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Pasta salad help

I've never been a big fan of pasta salad. The typical pickle and tiny tube salad of my youth holds no appeal. Recently though, looking forward to the summer, I've tried my hand. Thinking that the treatment that works so well for potato salad, sprinkling the hot main ingredient with rice vinegar before it cools might work well for pasta, I tried it and it helps.

Now, I'm looking for suggestions for additions and final dressings. So far I've gone for olives for the earthier flavors and asiago cheese. For the brighter, I've used lemon juice, red bell peppers and parsley and mint and just used EVOO for a dressing.

What else should I try?

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  1. I find with pasta salad, that adding the dressing a la minute works best. The pasta can really suck up the dressing if you put it on too far ahead of time. It leaves the pasta bloated and the salad dry.

    1. With the ingredients you are working with, I find that orzo is far more interesting than pasta for a summer salad but maybe replace the asiago with a high quality feta.

      1. I have homemade mustard beans and I use it for a potato salad. It's great, just toss with boiled baby new potatoes, no oil. But it must be eaten same day because it is just dry and nasty the next day. I'm sure it would be nice with penne or fusilli.

        1. This is a good pasta salad with orzo and feta, like bakerboyz suggested. I add olives too.


          1. My standby pasta salad is: tri-color rotini or rotelle, italian tuna in olive oil, kalamata olives, broccoli and baby carrots cooked with the pasta (the carrots for the full 11 minutes, the broccoli for the last 5 minutes) topped with fresh grated parmesean and Italian dressing.

            Can't fail, keeps well and is never leftover. I make it a couple hours ahead to let the flavors mingle.

            1. I have three that I like--though one is not exactly a pasta salad. . .

              1. Tuna, white beans, sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives. Tarragon or basil as the herb and tossed with quinoa. Dressing is just EVOO w/ the reserved sundried tomato juices.

              2. roasted veggies w/ pasta and a carmelized balsamic vinaigrette--which is basically just pasta salad w/ roasted eggplant and peppers (and other ingredients you like), and then for the dressing, I carmelize balsamic over the stove w/ brown sugar, then add it to evoo and toss.

              3. Saffron pasta--for this I use orzo. I forgot what the proportions were, but you mix the orzo w/ some pine nuts and raisins and maybe a quarter cup of chopped parsley and slightly less mint (maybe a few tablespoons). The dressing is olive oil, lemon, saffron, a pinch of turmeric. This keeps really well.

              1. My favorite is a summer seafood pasta salad with cooked shrimp, scallops & crab tossed with baby peas, green & red roasted peppers, black olives, English cucumber, finely diced shallot or green onion tossed in Cesar dressing. In a pinch, Cardini cesar dressing will do if you don't want to make homemade. Or try Green Goddess dressing. Both with extra anchovies!

                1. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll definitely experiment around with the tuna and anchovies. The carmelized balsamic vinaigrette sounds like a good dressing but I think I'll try it on a green salad with the grilled veg.

                  1. A simple one- pasta, olive oil, lots of garlic and fresh thyme and a bit of lemon juice. We sometimes add grilled chicken for an easy meal. My SIL also make an "old fashioned" version that I love- pasta, chopped green olives, cubes of cheddar , and for the dressing she uses a bit of mayo and mustard. She always uses elbow pasta. I love it!

                    1. I'm right in the middle of fixing some holiday salads.
                      Tuna, ziti, baby petite peas. Great combo and the kids always love it. I sometimes add celery, pickles, hardboiled egg, walnuts. Really depends on what I have on hand.

                      Orzo, sundried tomatoes, green onion and pine nuts. This is another favorite. Just add a little EVOO and maybe some fresh basil.

                      1. I like to make Greek- or Italian-style pasta salad using whatever looks nice on the olive bar plus pasta and fresh diced tomato and maybe green pepper, then feta and a nice Greek vinaigrette if my finds were more "Greek" or parm or asiago and my fave Italian dressing if my finds were more "Italian".

                        My mom makes a good mayo based pasta salad using approx 1/2 mayo and 1/2 ranch dressing, with a dash of creamy horseradish sauce, celery, onion, sometimes fresh green peas, hard boiled egg, and imitation crab. I know a lot of people hate hate HATE imitation crab, so shrimp are good instead if you are one of them.

                        I can't stomach most store bought pasta salads or potato salads - sweet mayo based dressing and sweet pickles...ick! - but I love homemade.

                        1. Regardless of which pasta salad recipe I use, I find radiatorre is the best pasta shape for cold summer pasta salads.