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Any good cold pasta salad recipe?

All the cold pasta salad I have tasted were kinda mehhh...I am thinking about making it for my upcoming bbq. Any great recipe otherwise I will probably skip.

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    1. I also like the one that onrushpam suggested.

      As well as this one for Orzo with Roasted Vegetables.


      And here are a bunch of other threads discussing it...


      1 Reply
      1. re: valerie

        I second Ina's orzo with roasted veg. I like to do large crumbles of feta instead if cubes.

        1. re: susan1353

          I just made this the other day and loved it, so fresh. I think bottled salad dressings have given pasta salad a bad wrap. I always hated them before I started making my own. Soooo easy...

          1. re: Gloriaa

            Yes exactly..I HATE bottled Italian dressing! So bland and blehhh..

            1. re: Gloriaa

              Bottled salad dressings have given salad in general a bad rap. I never even have the stuff in the house.

              1. re: JonParker

                I feel the same way about marinated artichokes, peppers, sundried tomatoes....it is so hard to find them marinating in olive oil without dried herbs, capers etc...I have to marinate all my veg or it will have that old taste. I find they use way too much oregano.

          2. I made this one up years ago. A family favorite now.

            Ang’s Pasta Salad

            Cook about 1 and 1/2 cups of Rotina (multi-colored spiral-shaped pasta) according to package directions. Rinse and drain well.
            Cook 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I sprinkle with seasoning salt and throw them on the grill).
            Chop chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and add to drained pasta.
            Rinse and drain one can of dark red kidney beans and add to pasta/chicken.
            Drain one can of black olives. Cut each olive in half and add to pasta/chicken.
            Pour in about 1/2 a bottle of Italian dressing (shake well)
            Add extra chopped garlic (to taste)
            Add fresh ground pepper (to taste)
            Add about one cup of Parmesan Cheese (not the dry stuff in the green can!)
            Mix well and refrigerate overnight

            1. I love this couscous salad from Chow. It's especially good with the addition of wilted kale and peppadew subbed for the piquillos.

              4 Replies
              1. re: JungMann

                Using pesto instead of mayo is a good trick.

                1. re: humbert

                  last summer I made a pasta salad where I mixed one jar of prepared pesto with a cup of plain greek yogurt for a last-minute mashup (shells, mozz, artichokes, cherry tom, olives) and it was tasty. Garnished with toasted pine nuts.

                  1. re: humbert

                    Reminds me if Ina Garten's pea and pest pasta salad. Another great recipe!

                  2. re: JungMann

                    I guess kale will add some color and texture. this recipe is definitely a bit different than classic pasta salad.

                  3. I am not a fan of pasta salad, but I made this for a BBQ last weekend on the fly, and it was delicious. I'm craving right now, and I never craved pasta salad before. Measurements are approximate.

                    1 lb. shell pasta, cooked al dente
                    10 oz roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
                    1 c. kalamata olives, roughly chopped
                    4 scallions, chopped, white and green parts
                    Salt and pepper to taste.

                    Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.

                    1/4 c. fresh lemon juice + zest of the lemon, grated
                    3/4 c. good olive oil
                    A handful of fresh tarragon, chopped. (Maybe 3 tbs. chopped?)

                    Whisk all ingredients until they emulsify, then immediately pour over salad and mix everyhting together.

                    Cover and chill for a couple of hours (I did overnight) to allow flavors to meld.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: JonParker

                      The secret of this recipe is terragon? sounds good!

                      1. re: Monica

                        Yeah, I'm growing tarragon this year and I've been looking for ways to use it. It's probably my favorite herb, if not the most versatile.

                    2. I put together my own version of the italian pasta salad that I liked at the local gas station:

                      - tri-colored pasta (rotini, etc)
                      - 1 of each chopped: celery stalk, yellow pepper, red pepper, red onion
                      - 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
                      - 1 can black olives, drained
                      - 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
                      - 20 slices of store-bought pepperoni, sliced
                      - 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
                      - 1Tbs black pepper
                      - italian salad dressing (to taste)

                      1) Cook the pasta and drain
                      2) Combine all other ingredients with pasta, then cool
                      3) Add salad dressing before serving

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: GutGrease

                        No salt? Or do the olives and parmesan add enough?

                        Also, a TBS. of black pepper? That seems like an awful lot.

                        1. re: JonParker

                          I guess there is enough salt in italian salad dressing.
                          1tbs sounds like a lot...maybe she meant 1tsp.

                          1. re: JonParker

                            From a health, and for some, a taste perspective, the oilves and parmesan will add enough salt, as will any canned, bottled, or pickled veggie. But, salt to taste, AFTER the ingredients have had a chance to chill is always a good idea, as are slat and pepper shakers on the table.

                        2. Easy peasy....1 lb elbows, 1 can good tuna, 3 celery ribs diced, mayo to taste, salt and pepper. Gets rave reviews every time!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: lseavey

                            No onion? We would add chopped onion or at least onion powder. Some shredded carrot too.

                            1. re: lseavey

                              This, except substitute 1 can of boneless skinless sardines in olive oil, chopped / mashed really well for the tuna.

                              Lower in mercury, great flavor.

                              1. re: lseavey

                                I use elbows or small penne, can of small shrimp, crab or salmon, chopped celery, green pepper, onion and secret ingredient green olives chopped and celery seeds. All mixed with mayo . I add green olives to chili and stuffed clams, too. They just add a little something different and I don't need to add any salt

                                1. re: lseavey

                                  I put tuna, celery, HB egg, carrot, and raisins ^_^

                                2. If you're a garlic lover, I've always been a fan of this chicken pasta salad - my mother found the recipe in a magazine or something when I was a teenager and I've been making it ever since!

                                  1 lb cooked pasta (penne, shells, etc.)
                                  2 cups cooked chicken (shredded or grilled and cubed, whatever)
                                  2 red peppers, julienne (you can also use roasted peppers)
                                  1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
                                  1 cup crumbled feta cheese
                                  1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (other herbs ok too!)

                                  Toss all of these items together and dress with garlic mayo/aioli to taste. I have made my own homemade aioli for it, and it's delicious, but it's also good with plain old Hellman's. The important thing is the garlic. I like to use a press to release as much juice as possible, and for this quantity of ingredients I would probably use 6 or 7 cloves. You can also mash some roasted garlic into the mayo (along with the fresh) of a hint of sweetness.

                                  1. They're meh because they're either mayo heavy or yukky dressing/soggy pasta heavy.

                                    I firmly believe you need a bright dressing and crunch for a cold pasta salad. Because my H and I are cutting way back on the carbs, I made a salad with al dente rigatoni (borrowed 1/4 dry cup from my sister in law and just-cooked), grape tomatoes, black and kalamata olives, celery, crumbled feta, a small red onion, a cuke, and chopped romaine. I dressed with a homemade dressing (oil, vinegar, S&P, a little fresh chopped mint).

                                    In retrospect, this was a salad where the pasta was just a cast member, not the lead, but it was still very good.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: pinehurst

                                      That sounds similar in idea if not in particulars to what I did. I do think using lemon juice as the acid adds pop and brightness, and I really loved the tarragon that I used, but the addition of feta, cucumber and tomatoes sounds wonderful.

                                      1. re: JonParker

                                        You know, I just posted without reading the whole thread, and I'm thinking that the lemon would "play better" with the pasta than the white wine vinegar would. Never thought of adding tarragon...the only herb I've grown with complete success (because it grows like a weed!) is mint, but tarragon would be a lot more nuanced.

                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                          Regardless, we're in agreement about the whole mayo thing.

                                        2. re: JonParker

                                          Good call on the lemons, especially in places like SoCal where they're literally falling off the trees now.

                                      2. I prefer a pasta salad without mayo or other 'thickener'. Here's what I did recently for a potluck and it disappeared quickly.

                                        pasta - tricolor, 2 types if possible - not the store brand, the colors disappear.

                                        red onion
                                        green onion
                                        green beans
                                        wax beans
                                        green bell pepper
                                        mixed color bell peppers
                                        small black olives, drained
                                        bottled small green olives
                                        marinated artichoke hearts
                                        favorite vinaigrette salad dressing
                                        shredded cheese
                                        tomatoes, mixed color grape if possible

                                        The day before serving
                                        1) rinse and chop all meats and vegetables (except tomatoes) as needed, marinade in dressing and refrigerate
                                        2) cook pasta,and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. drizzle lightly with olive oil or dressing, mix to coat all and prevent sticking, refrigerate.

                                        An hour or so before serving, mix all marinated ingredients, pasta, shredded cheese and tomatoes in a large bowl.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                          I like the two-day process, and I'm going to take it a step further by omitting the dressing on day one and see how the veggies do just marinating by themselves.

                                        2. This post feels like déjà vu...either fusilli or radiattore cooked al dente, finely minced onion and bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, EVOO and balsamic vinegar, and Romano cheese.

                                          1. I find I vastly prefer pasta salads with a vinagrette dressing, rather than mayo based. I also find that the secret to a non mehhh salad is to really kick up the seasonings - the absorption of liquid by the pasta, plus the fact that it's chilled, tends to mute the flavours and make the salad bland.

                                            On good version is inspired by Greek salad, with a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic (smash cloves, soak in the liquid for a while, and remove before dressing), fresh basil or oregano, salt and pepper, and chunky pasta, tomatoes, finely diced onion, cucumbers, crumbled feta and sliced olives.

                                            I also like a dressing that is similar to the above, but has a fair amount dijon mustard mixed in to the vinagrette. For other ingredients, I try to concentrate on vivid flavours - always something salty, like olive or capers, something sharp, like onion or green onion, sharp cheeses like feta or parmesan rather than mild cheddar or mozza, fresh herbs, and vegetables like ripe tomatoes, roasted red or orange peppers, blanched snow peas, blanched green beans, blanched or pickled baby corn, cooked asparagus, etc.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                              Try cooking the pasta in pickling juice and see if that doesn't deepen the flavor all around.

                                            2. ok this is not a pure pasta salad..it makes a ton... and there is neve annnny left

                                              rainbow salad
                                              SALAD INGREDIENTS:
                                               1 package Linguine Noodles, Cooked, Rinsed, And Cooled
                                               1/2 head Sliced Napa Cabbage,
                                               1/2 head Sliced Purple Cabbage,
                                               4 cups Baby Spinach no stems
                                               1 whole Red Bell Pepper cut thin
                                               1 whole Yellow Bell Pepper cut thin
                                               1 whole Orange Bell Pepper cut thin
                                               2 cups Bean Sprouts
                                               Chopped Cilantro, 1 Bunch
                                               3 whole Scallions, Sliced
                                               2 whole Cucumbers Peeled And Sliced
                                               2 cups Whole Cashews, Lightly Toasted In Skillet
                                               _____
                                               FOR THE DRESSING:
                                               2 whole Lime, Juiced
                                               8 Tablespoons Olive Oil
                                               8 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
                                               1 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
                                               1/3 cup Brown Sugar
                                               3 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger Chopped
                                               2 cloves Garlic, Chopped
                                               2 whole Hot Peppers , Chopped
                                               1 table spoon chili oil
                                               1 table spoon shiaricha
                                               Chopped Cilantro
                                              Mix salad ingredients together. Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve on a platter.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: girloftheworld

                                                That sounds really good. I'll have to try that.

                                              2. Some great ideas here.
                                                The basic "thread" I see, is... think more about your flavor-profile and less about the pasta itself.

                                                Pick-in your head- what you want flavor-wise. That is your base.
                                                Undercook your pasta a tad, Add oil and toss to your base of veggies/cheeses etc. Refrigerate, taste, season if needed and enjoy.

                                                1. This one is not mehhh. TERIYAKI PASTA SALAD: Cook chicken breasts. While the meat is still warm, shred it and drown it in plenty of soy sauce and garlic powder and let it marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Cook whatever pasta you want to use (I like rotini because there's so much surface to pick up the flavor). Drain it and while it is hot mix it with the marinated chicken, chopped celery, drained crushed pineapple, and cashew nuts. Add a little hot red pepper if you like it.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                    I was going to say that teriyaki is more than just soy and garlic, but i see you get the sweetness later on with the crushed pineapple. I think if i were to do this I would omit the celery and add finely sliced green onion, but I'm not much of a celery fan. Maybe some minced or crushed ginger. Looks increasingly good!

                                                  2. Oh, btw - cold sesame noodles totally qualify as pasta salad and are not meh! There are a million recipes online - here's one from Saveur that has the basic proportions:

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: biondanonima

                                                      You know what? that's an excellent idea. I have been wanting to make cold sesame noodle and it seems like it's a perfect time to do it.

                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                        i made this over the weekend..I had some cold baked salmon so i shredded it and added it to the recipe along with orange pepper, carrot and cucumber. So so good!

                                                      2. Another orzo option from Epicurious:


                                                        This has been very popular at potlucks and barbecues.

                                                        1. Soba noodle salad
                                                          Soba noodles, green beans (quickly cooked to al dente) sesame oil, minced garlic, splash of soy sauce to taste, pinch of dried red pepper flakes, sliced scallions. Mix together and top with sesame seeds....and some chili oil if you like spicy.

                                                          Serve cold or at room temp.
                                                          More than the sum of its parts :)

                                                          1. I love the Barefoot Contessa Israeli Couscous and Tuna Salad, from her latest cookbook. Not only is it very tasty, it is very easy and quick to make. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/in...

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: goodeatsgal

                                                              I love couscous salad. I make this Bobby Flay's grilled vegetable with couscous salad every year and this is really delicious too and something I can make ahead for the bbq.


                                                            2. I make a salad based on one I used to get at Zabars. Haven't made in a while, but I remember tri color tortellini, a bit of cut up chicken, spinach and/or pesto, olives...can't remember exactly. If vaguely interested, I will pull the recipe out of my files and post verbatim.

                                                              1. From my mom's handwritten recipe card, and it really is good:

                                                                Chicken or Turkey Macaroni Salad

                                                                6 c. hot, cooked macaroni elbows, small

                                                                2 c cooked cubed turkey or chicken

                                                                1 1/2 c mayonnaise

                                                                1/3 c chutney

                                                                2 T lemon juice

                                                                1 tsp salt

                                                                1/2 c shelled salted peanuts (spanish if you like them)

                                                                4 oz drained canned pineapple chunks or well-drained canned crushed pineapple

                                                                1 c finely diced celery.

                                                                Mix last 8 ingredients, add hot macaroni and mix well together. Chill.

                                                                Optional, put unsweet shredded coconut on top.

                                                                *she never added the coconut, and she always used spanish peanuts*

                                                                It's a lovely pasta salad.

                                                                1. Cook 3/4 package whole grain or brown rice rotini al dente; drain. While still hot, add 1 big handful of snow peas or sugar pod peas, deveined and coarsely chopped; half a package of frozen stir fry vegetables with asparagus; 2 chopped scallions; 2/3 cup cooked edamame (shelled). Pour over salad 1/2 bottle good prepared Asian ginger/sesame dressing (an exception to bad bottled dressings), OR use 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar, 1 clove garlic, 1 T. soy sauce, 1 T. toasted sesame oil, 2 T. agave syrup, 1 T. grated ginger, 3 large chopped Thai or regular basil leaves, salt, pepper to taste. (Cilantro is optional, as is sprinkling with red chili flakes if heat is desired). Chill. Set out 15 minutes before serving. Not mehhh.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: skamama

                                                                    That sounds delicious...and healthy! Will try it! thanks.

                                                                  2. I based this salad on the one my FIL would buy from the Schwann's truck. Sadly, they stopped making it so I had to wing it.

                                                                    Orzo or even better, the mixes I have recently seen with garbanzos etc. added, cooked with a cinnamon stick

                                                                    oil to coat - mild is better

                                                                    dried cranberries

                                                                    chopped pecans

                                                                    more nutmeg (or allspice) than you would think

                                                                    Toss and refrigerate

                                                                    nom nom

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: dulce lover

                                                                      Giada's couscous salad with cranberries, granny smtih, and toasted almonds gets rave review whenever I make it. The fresh herbs make all the difference.

                                                                    2. Creamy Caesar/Italian Pasta Salad

                                                                      1 (1lb) box farfalle (bow tie) pasta or rotini. (I prefer mini rainbow pasta)... Cooked al dente and rinsed.

                                                                      Then mix together and add:

                                                                      1 cup good creamy Caesar dressing with 1 cup homemade Italian dressing (recipe follows this one)

                                                                      Add and toss:

                                                                      1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

                                                                      1 med. Red Bell Pepper, diced

                                                                      1 med Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper, diced.

                                                                      About 1/3 cup diced Sweet Onion, or if preferred, Red Onion or Scallions...include the green tops.

                                                                      2 Tbs. Capers, rinsed well.

                                                                      1/2 cup chopped Sun-Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil, but drained. If using dry tomatoes, rehydrate by soaking in hot water. Squeeze off excess water.

                                                                      Chop and brown in skillet, 1 Polish Kielbasa. Drain fat on paper towels and allow to cool before tossing with other salad ingredients.

                                                                      Chill well before serving.

                                                                      Homemade Italian Dressing: (This is the standard recipe which yeilds about 3/4 cup. You may wish to make more so that you have enough for the above recipe.)

                                                                      Place in small mixing bowl:

                                                                      1/4 cup Red or White Wine Vinegar

                                                                      3 Tbs Water

                                                                      1 tsp Kosher Salt

                                                                      2 tsp Sugar

                                                                      3/4 tsp Lemon Pepper

                                                                      1/8 tsp finely ground Black Pepper

                                                                      1 pinch Dried Parsley

                                                                      1 pinch Dried Oregano

                                                                      1/4 tsp Garlic Powder

                                                                      1/4 tsp Onion Powder

                                                                      2 tsp Powdered Fruit Pectin

                                                                      Mix above ingredients thoroughly, then add 1/2 cup EVOO
                                                                      and mix again. Pour into a carafe to store.

                                                                      1. One good cold pasta salad I like is a veggie mix with WishBone Italian dressing and a spice called Salad Supreme by McCormick. You can use the penne noodle or the curly one, whichever you prefer, then cut up tomatoes, cucumbers (without the skin) and green peppers. I would start with one tomato, 1/2 cucumber (cut into halves or quarters for more bite size pieces) and 1 small whole green pepper (cut into bite size pieces). You then add the Italian dressing and the Salad Supreme to your liking. The ratio of your veggies depends on you and how many servings you want to make for yourself. The dressing can sometimes sink to the bottom of the bowl so you may have to stir it each time before you eat it, but it's a quick, easy and filling summer salad. The Salad Supreme looks spicy, but it's not, it's very flavorful. Let me know how you like it!! Hope you enjoy!!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: ColoffulOne

                                                                          Agreed. That salad seasoning makes a huge difference in all my pasta salads.

                                                                        2. Here's an idea that will add depth of flavor not just to the salad, but to the pasta itself, and which can be incorporated into any of the excellent recipes others have posted: you know all those jars of pickle juice you've got in your reefer? Consolidate them all and their contents in as few as possible - only distinct pickling juices like chipotle or hot pepper ones need be segregated if your taste runs so - and use the leftover juice to cook the pasta. You won't need to add any salt, and the ratio should be at least 1/2 and 1/2 juice and water. Before you add your pasta, throw in some grated carrots, celery, or other vegetable that requires a brief blanching to soften it up, and then either add your pasta so it all comes together at once, or remove the veggies and then add the pasta, chilling the veggies to prevent them from cooking further depending on how crispy you like them. Try adding some pickled cocktail olives, onion, cornichons, or any othe other things that get pickled these days. Remember, you won't need to add any salt, and, if the salad's too salty the first time you make it, consider rinsing some of the pickled veggies before you add them to the dish. This is great on hot summer evenings when served chilled on a bed of lettuce and garnished with some tomotoes and hard boiled eggs. A white wine spritzer or sangria is an excellent accompaniment. Enjoy!

                                                                          1. This may be a stupid tip, but perhaps some do not know....when cooking pasta draw off a cup or so of the (salted!!!--hopefully-) cooking water before you drain the pot.

                                                                            That water should be the very first thing you add to your cooked pasta before dressing it--for a salad or whatever.

                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                              I not only salt the water, I salt the pasta itself -- or for that matter greens when making a leafy salad. Using salt and pepper on the salad rather than in the dressing makes a world of difference.

                                                                              1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                I don't know that your tip is stupid, but I am wondering why you would add the 1 cup of cooking water back in? Wouldn't that render the salad runny? I dress my salad and taste it after about 1/2 hour. If it seems dry or if the seasoning needs adjusting, I add a bit more dressing and that usually resolves it.

                                                                                1. re: Awwshucks

                                                                                  The starchy water reduces the need for as much dressing, which can save some calories with no sacrifice of flavor. It seems to me that a full cup might be a bit much, but it's an old trick.

                                                                                  1. re: JonParker

                                                                                    Exactly. I reserve a full cup, but don't necessarily ~use~ the whole thing. Sorry-forget we have a lot of new cooks on board.

                                                                                    It keeps the cold pasta from sticking/clumping.

                                                                                    1. re: JonParker

                                                                                      Thanks! I'll have to give it a try next time!

                                                                                  2. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                    I don't think it's a stupid tip. I thought that anybody who knows how to cook pasta even a pasta salad would cook the pasta first. Pasta is not even edible right out of the box! Lol!!!

                                                                                  3. My all-time favourite pasta salad from a local deli/catering company;

                                                                                    Cheryl's Tortellini and Feta Salad

                                                                                    1 lb cooked tortellini, still warm
                                                                                    3 tomatoes, diced
                                                                                    1 red onion, diced
                                                                                    6 garlic cloves, crushed
                                                                                    ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
                                                                                    1 cup crumbled feta cheese
                                                                                    1 ¼ cup mayonnaise
                                                                                    salt and pepper to taste

                                                                                    Combine all ingredients and let rest for 1 to 2 hours.
                                                                                    Makes 8-10 portions