Skip to content

Best Pasta Salad Recipes

This list has all of the BEST pasta salad recipes to make this summer. Quick and easy ideas that are perfect for busy weeknight dinners, BBQs and family gatherings!  

A collage of photos with pasta salad recipes.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read disclosure policy.

Salads with Pasta

A cold pasta salad is my absolute favorite recipe to bring to a BBQ in the summer. Not only are they delicious, but also quick, easy and can usually be prepared ahead of time. They’re always a big hit with the crowd and are usually the first side dish to go.

Another great thing about making a pasta salad is that it’s the perfect way to use up your fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil and dill are a few of my favorites. They add so much flavor and really take the salad up a notch.

This list has some incredible pasta salad recipes, including some that are creamy, healthy, vegetarian and just plain delicious. Most are made in 30 minutes or less and are easy to customize based on what you have on hand. Dive in and ENJOY!

Best Pasta to Use

There are different types of pasta to use depending on which recipe you make. For example, you’ll want to use elbow noodles when making a creamy macaroni salad. However in most recipes, the pasta can be easily interchanged and will still taste equally as delicious.

Most recipes call for one of the varieties below. Their unique shape and ridges hold the sauce nicely, enhancing the flavor of the dish. Whichever kind you use, just make sure to cook the pasta until al dente. It should be tender, but sturdy enough to hold it’s shape, this tip is equally as true when making pasta dinner ideas.

  • Bow tie
  • Rotini
  • Macaroni
  • Orzo
  • Penne

Dressing

Some may argue that the dressing is the best part of a pasta salad. It helps make the dish more cohesive and is a great way to add flavor and texture. Whether it’s a creamy dressing like ranch or a lighter vinaigrette, I do recommend making the dressing from scratch if you have the time. It’s an easy way to take the dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Trust me!

Preparation Tips

  • Salt your pasta water. This is an easy way to add more flavor to your dish. You don’t need a lot, just a small sprinkle.
  • Use a large bowl. When you toss the ingredients together, the bowl should be large enough that they aren’t overflowing out of the bowl. This may sound simple, but it makes a big difference and is way less messy.
  • Extra dressing. When preparing the dressing, I usually make a little extra (especially if I’m making the recipe in advance). The pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it chills in the fridge, so it’s always a good idea to make extra so that it stays moist and delicious.
  • Protein. Although some pasta salad recipes contain meat, there are many that don’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t add it in! Feel free to mix in some diced grilled chicken to bulk it up a little. Or add some chickpeas for a vegetarian source of protein.
  • Let chill. In order for the flavors to marinate together, let the salad chill in the fridge for at least an hour (unless the recipe says otherwise). The dish will have a stronger flavor this way.

FAQs

What are 5 mistakes to avoid when making a pasta salad?

A few common mistakes to avoid include overcooking or undercooking your pasta, not using the right shape of pasta, not salting your pasta water while cooking, not tossing the pasta with at least 2/3 of the dressing while warm and making your pasta salad too far in advance.

Do you rinse pasta for pasta salad?

Yes! It not only stops the cooking process but rinses away the starch on the pasta which can lead to clumping.

Should I run my pasta under cold water for pasta salad?

Yes! For the same reasons your rinse your pasta, using cold water will help stop the cooking process and rinse off the starch.

Why does my pasta salad taste bland?

Cold pasta salad will have more muted taste than a warm pasta dish. Seasoning it extra and not skipping salted water while cooking your pasta can help add more flavor for the best pasta salad.

Pasta Salad Ideas

You can’t go wrong with any of the recipes below. I’ve made each of these dishes a handful of times and the end result is always incredibly delicious!

Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
Filled with tender pasta, crisp veggies and a zesty Italian dressing, this delicious and easy pasta salad is a potluck must-have!
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Read more
caprese pasta salad in bowl
Caprese Pasta Salad
This is the best Caprese pasta salad with classic Caprese salad flavors of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil tossed with pasta and a homemade dressing.
Total Time: 30 minutes
Read more
Macaroni salad in a bowl.
Easy Macaroni Salad Recipe
This easy macaroni salad recipe is a classic potluck side dish made with noodles, red pepper, celery, onions and a creamy mayo dressing. It will be a staple at BBQs all summer!
Total Time: 20 minutes
Read more
greek pasta salad in a glass bowl
Greek Pasta Salad Recipe
This Greek pasta salad is easy to make ahead with tender pasta, veggies, creamy feta and then tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. The best summer side dish!
Total Time: 30 minutes
Read more
close up of chicken caesar pasta salad
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad Recipe
This chicken caesar pasta salad is super easy to make and comes together in just 10 minutes! Perfect for a quick dinner or to bring to a potluck. 
Total Time: 10 minutes
Read more
Orzo salad recipe in a bowl.
Orzo Salad
Topped with a delicious homemade vinaigrette, this bright and colorful orzo salad is so fresh plus loaded with fantastic flavor. Such a healthy and filling side dish recipe or light lunch for summer!
Total Time: 30 minutes
Read more
pesto chicken salad
Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
This chicken pesto pasta salad is light, healthy and packed with fresh basil pesto flavor! Make ahead for BBQs, summer potlucks, brunches, easy lunches & more! 
Total Time: 20 minutes
Read more
southwest pasta salad in bowl
Southwest Pasta Salad
Tender penne pasta, black beans, corn, peppers, cilantro, onions and tomatoes tossed in a delicious and creamy avocado lime dressing. This southwest pasta salad is easy, healthy and full of Mexican flavors!
Total Time: 30 minutes
Read more
buffalo chicken pasta salad on a white plate with fork
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
This Buffalo chicken pasta salad is perfect for summer! Made with the spicy flavor of Buffalo sauce mixed with chicken, noodles and veggies, this easy pasta salad is a favorite at any cookout!
Total Time: 10 minutes
Read more
BLT pasta salad in a bowl
BLT Pasta Salad
This BLT pasta salad is a fun twist on the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Easy to make and great for summer parties and picnics!
Total Time: 30 minutes
Read more
italian tortellini pasta salad in a bowl with a wooden spoon
Tortellini Pasta Salad
Easy tortellini pasta salad made with zesty Italian dressing in just 15 minutes! So full of flavor and a side dish the whole family will love. Perfect for any summer BBQ!
Total Time: 15 minutes
Read more
chicken quinoa salad with mango, lime and cilantro
Mango Chicken Quinoa Salad
Chicken quinoa salad with juicy mango and chunks of rich avocado is the perfect light meal or side dish to make this summer.
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Read more
quinoa salad
Southwest Quinoa Salad
This southwest quinoa salad makes a delicious and flavorful side dish or main meal. You can feel great about eating this healthy, protein-packed salad all summer long!
Total Time: 30 minutes
Read more

HUNGRY FOR MORE? Subscribe to my newsletter and follow on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for all the newest recipes!

A collage of photos with pasta salad recipes.

Best Pasta Salad Recipes

5 from 1 vote
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Filled with tender pasta, crisp veggies and tossed with a tangy vinaigrette, this delicious and easy pasta salad recipe is flavorful and a favorite at cookouts all season long!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 16

Ingredients 

  • 1 (1-pound) box tri-color rotini pasta
  • 1 red bell pepper , chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper , chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes , sliced in half
  • ½ sliced red onion
  • 1 cup sliced olives
  • 8 ounces small mozzarella balls
  • 1 cup Italian dressing or vinaigrette , more if desired
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley or basil)
  • Shredded parmesan cheese , optional

Optional add-ins: Chickpeas, Snap peas, Chopped salami or pepperoni

    Instructions

    • Cook pasta according to package. Drain and rinse under cold water.
    • In a large bowl, stir together cooked pasta, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and mozzarella balls.
    • Pour Italian dressing over the top and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired, before serving.

    Notes

    Dressing: Here is my favorite homemade Italian dressing recipe.
    Substitutions: You may substitute mozzarella for feta cheese, or omit the cheese all together to make vegan. Other types of noodles will also work, such as penne or fusilli. 
    Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 291mg | Potassium: 105mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 432IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: Italian

    Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

    Let’s connect

    Join our community of over 5 million!

    Featured on

    • Taste of Home
    • Martha Stewart
    • Country Living
    • BuzzFeed
    • Yahoo
    • Food Network
    • Today