How to Make Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a no-brainer for potlucks or other occasions when you're asked to bring a course or side dish. It's simple to make, easy to transport, and can be prepared ahead of time. And since pasta salad lends itself so easily to ingredient substitutions or additions, creating a "signature" salad is a breeze. Before you start randomly tossing ingredients together, start out with a reliable recipe for a basic pasta salad. This one is billed as "potluck pasta salad" and incorporates all of the usual elements--pasta, fresh vegetables, cheese, and a vinaigrette dressing. The recipe suggests wagon wheel, macaroni or rotini pasta, though any kind will do. This version also favors summer harvest vegetables, though you could substitute other favorites in place of the summer squash, sweet peppers and tomatoes. Since fresh seasonal picks are almost always best, you can tailor your recipe based on the seasons. And choose cheese, herbs and spices that best highlight your vegetable selection.
-Hey everybody, Chef Lovely here, and when you have to go to a potluck, there's different things that you can bring, but today, I'm gonna show you something that's easy, fast, and delicious. So, let's get straight to it. Here is our potluck pasta salad. Let's get to those ingredients. Three cups dried wagon wheel macaroni, rotini, or other desired pasta (8 ounces). Today, we will use rotini. Two cups yellow summer squash or zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced. About one medium summer squash is what we're gonna use today. One cup frozen peas, thawed; shelled fresh peas, cooked and cooled; or frozen whole kernel corn, thawed. Today, we'll use frozen peas. One medium red sweet pepper, cut into strips, about a half a cup. 8 ounces of smoked cheddar cheese or a cheddar cheese, cubed, 2 cups. One 6-ounce can pitted ripe olives, drained and coarsely chopped. One cup cherry tomatoes, halved. One-half cup chopped red onions, that's about 1 medium onion. Two tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or basil or two teaspoons dried oregano or basil, crushed. Today, we will use dried oregano. One cup bottled balsamic vinaigrette or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing. Today, we're gonna use balsamic. Okay, I know that sounds like a lot of ingredients, but don't get nervous, don't get scared. It's all in the mise en place, which means everything in its place. So, what you can do, you can cut your cheese, you can cut your tomatoes, have everything ready to go. And, of course, you wanna cook your pasta which is what I did here. So, here is my rotini pasta that is cooked in salted boiling water then we drained it and I put it right here in my bowl. If you let your pasta stay a little warm, it's gonna absorb all these flavors that we're putting in. So, let it slightly cool. Okay? So, we're gonna take all these ingredients, drop it right in the bowl, and we will have pasta salad in no time. So, let's get started. Let's put in our olives here. We're gonna go in with our peas, sweet bright-green color, which I absolutely love; red onion, a little bit sweeter than the white onion and I love the purple color. Add tomatoes, beautiful punch of red in the salad. Also, the sweet red bell pepper. Delicious. We're also gonna add in that squash. Gorgeous. And we need something a little bit salty, so we're gonna go in with our cheese as well. So, let's give this a quick stir. So, go from the bottom right on that, so we're gonna bring that pasta right on top of all of our other ingredients here. If you get a few pieces that are over the edge, it's okay. We're in the kitchen. We're supposed to get a little dirty, a little messy. Okay? So, don't worry about it. Fantastic. I just want to get it started. Now, we're gonna go in with that dried oregano. Delicious. And then, to make it all nice and creamy kind of bring it all together, we're gonna add that great balsamic which is a nice deep rich flavor that I absolutely love. Okay. So, a few more tosses here in our bowl and we're gonna be eating in no time. Something else that I absolutely love about this salad, it's the perfect-- perfect thing to bring. It sits and it's all done by itself once everything is mixed together in the bowl. You can have chicken with this. You can have fish with this. You can have beef. It's a great, great dish to bring to any potluck, any party that you're gonna have with all your friends and family. Okay, great. Now, that we have everything mixed and it looks beautiful and delicious, we're gonna give this a nice covering of some plastic wrap. We're gonna chill it in our refrigerator for about 2 to 24 hours. We want all those flavors to really get deep inside the pasta and bring all those wonderful-- wonderful flavors together. So, it's fresh, it's crisp from all of the vegetables, and it has that beautiful kind of twang from our balsamic vinaigrette. So, I want you to try this dish and I want you to enjoy this fantastic recipe and try this potluck pasta salad.

What You'll Need

  • 3   cups dried wagon wheel macaroni, rotini or other desired pasta (8 ounces)
  • 2   cups yellow summer squash or zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (1 medium)
  • 1   cup frozen peas, thawed; shelled fresh peas, cooked and cooled (page 000); or frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 1   medium red sweet pepper, cut into strips (about 1/2 cup)
  • 8   ounces smoked cheddar cheese or cheddar cheese, cubed (2 cups)
  • 1  6  ounce can pitted ripe olives, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1   cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2  cup chopped red onion (1 medium)
  • 2   tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or basil or 2 teaspoons dried oregano or basil, crushed
  • 1   cup bottled balsamic vinaigrette or red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Step By Step

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain again.
In a large bowl combine pasta, squash, peas, sweet pepper, cheese, olives, tomatoes, onion, and oregano. Add dressing to pasta mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Makes 16 side-dish servings.

See? Anyone who can boil pasta can learn how to make pasta salad, which makes this dish a great confidence-builder for novice home cooks.

nutrition information

Per Serving: cal. (kcal) 182, Fat, total (g) 11, chol. (mg) 15, sat. fat (g) 4, carb. (g) 16, Monounsaturated fat (g) 2, Polyunsaturated fat (g) 0, fiber (g) 2, sugar (g) 2, pro. (g) 6, vit. A (RE) 0, vit. A (IU) 728.85, vit. C (mg) 18.3, Thiamin (mg) 0.12, Riboflavin (mg) 0.12, Niacin (mg) 0.79, Pyridoxine (Vit. B6) (mg) 0.06, Folate (g) 32.26, Cobalamin (Vit. B12) (g) 0.12, sodium (mg) 368, Potassium (mg) 93, calcium (mg) 121.16, iron (mg) 1.08, Vegetables () 0.5, Starch () 1, High-Fat Meat () 0.5, Fat () 1, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
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