This Easy Pasta Salad is the classic summer picnic side dish, filled with fresh vegetables, cheese chunks and tossed in a creamy yogurt dressing!
Any Macaroni Salad Recipe can be tweaked with your favorite ingredients, personalizing it for your family or guests. This vegetarian pasta salad can be transformed for meat lovers with chunks of salami, pepperoni slices or chicken.
Easy Pasta Salad
Picnic season has arrived! Of course, in 2020 there’s not much gathering of friends. But we did sit out on our back porch, sharing take out pizza with a couple of our dear friends. An old-fashioned macaroni salad recipe sounded both comforting and seasonal, so I decided to add it to our simple dinner menu.
Easily adaptable, I added some extras like frozen and defrosted green peas, bell peppers and cucumbers. Diced cheese added a pop of orange to the mix along with some protein. And tubetti pasta instead of macaroni was a fun twist (and what I had in the pantry!).
Pasta Salad Dressing
When making chicken salad or tuna salad, I have always cut the mayonnaise in the dressing with yogurt to make it taste more homemade and less like it was right from the jar! A little sweet pickle relish, Dijon mustard, a touch of sugar plus salt and pepper round out the flavors.
All the ingredients are whisked together, then tossed with the pasta and add ins. How easy is that?? Very!
Not Sure How to Make Pasta Salad? Here is some help:
The options are endless, but since it’s a “pasta salad,” you must use pasta and a salad dressing. And both of those have many options, too. Any bite-sized pasta noodles and either a creamy salad dressing or a vinaigrette will work well.
The add-ins are up to you. Just think of the favorite macaroni salads you’ve eaten over the years. Mix in diced vegetables, cheese, olives, cold cuts like salami and pepperoni, chopped chicken or beef, marinated artichoke hearts, sundried or fresh tomatoes, and on and on.
PRO-Tip: First cook the pasta, drain and cool it in a bowl of ice water. This prevents it from sticking together. Then make the salad dressing.
Chop all the vegetables and other ingredients, keeping the sizes consistent with the size of your pasta.
Mix together the pasta, the other ingredients, and the salad dressing, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. PRO-Tip: Chilling for at least an hour will allow the flavors to meld and improve the taste!
If you haven’t kept the salad out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it will keep well in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Pasta salad does not freeze well.
The truth is that making the dressing is super easy! If you can measure and whisk, you can do it. Both a creamy mayonnaise base pasta salad dressing and a vinaigrette are so much better if you make them at home.
To make a creamy pasta salad dressing, put all ingredients in a bowl, and whisk together until smooth. To make a vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients except the oil. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking continuously until the mixture emulsifies, or comes together into a smooth consistency which does not separate.
More Summer Salads You’ll Love
- Cucina Bean Salad from Cooking on the Ranch
- KFC Coleslaw Recipe
- Strawberry Spinach Salad
- Summer Farro Salad
- Cherry Orange Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
- Summer Vegetable Salad
- Superfoods Salad
- Marinated Vegetable Salad
- More of the Best Salad Recipes
- 2 cups uncooked pasta, like tubetti, elbow macaroni
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann's recommended)
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar, optional (optional, I think it's fine without, but add if you like a sweeter dressing)
- 1/2 cup small-diced celery
- 3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
- 3/4 cup diced mini cucumbers (or English cucumber)
- 3/4 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- 1/4 cup minced onion, soak in ice water for 15 minutes, then drain
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar, cut into small cubes
Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to the package instructions. Drain and place in a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain.
Make the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, yogurt, relish, mustard, and seasonings.
Place the pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add most of the salad dressing and toss to coat the pasta. Add the cheese and vegetables and toss again.
Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Adapted from Taste of Home.