Last Updated on 22nd April 2022 by Pauline
I want to say upfront that there’s a distinction between macaroni salad and pasta salad. Macaroni salad doesn’t really have many vegetables. It may have some peas or carrots, but that’s usually about it for veggies. Pasta salad tends to look more like a regular salad, with some pasta thrown in.
This is a great dish to serve during hot summer days, especially because it’s usually served chilled. It makes your salad more filling and your pasta more interesting, so it’s a great marriage of the two dishes.
What Goes in Pasta Salad?
Usually, pasta salad is made with fusilli pasta, which is a spiral pasta. It can also be made with bow ties, penne or other types of pasta.
It’s best to avoid macaroni in your pasta salad, because that’s traditionally used in a creamier type of dish. You’re welcome to use it, but you may confuse people if you serve it to them this way.
What to put in pasta salad will depend on your preferences, but the spiral pasta (or whichever one you use) is usually served up with a mixture of vegetables like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and olives.
All of that’s mixed with a seasoning or dressing, and then topped with cheese- usually parmesan.
What Goes with Pasta Salad?
Now that you have some idea what is in pasta salad, let’s talk about what pairs well with it. It is often served with meat dishes, particularly a light meat like chicken or fish.
What to eat with pasta salad beside meat? You can serve it with garlic bread or another dinner bread. It also pairs really well with fried okra, corn on the cob, soup of any kind, Italian pinwheels, cheese sticks, and a number of other foods.
Just about any kind of Italian dish is a good partner with this salad, as you’ll often find pasta salad served up in Italian restaurants or pizzerias as a side dish.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
Let me show you how to put together a pasta salad in the Italian style. There’s nothing very complicated about this, but there can be a lot of different ingredients.
Try not to let that intimidate you. Most of them are easy to prepare, and I think you’ll find this to be a fairly simple pasta salad recipe to make.
- 1 pound of dried pasta of your choice (fusilli is preferred)
- 1 cup of zucchini, thinly sliced
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup of bell pepper, sliced
- 1/3 cup of scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup of mixed olives, halved
- 1/4 cup of banana peppers, sliced (leave these out for a non-spicy dish)
- 1 cup of mozzarella balls, chopped
- 1 cup of parmesan cheese, grated
- Start by boiling your pasta. You’ll want to fill a large pot with water and heat on the stove until it boils. Add salt to the water and pasta once the water starts to boil.
Cook for about 6 to 10 minutes on high heat until the pasta becomes tender. Different pasta may have different cooking times, so check your packaging for instructions.
- Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold running water.
- Mix your pasta with dressing (Italian, French or a homemade dressing of your choosing).
- Stir in all your vegetables, as well as cheese and herbs. Additional herbs can be added if desired. You can add salt and pepper for taste.
- The salad should be refrigerated for at least half an hour before serving.
How Long Does Pasta Salad Last in the Fridge?
Pasta salad can store in the fridge for up to five days and still be good to eat. Any longer than that, and some of the ingredients may start to turn on you. I
t’s not recommended that you freeze this dish, so be aware of how much you’re making at once and how long it will take to eat it.
How To Make Cold Pasta Salad
It’s best to chill the salad for at least 30 minutes after you make it. You can put it in the fridge and cover it with plastic wrap or put it in an airtight container.
The cold pasta tastes really good with chilled veggies that take on a crunchy texture when properly refrigerated.
How to Make Hot Pasta Salad
If you want to take this recipe in a different direction and change up the dish to go from cold to hot, there are some substitutions you’ll need to make. Or, you can just add some extra ingredients to make it a more suitable hot pasta salad.
This isn’t a dish that is as commonly served as the classic cold Italian pasta salad, but it’s a great way to switch things up and try something that most people have never experienced before.
You can use a lot of the same ingredients and even follow the same recipe as above, but then add in shredded chicken and toasted or fried potato pieces. You can add some cooked tomatoes for extra color and flavor as well.
You’ll want to serve the dish hot, warming everything up in a skillet or pot on the stove, you can use the same pot you cooked your pasta in, and just skip the step that calls for you to refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
A great way to tie everything together and make a cohesive dish is to use stewed tomatoes that you warm in a saucepan on the stove.
Instead of slicing cherry tomatoes, you can warm up stewed tomatoes from the can or make them from scratch. Once they’re warm, they can be added to the rest of your food in a large pot or saucepan.
Once you’ve combined everything into one dish, it’s good to warm it up and stir it together to help all the flavors come together and work together.
Now, you have a few options for pasta salad, and I would love to hear how they turned out for you in the comment section below.