I make this in quantity because both DH and I love it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cheryl_h

              Do you make the vinaigrette or buy it? what kind or how do you make it?

              1. re: pamd

                I make the vinaigrette. It's a simple blend of olive oil, vinegar, a good dollop of mustard. I use about a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar with about a third as much Dijon mustard as vinegar.. Sorry I don't have exact amounts, I make the same dressing for so many salads I don't really measure any longer. I like a fairly tangy dressing with a distinct mustard flavor. If I use a sharp vinegar, I sometimes add a little honey. If the vinegar is mild, I leave it as it is. If I have fresh herbs and they go with the other salad ingredients, I'll macerate them and infuse the vinegar with them, or chop finely and add to the vinaigrette at the end.

            2. This is my all-time favorite. It's a little bit labor-intensive, but soooo worth it!

              Composed Salad of Sausage and Orzo with Fresh Peas & Mixed Greens
              Serves 6

              2 cups orzo (about 12 oz.)
              ½ cup pine nuts
              2 cups shelled fresh green peas (about 2 lbs. in the pod) [NOTE: I use frozen when fresh means too much work.]
              12 sweet Italian sausages (about 2 lbs.)
              1 lg. garlic clove, minced
              ¼ cup dry red wine
              ½ cup chopped scallions
              1 tbs. mayonnaise
              2 tbsp. vinegar
              1 tbsp. mustard
              1½ tsp. salt
              ¾ tsp. freshly ground pepper
              1/3 cup + 1½ tbs. olive oil
              4 bunches of lamb’s lettuce (mâche), about ½ lb. [NOTE: I frequently can’t find mâche, so I substitute mesclun and leave out the radicchio below.]
              2 Belgian endives, cut into thin strips
              8 sm. radicchio leaves, torn into pieces
              2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

              Preheat the oven to 375°.

              Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the orzo and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water; drain well.

              Scatter the pine nuts over a small baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

              Steam the peas over boiling water until just tender, about 6 minutes. Rinse under cold running water; drain well. [If, like me, you opt for frozen, this step is unnecessary. Just put peas into a colander and let them defrost while you’re cooking the sausage, etc.]

              Prick the sausages all over with a fork. In a large skillet, cook the sausages over moderately high heat, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Pour off all of the fat. Add the garlic and wine to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. [Check the pan every so often. I’ve found that I need to put in a little bit of water every now and then.] Remove the sausages. Degrease the juices in the pan and set aside.

              In large bowl, mix together the orzo, peas, pine nuts and scallions. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, 1 tsp. of the salt and ½ tsp. of the pepper. Gradually whisk in 1/3 cup of the olive oil and the reserved pan juices until well blended. Add to the orzo and stir to coat.

              In another large bowl, toss together the lamb’s lettuce, Belgian endives and radicchio. Drizzle the lemon juice and the remaining 1½ tbs. olive oil over the salad. Season with the remaining ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper and toss.

              Place a portion of the greens on each plate, top with a portion of the orzo mixture, and arrange 2 sausages, sliced if you like, over the top of the salads. [NOTE: I usually serve this family-style - all arranged on one enormous, deep platter.]

              1. Another vote for Orzo with grape tomatoes, olives, feta. Sometimes I throw in some scallions, sometimes some chopped red or yellow pepper.

                1. Fusili, feathercut red onion, pear (sliced along length), tomato (seeded and also sliced lengthwise), arugula, shavings of Parm-Reg or Pecorino

                  Red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, bit of honey

                  Dress the onion first; add rest prior to serving.

                  1. This is my favorite so far!


                    1 (16 oz.) package farfalle (bow tie) pasta
                    1 C. broccoli florets
                    8 oz. fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and chopped
                    8 oz. diced cooked chicken breast meat
                    1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained
                    1 (4 oz.) can sliced black olives, drained
                    1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced
                    1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
                    4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
                    1 C. Italian salad dressing, or as needed salt and pepper to taste


                    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add broccoli florets and asparagus to the boiling water during the last 5 minutes. Drain, and run under cold water to cool. In a large serving bowl, stir together the diced chicken, kidney beans, black olives, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and Italian dressing. Stir in the pasta, broccoli and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I like it pretty heavy on the pepper. This salad is best if chilled for a couple of hours before serving

                      1. I love this salad. Dressing the pasta while it's warm with the sesame and soy sauce really makes a difference.

                        Chinese Spaghetti Salad
                        Dressing for pasta:
                        2T dark sesame oil
                        4t soy sauce

                        1 pound spaghetti, cooked and kept warm

                        Dressing for salad:
                        1/4C chicken broth
                        3T soy sauce
                        2T red wine vinegar
                        1T dark sesame oil
                        1t dry mustard
                        1/8t cayenne, or to taste
                        Chili oil to taste

                        1 pound spaghetti, cooked and kept warm
                        2C slivered cooked chicken breast
                        1/2 pound snow peas, cut into 1” pieces, blanched then refreshed in cold water
                        2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4” by 1-1/2” strips
                        2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
                        3/4C slices scallions (include some green tops)
                        3T chopped Italian parsley
                        2T toasted sesame seeds

                        In large bowl, combine dressing for pasta; add warm pasta and combine well. In small bowl or jar, combine dressing for salad; set aside. At serving time, toss pasta with salad dressing. Add all salad ingredients and toss again.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: wyf4lyf

                          wyf4lyf, thanks so much for this recipe. I made it for dinner tonight and it was just terrific! I know we'll be enjoying it often this summer.

                        2. Every summer I love to make my Summer Orzo Salad. I use fresh corn, halved cherry tomatoes, scallions, basil, and feta. The dressing is mostly olive oil, red wine vinegar, plenty of black pepper, and lemon juice. It's great for parties and potlucks because it's a nice vinegary dressing, not full of mayo. You can also add proschutto or ham for protein if you'd like, as well.

                          1. I am totally stuck on my favorite too. But yours sounds really good. Do you just tear the lettuce and toss it in? Do prepare the chicken any special way. I just never grill chicken for some reason, but I have a gas grill right outside, so tips welcome.

                            Mine is lighter on the pasta, heavier on the veggies, so adjust as you will. It keeps really well for several days. One can of tuna is for a flavoring if this is a side, if it's a main I add another can.

                            Tuna Pasta Salad with Cilantro

                            4 cups cooked macaroni
                            1 1/2 cups cabbage -- finely shredded
                            1 cup chopped celery
                            1 cup chopped cucumber
                            1/2 cup sliced radishes
                            1/2 cup chopped green onions
                            1/2 cup chopped walnuts -- toasted lightly
                            1 or 2 cans tuna -- drained

                            1/3 cup vegetable oil
                            3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
                            3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
                            2 cloves garlic -- pressed
                            1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
                            1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
                            1/4 teaspoon salt
                            1/2 cup cilantro -- chopped

                            In a large bowl, whisk salad ingredients. Add remaining ingredients for salad and toss. Chill well, 3 hours or overnight. Keeps well for several days. Makes 9 cups.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: coconutz

                              i either just tear the lettuce, or chop it... depending on what i feel like... I generally make the rest of the pasta in advance, and then right before serving I add the lettuce... and I add quite a bit... I really like having the lettuce in the salad.
                              As for the chicken, well, I am not that expert either... I often use whatever leftover chicken I have on hand, or I just grill some up, marinated in a basic viniagrette. My absolute favorite to add, however, is leftover rotisserie chicken, from a peruvian chicken place near me... SO good.
                              and i like your idea on the "tuna" pasta salad! sound delicious and very different!

                            2. orecchiette with broccolini (not broccoli rabe) and hot soppressata, medium dice, red onion, a little roasted garlic/olive oil dressing, with basil chiffonade.

                              1. my standby... rigatoni, olive oil, seasoned rice wine vinegar, chopped tomatoes, julienned sundried tomatoes, fresh basil chiffonaded, dried oregano, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper... mix and let marinate overnight, so simple and so good.

                                1. My husband makes this awesome seafood pasta salad each summer. It's the bomb! I'm going to have to add this recipe to my blog soon:

                                  1 box of rotini – cooked according to directions
                                  4-6 hard boiled eggs
                                  some sort of seafood: imitation crabmeat (1 lb) or tuna
                                  mayo to taste
                                  garlic powder
                                  onion powder
                                  2 good pinches of cayenne pepper
                                  peas (frozen, but then cooked before adding)
                                  finely chopped red pepper

                                  Make sure that the boiled ingredients are cool before assembling the salad.

                                  1. don't get insulted, but this one uses bottled salad dressing (but it's DELICIOUS for this super simple dish). Saute zucchini and squash sliches/haved in a pan w. Seven Seas Italians dressing (the most basic but surprisingly versitile marinade of them all). Once they get soft, remove them, mix into big bowl w. corkscrew pasta salad (tri-color), and possibly ad halved grape tomatoes. great to eat right away but the next day is even better.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: heidemarie

                                      um, am i allowed to admit that I use them as well at times?

                                    2. Mine is so simple, but always gets rave reviews:
                                      Tortellini (or any regular pasta you have on hand)
                                      Grape Tomatoes
                                      Fresh Mozzarella
                                      Toasted Pine Nuts
                                      Balsamic Vinaigrette
                                      Salt and pepper


                                      1. I love this one from Everyday Italian. It has orzo, little tomatoes, garbanzo beans, onion, basil, mint and a really nice vinaigrette with honey.


                                        1. I love tortelinni salad with feta, baby spinach, kalamatas & red onion in a vinaigrette so good!
                                          Also greek pasta salad is a summer standard

                                          1. I make a pasta salad with rotini, shrimp, cubed mango and avocado, and a mango lime vinaigrette (oil, rice vinegar, pureed mango, fresh lime juice, fresh cilantro, salt, pepper, and a touch of sugar/Splenda/honey). It makes a refreshingly light and addictive summer meal.

                                            1. Mine favorite always ends up being a bit complex. lots of ingredients, but it is the defining summer dish for me.

                                              Rotelle tossed in oil and a bit of balsamic and grated Parma Reggiano or Romano is the base. From there I add some to all of the following
                                              Capers, Good Olives, Ripe Tomatoes, Colored Peppers, Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Garlic, Lightly Steamed Aspargus, Fiddleheads, Toasted Pine nuts, Diced Salami, Diced Fontina, Diced Edam, Fresh Herbs, Scallions, Sweet Peas (fresh sugar snaps are best).

                                              Basically I try to find the freshest, best veggies avaiable, add some salty tidbits and have a good array of colors to make it pretty.

                                              1. Cooked and cooled orecchiette or small shells
                                                Fresh peas (raw or blanched)
                                                Chopped scallions
                                                Buttermilk dressing with cracked pepper and cheese (feta, parmesan or sharp goat cheese)


                                                Cooked and cooled penne or gemelli
                                                Chunks of grilled radicchio
                                                Blanched cauliflower florets
                                                Chopped shallots
                                                Chopped black olives (I like infornate)
                                                Toasted walnuts
                                                Pesto or balsamic dressing

                                                1. This is so wierd - but it is a family tradition. For us no cookout is complete without -
                                                  Spaghetti Salad. Spaghetti, chopped onion, chopped salad olives, mayo, brine from salad olives, salt & pepper. People usually really like it - except for the hosts of one party we brought it to who baked it before serving it !!!

                                                  1. This Roasted Shrimp and Orzo pasta recipe is amazing and I make it all the time - it's from the Barefoot Contessa show on the Food Network! ;-)


                                                    1. Aside from random inspiration from ingredients in my fridge (smoked fish, cheeses, veggies) to make something new, I usually go one of several various directions with pasta salad:

                                                      1. Lemon-tahini pasta salad. No exact recipe, but mix together lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, salt and possibly a dash of vinegar. Mix in pasta with bright, raw veggies such as carrots, peas, red onion, parsley, cherry tomatoes. Very refreshing.

                                                      2. Something highlighting fresh summer tomatoes and decadent. Good cheese, maybe a little avocado, basil, peas, whatever is in season and will highlight the tomatoes/build the right bridge between the pasta and the tomatoes. Sometimes with a good balsamic vinegrette.

                                                      3. Pesto. Maybe with sundried tomatoes, whole toasted pine nuts and peas.

                                                      And, of course, there's always kasha varnishkes. http://www.jewish-food.org/recipes/ka...

                                                      1. I never make it the same way twice. What I currently have for today's lunch made with assorted leftovers is....(I made one serving)

                                                        3 oz. whole wheat penne
                                                        1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
                                                        splash of red wine vinegar
                                                        some red pepper flakes
                                                        salt and pepper
                                                        some capers (about a teaspoon or so)
                                                        an ounce of crumbled feta
                                                        Splash of olive oil

                                                        I tossed that all together and added some leftover grilled salmon and a squeeze of lemon.

                                                        1. Had a fun experience today, spurred by this thread, that may interest those of you who have a reciprocating saw, or a saber saw, or a household member who has either. The goal was to cut spaghetti to uniform short lengths that were fork-sized.

                                                          I took a 2 pound pack of spaghetti, and reached in the drawer for about ten thick rubber bands, saved from broccoli bunches (a multipurpose tool in themselves... we all save them, right?). Gathered the pasta into a log with two rubber bands, and marked off two inch increments along its length. Then secured each 2 inch increment with a solo rubber band in the middle between the marks. Then tromped to the workshop and took the reciprocating saw, cleaned the blade, wrapped the pasta bundle in a kitchen towel, inserted it into the bench vise, draped the handle of a 5 gallon pickle bucket over the vise for the bucket to catch the 2 inch bundles. (Get the 5 gallon buckets at Burger King while they last, before they follow the industry trend toward 1 quart plastic packs for the pickles). Sawed off the 2 inch bundles, each secured in the middle by the rubber band, and they dropped into the bucket. They are now ready for a fun pasta salad with fork sized spaghetti.

                                                          Could this be a way to get some of the Home Depot Dads involved in a fun way with the manufacture of home cooked food? Does it serve to bridge the gap between "Kitchen tools" and "Shop tools"? I'm just musing. But food unites a family, sometimes in fun ways. For me: I just wish I had thought of it before the kitchen-loving offspring left home.

                                                          1. My favorite to make is Mediterrean Orzo
                                                            orzo, roasted pine nuts, golden raisins ( I use cranberries sometimes). celery, green onion, parmesan cheese, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, fresh parsley, lemon zest, white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil.

                                                            Taste better once it sits in the cooler for a day or two,