Pasta salad is a great dish to bring to a party, family get-together or for summer entertaining. It makes a great side, and if you are like me, you can make a meal out of it. It’s also so versatile, that you can add just about anything to it. However, for years…I just couldn’t get it right. After much trial and error, I have come up with what I think is the Perfect Pasta Salad!
- First tip, it’s important to cook your pasta al dente (it should say on the box how many minutes this is, I like to use rotini pasta and it’s usually 7 minutes). This will prevent the pasta from getting too mushy/soggy because the pasta will soak up some of the dressing as it sits.
- Second, and this is where I often went wrong, you need equal amounts of pasta to vegetables/add-ins. I like to chop my main veggies fairly uniform (“bite” size), like cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, etc. My other ingredients that I use less of because of the strong flavor, such as onions and peppers, are chopped smaller. By add-ins, I am talking about not only vegetables, but also cheese, meats (pepperoni, ham, chicken), etc.
- Third, the dressing…everyone has their favorite and how much they like, but too much or too little can turn your perfect pasta salad into a “ehhh, it’s okay” pasta salad. My rule of thumb is 4:4:1 – 4 cups cooked pasta, 4 cups veggies/add-ins, 1 cup dressing. Even when I make a large batch for a cook-out or party, I stick with my ratios. See, math does come in handy sometimes! The pasta and veggies will soak up some of the dressing, so if you make this the night before, you may need to add a little more dressing the next day. This is a good starting point, and you can adjust to suit your taste buds.
- Finally, and this is just a suggestion because they are not always readily available, but I highly recommend adding fresh herbs. My favorites to use are basil or cilantro.
I am particularly fond of the above ingredients for my pasta salad. However, I usually add peppers and I always add some kind of cheese, which somehow did not make the picture! I usually use feta, but feel free to add whatever is your favorite.
- 8 oz dry pasta (will yield about 4 cups when cooked)
- 4 cups desired vegetables/add-ins (such as cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, fresh herbs, cheese)
- 1 cup dressing (such as House Italian, Oil & Vinegar, etc.)
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Cook pasta according to directions on package for al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water.
- Place drained pasta in a large bowl, adding vegetables and desired add-ins.
- Add dressing, salt, pepper and stir to combine.
- Place in fridge to chill or serve immediately.
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Kim is a contributing writer for Eat at Home and author of food & family blog, Makin’ it Mo’Betta. She blogs about her adventures in the kitchen, incorporating life as mom to teen and tween girls, as well as a young son with nut allergies, and wife to a diabetic husband. Life is never dull!