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Pasta salad

Since I"ve wised up to Chowhound, I first did a search for "pasta salad" recipes. Found nothing! So I'm asking all you wise hounds to please tell me how to make a reasonable pasta salad. My kids love it, and it's an easy summer dish. But despite my usual skill in the kitchen, mine always ends up being boring. What should I do differently?

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    1. re: ipsedixit

      Don't know what I'm doing wrong, but thanks for helping me out!

    2. I didn't look at the search items listed, but I think the best thing to perk up a pasta salad is to be sure not to use too much mayo and to add some dill pickle juice to loosen things up, even if you don't put dill pickles in your salad. I use chopped onion, celery, and red bell pepper, pitted kalamata olives, halved, lots of chopped parsley (curly type for texture), sometimes a chopped jalapeno pepper, sometimes chopped cucumber, whatever is around, even chopped raw zucchini.

      1. Do you want mayo based or vinaigrette
        Seafood or chicken or veggie based
        Cold I presume ...

        This narrows it down, do the kids like lots of veggie or just more of a traditional version?

        1 Reply
        1. re: kchurchill5

          This might be a little too different (i.e. non-pasta-salady), but check out Pioneer Woman's Asian Noodle Salad:
          http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...
          I've made it with variations (cutting it way down and using penne and leaving out some of the ingredients) and every time people have clamored for the recipe. Just be forewarned, if you are not feeding an army definitely reduce the amounts.

        2. I love traditional pasta with a light mayo base, but I love roasted veggies and I love shrimp in mine, that is why I asked what type of pasta you were looking for. A huge arena of tastes.

          1. I've given up on basic pasta salad. Either its boring or way over dressed.

            But my absolutely most successful recipe that many of my friends insist I bring to their parties is an orzo salad, which is in fact a pasta salad. Its an epicurious recipe: Orzo, Pine Nut, and Feta Salad http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

            The key with this recipe -- which may also work for other pasta salads -- is to drain the orzo and mix in the EVO/lemon mixture right away while the orzo is still piping hot so the EVO goodness suffuses into the orzo. That way the orzo (or pasta) is no longer boring. It helps that the toasted pine nuts, feta, and green onion give it plenty of kick too. But the recipe falls apart if the orzo is cooled before adding the oil.

            5 Replies
              1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                Quinoa is another good option for summer salads. It cooks quickly, is high in protein and it's gluten-free!

              2. re: BernalKC

                I add black olives and sundried tomatoes to this recipe and the olive oil from the tomatoes works well in place of adding olive oil immediately to the orzo.

                1. re: BernalKC

                  I feel like a broken record, but this orzo pasta salad is great as well. It also has pine nuts and feta.

                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                  1. re: BernalKC

                    Picked up some lovely scallops with the intention of making Orzo pasta salad with grilled scallops. That's dinner, thanks for the inspiration BernalKC!