Pasta Salad – Your New Best Friend for Summertime Meals

macaroni salad
macaroni salad | Source

How to Build a New Pasta Salad

There are so many ways to make pasta salad. Why do we always resort to the boring (and calorie-laden) standard of elbow macaroni with chopped dill pickle and an over-abundance of full-fat mayonnaise?

Let’s look at the basic ingredients:

The Pasta

Two words—whole grain. No, please don’t run away! Whole grain pastas made today are not the gummy cardboard-tasting pastas of just a few years ago. Give it a try, and consider these interesting shapes:

  • shell
  • penne
  • tortellini
  • farfalle
  • orecchiette
  • cavatappi
  • rotelle

assortment of vegetables
assortment of vegetables

The Fruits and Veggies

The choices are almost endless. Use the “already washed/diced/chopped” vegetables in cello containers if you are running short of time.

  • arugula
  • artichoke hearts (canned), rinsed and drained
  • avocado
  • baby bok choy
  • broccoli
  • carrot, grated
  • celery
  • green beans, blanched and sliced
  • green onion, sliced
  • mushrooms
  • red onion, diced
  • peas, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • peppers (red, orange, yellow, or green, diced)
  • spinach, fresh
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini

diced ham
diced ham

The Protein

Adding protein to a salad transforms your side dish into a hearty main dish meal.

  • beans (black, canneloni, garbanzo, kidney), rinsed and drained
  • canned tuna, water- or oil-packed, drained
  • cooked bacon, diced
  • cooked chicken, diced
  • cooked crab
  • cooked ham, diced
  • cooked shrimp
  • cooked turkey, diced
  • hard-boiled eggs, chopped

assorted olives
assorted olives | Source

The Yummy Add-Ins

Invigorate your salad with these little pops of flavor:

  • cheese, diced or crumbled
  • dried cranberries
  • dried raisins
  • minced fresh basil leaves
  • minced fresh cilantro
  • minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • olives (black, green, kalamata), rinsed and chopped
  • prosciutto
  • salami
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • walnuts, chopped

The Dressing

Creamy Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh herbs ( any combination of oregano, basil, marjoram, tarragon, parsley)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
  • salt and pepper to taste

Greek pasta salad
Greek pasta salad | Source

Combinations You Will Love


  • Pasta--4 cups cooked orzo
  • Fruits and Veggies--1 cup diced tomato, 1 cup diced cucumber, 1/2 cup chopped artichoke heart
  • Protein--1 cup cooked shrimp
  • Yummy add-ins--1/2 to 1 cup feta cheese; 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives, 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

BLT (Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato) Pasta Salad
BLT (Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato) Pasta Salad | Source

BLT Pasta Salad

  • Pasta--4 cups cooked fusilli pasta
  • Fruits and Veggies--1 cup diced fresh tomato, 1 diced avocado, 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • Protein--1/2 cup crisp cooked bacon, diced
  • Yummy add-ins--1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

Chicken bowtie pasta salad
Chicken bowtie pasta salad | Source

Chicken Rosemary Pasta Salad

  • Pasta--4 cups cooked farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • Fruits and Veggies--1 cup celery, diced
  • Protein--2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • Yummy add-ins--1/2 cup dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons fresh minced rosemary, 1 cup chopped walnuts

Ham and Swiss pasta salad
Ham and Swiss pasta salad | Source

Ham and Swiss Pasta Salad

  • Pasta--4 cups cooked elbow macaroni
  • Fruits and Veggies--1 cup fresh (or frozen, defrosted) green peas, 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • Protein--1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham
  • Yummy add-ins--1 cup diced Swiss cheese

Tuna, chickpea and pasta salad
Tuna, chickpea and pasta salad

Tuna, Chickpea and Pasta Salad

  • Pasta--4 cups cooked shell pasta
  • Fruits and Veggies--2 cups green beans
  • Protein--1 can tuna, drained and flaked, 1 can garbanzo beans
  • Yummy add-ins--1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves

© 2015 Linda Lum

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Comments 10 comments

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 21 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Hi Suzie HQ - I hope the dressing recipes are to your liking. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day.

Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 21 months ago from Dublin, Ireland

Yummy recipe idea here for one of my favorite types of salad. Thanks for the the dressings, hard to get a really nice one so will give these a go!

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 22 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Thelma, I'm so glad you stopped by and that you like the recipes. Thank you also for sharing on FB. Happy weekend to you as well.

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 22 months ago from Germany

These are all delicious pasta salads. I have to try some of these. Thanks for sharing your recipes. Happy weekend! Shared in my fb so I can easily access this hub when needed. Thank you.

Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 22 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

Oh, that even sounds good!

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 22 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Rachel - you are so sweet! Thanks for the comments and vote up. When I need a salad in a hurry (for a potluck, for example), I cook a large pot of pasta and stir in a container of crab salad (the faux crab) from the deli.

Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 22 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

What great ideas for pasta salads. I love them for large crowds and in the summer too. Thanks for sharing your ideas for pasta salads. Voted up.

Blessings to you.

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 22 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Bill and Kristen - thank you for your support and kind words. There are so many combinations of flavors and textures available. Please let me know which ones you and enjoyed.

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 22 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Perfect timing Carb Diva. I've been thinking of making my own pasta salads this spring and summer, like macaroni salad this week. Very useful! Voted up!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

I was just about to shut it down for the day when you popped up, Linda. Pasta salad really is the perfect summertime meal, isn't it? I love your additions. I do believe I'll try some of your ideas. Thanks my friend.

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