Is there a more quintessential warm-weather side dish than pasta salad? There are a lot of pasta salads out there, but here’s why you should memorize this one: The dressing is easily made from things already in your pantry (and totally tastes like your favorite bottled Italian dressing). Plus, there’s no mayo to worry about sitting out at a picnic or potluck. Pasta salad is truly as easy as boiling water and tossing in a few key ingredients. Just stick to this simple formula, cool the pasta correctly, and lean on this flavorful dressing every time you need to whip one up. Here’s the one pasta salad recipe you need right now.
How To Make Pasta Salad – A Lighter Comfort Food!
This cool salad keeps well so you can make a big batch to eat for no-cook lunches throughout the week. As soon as the summer heat arrives, the last thing you want to do is spend hours in a hot kitchen. Of course, you still want to serve your loved ones homemade dishes, but we think they should be things like quick and easy dinner recipes. That’s where summer pasta salad comes into play. Because who doesn’t love it? Adding a cold pasta salads is a refreshing addition to your summer dinners.
A cold pasta salad is not only satisfying and delicious, it is a great way to get vegetables into a dish the kids will eat. They’re also the ideal barbecue side dish for summer, because they’re meant to be served chilled. If you whip up a big batch of pasta ahead of time, you can assemble a pasta salad in minutes, so you can spend less time at the end of the day inside cooking dinner and more time enjoying fun activities with your kids.
This recipe is based on a formula that you can easily adapt to your favorite mix-ins. Don’t like onions? Add sun-dried tomatoes. Use mozzarella instead of parmesan. My favorite thing, though? From start-to-finish, this whole recipe only takes 20 minutes to pull together. It’s perfect for last-minute get togethers or for a quick lunch to eat throughout the week. And with so many options to choose from, you’ll be able to put together a new pasta salad recipe for every occasion—whether it’s a holiday or a weeknight dinner.
Key Steps to Pasta Salad
Add-ins Should Be Roughly the Same Size – The goal is to make this salad as easy to eat as it is to make.
Cool the Pasta After Cooking It – Pasta will soak up all the dressing and become dry and gummy if you toss the dressing and add-ins while warm. The simple solution? After draining, dunk the strainer of pasta in an ice bath (equal parts ice and water in a large bowl) and get it cold fast!
Mix and Chill Before Serving – Pasta salad get better as it rests and marinates. All you have to do is mix and chill the salad for at least 30 minutes. It’s even better the next day.
How To Make Pasta Salad
You Will Need
- 1 lb. box of whole grain or whole wheat penne pasta
- Fresh Herbs (all finely chopped)
- 2 TBS Thyme
- 2 TBS Oregano
- 2 TBS Parsley
- 2 TBS finely chopped green onion
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 finely shredded parmesan
- 5 cooked chicken breast tenders, cut into 1/4″ pieces
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste (approx. a TSP of each)
Other Supplies Needed:
- Baking dish for chicken (lightly coated with olive oil to prevent sticking and drying out)
- Pot for cooking pasta
- Large bowl for mixing salad together
*Add more or less of your favorite add-ins! I love sliced cherry tomatoes and extra red onion in mine!
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Prepare baking dish with a light coat of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to chicken breasts to taste
- Bake chicken breast tenders for 30-40 minutes
- Remove from oven and let cool
- Once cooled, cut into 1/4″ pieces
- While the chicken is baking, boil the whole wheat penne pasta according to the directions on the box
- After draining, dunk the strainer of pasta in an ice bath (equal parts ice and water in a large bowl)
- Placed the cooled and drained pasta in a large mixing bowl
- Add in chopped herbs, onions, carrots, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and chicken to the pasta
- Gently mix and blend all of the ingredients until fully combined
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving
* As pasta salad chills, the herbs, olive oil, onions, and other ingredients marinate making the salad more flavorful. It tastes even better the next day!
* Pasta salad keeps well in the fridge for about five days, so it can easily be made in advance. PERFECT for an at-home lunch!