Creamy Pasta Salad

Creamy Pasta Salad is just right for hot days, lazy days, or for your next potluck.

Creamy Pasta Salad

Sometimes I get it right. Adulting like a boss, I lay out my outfit the night before a big work thing the next day. Or, in the dog days of summer, I make ahead a dish like Creamy Pasta Salad. In both cases, my today-self is so pleased with my yesterday-self! It’s amazing, and I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.

When it’s too hot to heat up your kitchen by using the oven to cook, or you just want a light meal, pasta salad is a great option. It can be stand alone meal, you can top it with grilled chicken or your protein of choice, or it is a great side to any number of dishes. It can be customized to your family’s likes or dislikes, and leftovers taste great (sometimes even better) after sitting in the fridge a day or two!

While there are about a zillion pasta recipes out there, they are definitely not all created equal. Our Creamy Pasta Salad recipe hits all the marks. Small, fork-friendly pasta shape? Check. Just the right amount of fresh veggies (you don’t have to take a day off work to chop!)? Check. A creamy, well-seasoned dressing? And, check. The best part of it is that you can toss in as much or as little dressing as you like – so no heavy, oily pasta salad here like you might get at a deli or restaurant. Totally customizable!

Why “al dente”?

You see it all the time: cook pasta until desired consistency, or “al dente.” The latter is an Italian term and literally means “to the tooth.” So what is it and why is it important, particularly in an easy dish like pasta salad? Al dente means the pasta is not crunchy but not mushy either – when you bite into it, there should be a bit of resistance. In pasta salad this al dente texture is super important because you will be adding the oil-based dressing and if your pasta is over-cooked, it will be a gloppy mess. Cooking the pasta just right means it will be the perfect vehicle to soak up the dressing but also provide a contrast to the crispy veggies.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta or other small pasta shape
  • 1 cup tiny broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or plain vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
Creamy Pasta Salad

How to Make Creamy Pasta Salad

Step 1: Cook the pasta as per the package instructions, adding salt to the boiling water. A minute before the pasta is done, add the broccoli to blanch. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Creamy Pasta Salad

Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar until smooth.

Creamy Pasta Salad

Step 3: Add the cooled pasta and broccoli to the dressing and mix well. Fold in the cucumber, red bell pepper, black olives, and green onions until everything is evenly coated.

Creamy Pasta Salad

Step 4: Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad to let the flavors meld. Give it a good stir before serving to redistribute the dressing.

Creamy Pasta Salad

FAQs & Tips

How to Make Ahead and Store?

If you need a make ahead dish, pasta salad is a great choice. Simply prep all the way through and refrigerate for up to 36 hours. Freezing is not recommended. For leftovers, simply place in an airtight container and they will be tasty for several days to come – most likely up to 4 days or so.

Why is the broccoli mushy?

In Step 1, you blanch the broccoli during the final minute of cooking the pasta. The really important part of this step is the cold rinse – do not skip it! If you skip it or don’t rinse in actual, cold water, your broccoli will be mushy. If you choose to not blanch the broccoli, it will be super crunchy and you should make sure you chop them in really small pieces.

Why is my pasta salad dry after the chill time?

As the pasta salad chills, whether it is for 45 minutes or up to 24 hours, the pasta absorbs the dressing. That’s what makes the whole thing so delicious! But you may need to toss in additional dressing before serving, if it has absorbed a lot or seems dry after this step. Toss in additional dressing gradually – start with a tablespoon or so and work up from there, as a little goes a long way.

Creamy Pasta Salad

Serving Suggestions

Creamy Pasta Salad is a perfect side dish for any potluck or summer barbeque. If you want it to be a main dish, simply top it with some grilled chicken, steak, or salmon. As far as what to serve it with, it goes well with our Sweet Tea Brined Chicken, or for a meatless meal, try it alongside our Spiced Tomatoes and Chickpeas on Homemade Flatbread. You won’t regret it!

Creamy Pasta Salad
Creamy Pasta Salad

Creamy Summer Pasta Salad

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 297 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta or other small pasta shape
  • 1 cup tiny broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or plain vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta as per the package instructions, adding salt to the boiling water. A minute before the pasta is done, add the broccoli to blanch. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
    Creamy Pasta Salad
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar until smooth.
    Creamy Pasta Salad
  • Add the cooled pasta and broccoli to the dressing and mix well. Fold in the cucumber, red bell pepper, black olives, and green onions until everything is evenly coated.
    Creamy Pasta Salad
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad to let the flavors meld. Give it a good stir before serving to redistribute the dressing.
    Creamy Pasta Salad

Nutrition

Calories: 297kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 6gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 497mgPotassium: 196mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 590IUVitamin C: 31mgCalcium: 29mgIron: 1mg
Keyword creamy pasta salad, pasta salad, summer salad
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