Making Pasta Salad

Making Pasta Salad

Pasta salad! YUMMY 🤤 It’s a wonderful way to eat your veggies and healthy carbs.

Pasta salads are incredibly flavorful with the mix of different ingredients, including herbs, garlic, vinegar, veggies, and cheese/meats as you like. Most veggies can be used raw in pasta salad which means you can consume a lot of raw food in a tasty way—raw veggies, garlic and herbs are some of the healthiest things you can eat!

My favorite part of pasta salad is the practically infinite possibilities of different ingredient combos you can put together. They’re all delicious! Choose your pasta type (I love using gluten-free rice pastas), then add the mix-ins and dressing of your choice. Use the ingredients you have on hand or what’s in season and amazing at the time.

Another plus about pasta salad is the flavors develop over time so it’s actually better to make it ahead of time! Keep it in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, it tastes the best the day after you make it. And I love how you can make a huge bowl of pasta salad relatively easy and quickly, and it makes SO MUCH healthy. How well this lasts makes it an excellent dish to prepare for a summer picnic or potluck, or of course just for yourself at home!

Gluten-free pasta salad with arugula, celery, cherry tomatoes, dill, red onion, garlic, white beans and Gouda.

Another version with gluten-free bowtie pasta, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, ahi tuna, sliced fennel, strawberries, bell pepper, basil, shallots, garlic and balsamic vinegar.

Guerzoni makes my favorite vinegars! I think the quality of vinegar you use makes a huge difference in salads.

Step 1: Cook the pasta

The base of a good pasta salad is the pasta! Use a hearty pasta shape like fusili, rotini, penne or farfalle (bow tie). These have a great texture with nooks and crannies that trap bits of dressing and cheese in every bite. Make great pasta keeping in mind the following tips:

  1. Salt your water. It seasons the pasta from the inside out! A rule of thumb is to use 2 tablespoons sea salt per pound of dry pasta. It sounds like a lot but it really enhances the flavor of your pasta!
  2. Keep it al dente. Test the doneness of the pasta before the cooking time is up! It often takes less time than the pasta box calls for. You definitely don’t want to cook pasta too long because that equals mushy and mushy pasta is no good.
  3. Don't rinse your pasta. Drain pasta but don’t rinse off the light coating of starch that remains on the pasta! That starch acts kinda like glue that will help the dressing adhere to it.

Step 2: Choose pasta salad mix-ins

Fatty/Creamy Mix-Ins It’s a nice idea to include one or two fatty item to make all that pasta and veggies feel more flavorful and indulgent!

  • mozzarella balls, halved or quartered
  • hard Gouda, shaved
  • Parmesan, shredded
  • sharp cheddar, shredded
  • Ricotta Salata cheese, crumbled
  • feta, crumbled
  • goat cheese, crumbled
  • bleu cheese, crumbled
  • avocado, chunks
  • bacon, crumbled
  • prosciutto
  • salami or summer sausage, chopped or cubed

Fresh/Crunchy Mix-Ins Bring on the veggies! Add as many veggies as you like.

  • arugula or baby spinach
  • kale, chopped
  • radicchio, chopped
  • bell peppers, chopped or sliced
  • celery, chopped
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • carrots, grated
  • cucumber, chopped
  • zucchini, sliced in rounds
  • radish, sliced in rounds
  • cauliflower or broccoli, blanched and chopped
  • green beans, blanched
  • asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces and blanched
  • Broccolini, blanched
  • fennel, sliced
  • raw red onion, sliced
  • green onion (or scallions), thinly sliced
  • winter squash, roasted and chopped
  • beets, roasted and chopped
  • artichoke hearts, chopped
  • red grapes, halved
  • strawberries, sliced

Hearty Mix-Ins To make your pasta salad even more heavy and satisfying, try one or a couple of these elements!

  • chickpeas
  • white beans
  • hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped—such as smoked almonds, pistachios, pine nuts
  • rotisserie or roasted chicken, shredded
  • shrimp, broiled or grilled
  • canned tuna

Salty Mix-Ins To balance the pasta salad flavors, add a salty ingredient!

  • capers
  • olives, halved—such as Kalamata
  • pickled onions (or really anything pickled)
  • pepperoncini or banana peppers, sliced
  • anchovies, chopped

Brightly Flavored Mix-Ins If you’re like me, you LOVE herbs! Pretty much the most flavorful food on earth is fresh herbs. Chopped herbs just make the salad feel so fresh and vibrant. Use one herb, or a combo of a few! You can also add citrus zest or juice for an acidic flavor zing.

  • basil
  • dill
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • chives
  • zest or juice from a lemon, lime or orange

Step 3: Make the dressing

  1. Oil: Use a delicious olive oil for a rich flavor, or grapeseed oil for a neutral oil.
  2. Vinegar: There are many delicious vinegars on the market! Try balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or raw apple cider vinegar.
  3. Flavorings: Give your dressing personality with minced clove of garlic or shallot, dried or fresh herbs, a scoop of Dijon mustard, or a tablespoon or two of poppy seeds! You can also add spices like crushed red pepper flakes.
  4. Sweeteners: Sometimes a dressing can really benefit from a teaspoon or two of raw honey, maple syrup or plain sugar! It’s not always necessary, but if a dressing turns out a bit too acidic try adding this to round out the flavor profile.
  5. Creaminess: For a creamy, thick dressing, try a bit of mayo! For a non-dairy creamy feel, you can also puree your dressing with ripe avocado instead.
  6. Salt and pepper: Crucial to most dishes, is great seasoning of a high-quality sea salt and pepper to taste.


In a large bowl, toss together your choice of pasta, veggies, cheese, and other mix-ins.

Make the dressing in a separate small bowl or jar. Mix together your choice of oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add dressing to pasta, toss and serve.


What you’ll need:

Love, Janelle

Janelle Moon supports our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations, some of which may earn us a commission including those from our Amazon Associates program.

Read more

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt

Amazing Algae

Amazing Algae

Watermelon Mint Salad

Watermelon Mint Salad


Be the first to comment.
All comments are moderated before being published.