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 with Creamy Yogurt Dressing in a white ceramic serving bowl.

Why You Must Make

Picnic season has arrived! Of course, in 2020 there were not many gatherings 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.

  • It’s 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!).
  • The creamy salad dressing is terrific! The combination of yogurt and mayo is so much tastier than mayonnaise alone.
  • It’s perfect for all your summer entertaining!
Small bowl of macaroni salad.

Expert Tips

  • Use your favorite pasta shapes like shells, rotini, tubetti.
  • Add or eliminate any veggies as you see fit.
  • Add cubes of your favorite cheeses like Cheddar, Colby jack, Monterey jack, Gouda, etc.
  • Don’t use plain mayonnaise as the base of your salad dressing.
  • I like to cut the mayo with plain yogurt or sour cream to make it taste a little more homemade.
  • Adding some sweet pickle relish, Dijon mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper gives a boost of flavor.
  • Give the pasta salad flavors time to meld by mixing early in the day.
Overhead view of Vegetarian Pasta Salad.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the Best Pasta Salad Ingredients?

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.

How to Make Pasta Salad

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 drained 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!

How Do You Make a Macaroni Salad Dressing?

The truth is that making the dressing is super easy! If you can measure and whisk, you can do it. Both a creamy mayonnaise-based pasta salad dressing and a vinaigrette are so much better if you make them from scratch.
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 that does not separate.

How Long Can You Keep the Leftovers?

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.

Easy pasta salad recipe in a small white bow with a red handled fork.

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Small bowl of macaroni salad

Easy Pasta Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Yield 8

An easily adaptable Pasta Salad with a creamy yogurt mayonnaise dressing

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Make the dressing by whisking together the mayonnaise, yogurt, relish, mustard, and seasonings.
  3. 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.
  4. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Notes

Adapted from Taste of Home.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 327Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 384mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 11g

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