Happy Memorial Day weekend! Next to all the BBQ ribs, burgers, and hot dogs you're likely to be grilling, it helps to round things out with a solid, satisfying side dish—enter crowd-favorite pasta salad. Read on for our best pasta salad recipes, plus an easy formula for mixing one up yourself.
Let’s be honest—we never stopped eating pasta. It plays well with creamy, comforting flavors in colder months, then graciously welcomes warmer temperatures with bright, fresh zest. But while pasta is seasonless, the pasta salad screams summer.
From soba noodles dressed in citrus ginger to tender bow ties sprinkled with red pepper flakes and tomatoes, a cool, big bowl of pasta salad is endlessly versatile. You can plop in whatever farmer’s market bounty you find: cucumbers, carrots, corn, or radishes. Plus, they hold up (even improve!) over time as dressings and ingredients marinate—no wilting or getting soggy. So, now as we're entering long summer days, we’re piling our plates with these eight beauties.
1. No-Mayo Peperonata Pasta Salad
"Want to know how to change hearts and minds about pasta salad? Make this one for your next backyard BBQ or picnic with friends," writes Food52 contributor EmilyC. "Peperonata—the classic Southern Italian side dish of sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes melted in olive oil—is a swell companion to pasta. It’s packed full of vegetables and serves as the dressing (a win for pasta salad, a big win for you). Better yet, the peperonata can be made several days in advance and tossed with freshly-cooked pasta whenever you’re ready."
2. Antipasto Orzo Pasta Salad
"The jars on your refrigerator door have joined forces in a pasta salad that tastes like the best parts of an antipasto platter (or an Italian hero)," claims recipe author Sarah Jampel. "To bulk it up, top it with folded prosciutto, or mix in cubes of salami or Parmesan. If you have everything on hand, this salad will be ready as soon as the orzo is boiled (10 minutes!). If you're not quite so stocked, you can caramelize the onions in the oven for a hands-free, low-commitment alternative and buy pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted red peppers from the store. (We won't tell.)"
3. Cold Vegetable & Noodle Salad With Ponzu Dressing
This is a great way to get acquainted with tart and salty ponzu sauce: tossed with silky udon and a medley of crunchy, fresh vegetables and herbs.
4. Summer Pasta Alla Caprese
"I remember many a warm summer night when, motivated by a strong aversion to turning on the oven, my mother would whip up a quick pasta with a no-cook sauce," Co-Founder and President Merrill Stubbs writes. "One of my favorite iterations was a variation on a popular theme: pasta with raw tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and sometimes basil." If you love caprese salads but also want to be full an hour after dinner, just add all those tasty components to pasta."
5. Orzo Salad With Scallions, Hazelnuts & Golden Raisins
A make-ahead masterpiece if we’ve ever seen one! You can mix the dressing, plump the raisins, and toast the hazelnuts the night before.
6. Miso Peanut Pasta Salad
Macaroni salad gets a new personality. Instead of creamy cheese, coat noodles in peanut butter and miso, then add some spice with vinegar and chile-garlic sauce.
7. Bow Tie Pasta Salad With No-Cook Tomato Sauce
Celebrate tomato season with Michel Guérard's Genius Sauce Vierge, a gorgeous no-cook tomato sauce. The combination of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs shines in this simply-dressed pasta salad.
8. Cold Sesame Noodle Salad
Here's an almost no-cook, five-ingredient pasta salad that will actually help you cool down. "A note on noodle choice: any long, thin pasta will do," recipe author Kendra Vaculin advises. "Vermicelli or thin rice noodles (like those pictured here) are great gluten-free options, and hold up much better than brown rice noodles when cooked and then chilled. If it's what you have in your pantry or all you can find, plain ol' spaghetti works just as well."
9. Jaengban Guksu
Meanwhile, some people like to eat hot foods in the summer. If you’re looking for a spicy kick, gochujang takes this pasta salad to the next level.
10. Lemon-Dill Orzo Pasta Salad With Cucumbers, Olives & Feta
"The flavors in this pasta salad are mild and subtle—perfect for complementing grilled salmon or a roasted chicken with pan juices," writes Food52er viblanco. "At first, the grated shallot and Dijon in the vinaigrette may seem like they would overwhelm the dish, but both settle in without a hint of bite. The use of feta and olives also brings a bit of salty flavor with each taste."
11. Beet-Dressed Pasta With Golden Raisins & Poppy Seeds
Warm or cold, this velvety, earthy, totally unique pasta's full of interesting flavors and textures. Just be sure to add a pinch of salt if you try it on the cold side.
12. Pasta Salad With Roasted Peppers, Green Olives, Walnuts & Anchovies
With just five ingredients, it's a wonder that this humble pasta salad packs all the punch it does. But each of the five has a darn good reason for being there—and each brings a whole lot to the table.
13. Grilled Okra Pasta Salad
A trip to the grill helps crisp and char silky okra—then it's thrown into a super-savory mixture of mozzarella, basil, and cherry tomatoes with pasta, all dressed with a zingy garlic-infused vinaigrette.
14. Cook's Illustrated Italian Pasta Salad
The secret to this springy, satisfying, perfectly textured pasta salad? Overcooking the noodles—seriously! A little bit of science tell us just why (retrogradation, to you!), but TL;DR: Trust us. It works!
15. Our Best Pasta Salad
We saved the best for last—literally! This is our pasta salad to write home about: with buttery olives; bouncy pasta; chewy cured meats and crunchy pickled bits; herbs and tender greens galore. Eat it at room temperature, or hot, or cold—any which way, you won't be sorry.
Summer’s a time for free spirits. Riff on your favorite pasta shapes and flavors to create your own masterpiece. Here's a simple formula to follow: 3/4 to 1 cup of dressing for each pound of dried pasta. Add in all of your favorites (vegetables, nuts, herbs, and cheeses) and mix gently.
For the full guide, see here:
What's your favorite pasta salad recipe? Please share in the comments below!
This piece was originally published in May 2018, but we're bringing it back this summer with brand-new recipes to celebrate Memorial Day weekend in style.
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