Classic Macaroni Salad: Creamy & Delicious!

Macaroni Salad is a classic recipe for any gathering, picnic, or barbecue. Tender elbow macaroni, ham, carrots & celery are tossed in a super simple mayonnaise dressing.

Make this ahead of time for the perfect summer side dish!

A serving bowl full of Classic Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad is tasty, filling, budget-friendly and goes with everything from baked chicken to a classic hamburger recipe!  With tangy and contrasting flavors and textures, this salad is always welcome at any table.

Make Ahead Side

You can (and should) make macaroni salad ahead of time. It develops a better flavor when it has time to sit in the fridge for a little bit.  Make it at least several hours ahead of time (or even a day ahead of time) to allow the flavors to blend.

It also tastes best served icy cold, straight from the fridge!

Ingredients

Ingredients in macaroni salad are pretty simple (and versatile).

  • MACARONI Use elbows, shells or whatever short pasta you have on hand.
  • CELERY and carrots add color and crunch. Peas add a bit of sweetness.
  • HAM adds a nice salty flavor (bacon is a great substitution too).
  • ONION is great to add zip to this recipe. I like green because it’s mild but red or white work too.

Macaroni salad ingredients in a glass bowl before being combined.

How to Make Macaroni Salad

This foolproof recipe is super easy for even the most inexperienced cooks.

  1. Prepare dressing by mixing all ingredients and set aside.
  2. Boil, drain and cool the macaroni.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Tip: speed prep time by mixing the hot macaroni with the frozen peas for rapid cooling and thawing at the same time.

Favorite Variations

You’ll find lots of room for creativity here. Macaroni salad will accommodate lots of different add ins, such as:

  • Diced hard-boiled eggs – Boiled eggs give macaroni salad even more body and flavor.
  • Diced bell peppers – Juicy, crunchy and colorful bell peppers are fabulous in mac salad.
  • Dill Pickles – Or capers. These briny bits can provide a little extra oomph (and we love them in our dill pickle pasta salad).
  • Cheese – Diced cheddar or mozzarella are great additions.

A serving bowl full of creamy macaroni salad, garnished with green onions.

How Long Does Macaroni Salad Last?

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Mac salad can serve as a quick and simple one-pot lunch or snack.

Sadly, you cannot freeze macaroni salad.

More Summer Sides

Classic Macaroni Salad

This classic macaroni salad combines creamy mayonnaise based dressing with the goodness of pasta and veggies!

  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni (uncooked (approx. 2 cups dry))
  • 1 cup celery (diced)
  • 1/2 cup carrot (shredded)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas (defrosted)
  • 1 cup ham (diced)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (or red onion)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sweet relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt & pepper
  1. Cook macaroni according to package instructions and let cool.

  2. Combine pasta with remaining ingredients.

  3. Prepare dressing and stir to combine.

 

Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad is loaded with my holiday favorite flavors.  Juicy turkey, sweet tart cranberries, toasted almonds and crunchy celery are mixed with pasta tossed in an easy poppy seed dressing.

Making an easy pasta salad recipe is the perfect way to enjoy leftover turkey.

How to Make Pasta Salad

Pasta salad recipes are my go to for quick and easy meals and potluck dishes! Everyone loves them and you can add anything to them from ham and pineapple (in our Hawaiian pasta salad) or this Dill Pickle Pasta Salad!

  • Pasta Choose a short shape with bumps or ridges to hold in some of the sauce. I’ve used bowties in this recipe.
  • Protein Any type of leftovers will work, this recipe uses leftover roast turkey but you can use chicken or ham.
  • Crunch Pecans and celery add a bit of crunch and texture to this salad. So good! Any nuts from almonds to walnuts will work well.
  • Flavor Cranberries add sweetness, toasted pecans add flavor as do green onions (or red onions).

The first step, toasting the pecans adds a lot of flavor in this recipe.  You can toast a just the amount called for in this recipe on the stovetop but I often toast up a larger batch in the oven. They’re perfect in this salad but also great to sprinkle on other salad recipes too.

How to Toast Nuts:  To toast nuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place them on a pan.  Bake 3-5 minutes stirring occasionally.  They don’t take long and can go from perfectly toasted to burnt in a matter of a minutes. Cool and enjoy!

Pasta Salad Dressing

I love a creamy poppy seed dressing for this recipe but any sort of creamy sweet dressing will work. Honey mustard dressing is great too.

Shortcut Dressing: Creamy coleslaw dressing makes a great dressing for this pasta salad (store bought our homemade). Add in a sprinkle of poppy seeds.

More Great Ways to Enjoy Leftover Turkey

Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad

Turkey Cranberry Pasta Salad is loaded with my holiday favorite flavors. Juicy turkey, sweet tart cranberries, toasted pecans and crunchy celery.

Follow Spend With Pennies on Pinterest for more great recipes!

  • 12 oz bow-tie pasta ((or other short pasta))
  • 2 cups diced cooked turkey
  • 1/2 cup celery (chopped)
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup sliced pecans (or almonds, toasted)
  • 1/4 cup green onions (sliced)
  • 2/3 cup poppy seed dressing ((store bought or homemade))
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar ((optional))
  1. Place almonds in a small non-stick pan and cook over medium heat until lightly browned.
  2. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions.
  3. Combine poppy seed dressing, mayonnaise and cider vinegar (and sugar if using) in a small bowl and mix well.
  4. Toss all ingredients in a larger bowl and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Creamy coleslaw dressing also goes well with this recipe.

Replace leftover turkey with chicken or ham if desired.

Italian Pasta Salad

Italian pasta salad is one of my favorite cold pasta salad dishes!  Fresh and colorful vegetables, cheese, salami, and Italian vinaigrette are tossed with your favorite pasta to create an unforgettable dish for just about any summer occasion.

Pasta salads are one of my go to potluck dishes from easy and fresh Greek Pasta Salad to a delicious Caesar Pasta Salad and of course my famous Dill Pickle Pasta Salad! Not only does everyone love them, pasta salads are super easy to make and  they’re even better when made ahead of time!

A bowl full of colorful Italian Pasta salad ready for a potluck!

Potluck Perfect Pasta Salad

Whenever summer rolls around, we always seem to be headed to barbecues, potlucks, and patio parties. Of course I’m always asked to bring a big pitcher of Classic Mojitos (it’s the drink I’m known for) but I almost always bring a cold pasta salad recipe along too!

This Italian Pasta Salad recipe is a really fun twist on a classic pasta salad because it’s loaded with so many goodies. It travels well and goes with pretty much anything.

Big Bold Flavors

This easy pasta salad recipe is loaded with flavor, you can add in your own favorite Italian inspired ingredients; diced artichokes and sun dried tomatoes also make great additions! 

Ingredients for pasta salad:

  • Bold Flavors: cheese, salami, olives and Italian seasonings add a big punch of flavor
  • Crunch: Bell pepper adds great  for color, crunch and flavor
  • Veggies: I love the juicy tang tomatoes add, throw in some cucumbers or any veggies you have on hand

A small serving of colorful Italian Pasta salad ready for a potluck!

Noodles for Pasta Salad

Tri-color rotini does an amazing job at holding the cheese and Italian dressing in the crevices for max flavor, but you can use shells, or whatever medium noodles you happen to have handy!

Cook the pasta al dente so it isn’t mushy and it holds up well to the dressing.

Tips to Make the Perfect Italian Pasta Salad

  • Cut your veggies small: Cutting your vegetables into pieces slightly smaller than bite-sized will ensure that you get a taste of everything in each bite!
  • Don’t overcook your noodles: Overcooking will make a mushy pasta salad as the acids from the dressing will break down the starches farther. Shock your noodles once they are cooked al dente in cold water for best results!
  • Cool your pasta before adding the toppings: You don’t want to begin to cook your vegetables while you toss everything together!
  • Let your pasta salad sit before you serve it: This gives the dressing a chance to really permeate your veggies and pasta, resulting in a more flavorful and delicious Italian pasta salad!
  • Keep it colorful: If you are adding some extra veggies you have on hand, keep your pasta salad fun and colorful! I love adding things like artichokes, shredded carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, etc.

A bowl full of colorful Italian Pasta salad ready for a party!

Italian Pasta Salad Dressing

To make this recipe quick and easy, I use a bottled Italian dressing but of course homemade Italian Dressing is amazing if you have the ingredients on hand.

Make ahead… The best thing about this pasta salad recipe is that it gets better as it sits and the flavors blend! It’s the perfect make ahead side dish, it takes 20 only about minutes to prepare. What could be better than that?

As this Italian pasta salad sits in the fridge, the acids in the dressing actually work to help break down the starches in the pasta and the proteins in the veggies, resulting in a more flavorful and tender pasta salad (so be sure not to overcook your noodles)!

To Make Homemade Italian Dressing combine the following:

Favorite Pasta Salad Recipes

Italian Pasta Salad

Tender pasta, ripe juicy tomatoes, crisp bell peppers, salami and mozzarella cheese are tossed in an Italian dressing for the perfect make ahead side dish.

  • 16 oz tricolor rotini
  • 1/2 green bell pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (cubed)
  • 1/3 cup red onion (diced)
  • 8 oz salami (chopped)
  • 1 cup bottled Italian vinaigrette dressing
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Rinse under cold water.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss.
  3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Repin this Super Summer Salad!

Italian pasta salad is one of my favorite cold pasta salad dishes!  Fresh and colorful vegetables, cheese, salami, and Italian vinaigrette are tossed with your favorite pasta to create an unforgettable dish for just about any summer occasion. #spendwithpennies #summersalad #pastasalad #easysidedish #easyrecipe #pastarecipe #healthyrecipe #freshsidedish

Asian Noodle Salad packed with fresh veggies!

Asian Noodle Salad is a quick and tasty salad with freshness, crunch, and a taste you’ll love! This fun twist on a traditional spaghetti salad has noodles, crisp fresh veggies and juicy mandarin oranges are all tossed in a sesame ginger dressing to make every zesty bite sensational.

Packed with healthy raw veggies, Asian noodle salad, (like ramen noodle salad) is easy to prep and makes a terrific lunch or fresh casual summer dinner. Serve with a glass of cucumber water for a refreshing meal!

Asian noodle salad in a wooden bowl.

What’s in Asian Noodle Salad?

Asian noodle salad is a practical go-to recipe anytime you have leftover pasta or grilled chicken breasts on hand from last night’s dinner or barbecue. Other ingredients come from the fresh produce aisle:

  • Base: spaghetti or pasta noodles, sesame ginger dressing
  • Crunch: broccoli florets, carrots, sugar snap peas, bean sprouts
  • Flavor: green onion, chopped cilantro
  • Garnish: toasted slivered almonds, mandarin oranges
  • Optional Add-Ins: chicken, salted peanuts

Asian noodle salad ingredients in a glass bowl.

How Long Does Noodle Salad Last?

Asian noodle salad can be made a well in advance and enjoyed for lunches throughout the week. Toss with sesame ginger dressing before storing it to allow all of the flavors to blend.

If you adding in freshly cooked chicken breasts, you can store leftovers in the fridge for about three days in a tightly covered container. However, this dish contains so many raw vegetables, it is not a good candidate for the freezer.

Two images showing the Asian noodle salad ingredients before and after dressing is poured ontop.

What to Serve it With?

If adding grilled chicken, this is a perfectly balanced one-pot meal. Starch, veg, and meat all in one bowl means no need to fuss with side dishes! It’s a great side for Teriyaki Grilled Chicken Thighs too!

Dress up the meal by serving it Asian restaurant-style, with crunchy fried noodles and bowls of hot and sweet dipping sauces. An icy cold pitcher of strawberry lemonade will complete the meal.

More Delicious Salads

Asian Noodle Salad

Delicious salad with the freshness, crunch, and taste of the Far East!

  • 8 oz linguine or spaghetti (cooked and cooled)
  • 1 red bell pepper (sliced)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (cut small)
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas (sliced diagonally)
  • 1/2 cup carrots (julienned)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons almonds (slivered & toasted)
  • 2 green onions (sliced)
  • 1 cup mandarin orange segments (drained)
  • 1 cup sesame ginger dressing (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (for garnish)
  1. Place pasta, red bell pepper, broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, and bean sprouts in a bowl.

  2. Add dressing, sesame seeds and soy sauce. Toss well.

  3. Mix in cilantro, slivered almonds, and green onions (reserve a little bit of each for garnish).

  4. Garnish with orange slices and remaining cilantro and green onions and toasted almonds.

Asian noodle salad in a wooden bowl.
Asian noodle salad in a wooden bowl.
Top image - Asian noodle salad in a wooden bowl. Bottom image - Sesame ginger dressing being poured over an Asian noodle salad.

Antipasto Pasta Salad (with Italian Dressing)

Antipasto Pasta Salad is simple to put together, pretty to present and oh so flavorful. With marinated vegetables, cheeses, meats, and pasta all tossed in a homemade Italian dressing it is the perfect combination of flavors. 

Summer is not the same without pasta salad! And this version is the perfect side dish to any entrée, whether it’s oven baked chicken breasts or barbecue!

Close up of antipasto pasta salad in a bowl.

What Is Antipasto?

Typically, antipasto is the first course of a formal Italian meal. Usually, marinated vegetables, cheeses, mushrooms, and meats are arranged on a plate so guests can help themselves.

In this antipasto pasta salad, we use pasta as a base for all the other ingredients so it can be served as a side dish or even as an entrée. Mangia!

Antipasto ingredients laid out on a cutting board.

As Easy As 1,2,3…

Making this antipasto pasta salad is truly easy.

  1. Pasta: Cook pasta ‘al dente and rinse under cold water. Al dente means ‘to the bite’, just a little undercooked so it holds up after being added to the other ingredients.
  2. Dressing: Combine the dressing ingredients or use a bottled Italian dressing.
  3. Combine: Toss together the pasta with remaining ingredients and toss with dressing.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. This allows all the flavors to blend.

Can You Make Antipasto Salad in Advance?

Absolutely! This is one of the best side dishes to make in advance and it will stay crisp and flavorful!

Keep it covered in the refrigerator and stir before serving. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and it’s as good as new!

Antipasto ingredients mixed on a cutting board.

Serve It With:

Antipasto Pasta Salad goes with everything. Or it can stand alone because all the food groups are represented here (or top it with grilled chicken if you’d like).

For a summer-evening entrée serve with a nice slice of crusty garlic bread. As a side dish, it pairs perfectly with any kind of meat.

More Perfect Pasta Salads

Antipasto Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is a fun and flavorful combination of marinated vegetables, cheeses, meats, and pasta! Perfect as a side dish or an entree on its own.

  • 8 oz rotini pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts (quartered & drained (reserve juices*))
  • 1/3 cup sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup olives (green, black or a mixture)
  • 4 oz sliced salami (halved)
  • 8 oz bocconcini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil (sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Dressing

  • 1 cup bottled Italian dressing

or

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or use some of the reserved olive oil from the artichoke hearts)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
  2. Combine all dressing ingredient in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Nutritional information is calculated using homemade dressing. 

This easy antipasto pasta salad recipe is made with cherry tomatoes, pasta, meat, cheese, and homemade Italian dressing!  This fun pasta salad is full of colors and is one of the best dishes to bring to a summer picnic or barbecue!  #spendwithpennies #antipastopastasalad #pastasalad #sidedish #Italian
This easy antipasto pasta salad recipe is made with cherry tomatoes, pasta, meat, cheese, and homemade Italian dressing!  This fun pasta salad is full of colors and is one of the best dishes to bring to a summer picnic or barbecue!  #spendwithpennies #antipastopastasalad #pastasalad #sidedish #Italian
This easy antipasto pasta salad recipe is made with cherry tomatoes, pasta, meat, cheese, and homemade Italian dressing!  This fun pasta salad is full of colors and is one of the best dishes to bring to a summer picnic or barbecue!  #spendwithpennies #antipastopastasalad #pastasalad #sidedish #Italian

Easy Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad, out of all the pasta salads a home chef can have in their recipe box, is one of the best to wow a crowd! Cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese are mixed with rotini and drizzled with homemade Greek dressing to create this colorful and appetizing pasta salad! 

This pasta salad, like caprese pasta salad and Italian pasta salad, are easy to make, but also so colorful and appetizing alongside everything else on any table!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad in a white bowl.

How To Make Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Have this pasta salad on the table in 3 simple steps. Just cook the pasta, make the dressing and combine together with fresh crunchy veggies!

  1. Pasta: Cook pasta to al dente and run under cold water to stop the cooking. It’s important to not overcook the pasta so it doesn’t break apart and holds up well with the other ingredients.
  2. Dressing: For the dressing, whisk together or shake the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and set aside.
  3. Combine: Place all ingredients in a large bowl and top with dressing. Mix well to combine.

Refrigerate at least one hour. Before serving, garnish with extra crumbled feta cheese, and fresh parsley. Feel free to add a side of croutons or breadsticks for a little extra crunch!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad ingredients in a bowl.

What Dressing is the Best for Pasta Salad?

Homemade of course!! But if you go “store-bought” for dressing, be sure to look for bright, tangy flavors like red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. Brand names aren’t as important as the ingredients, but try to look for these basics!

If you happen to have another homemade vinaigrette on hand (like Balsamic Vinaigrette or Italian Dressing), it’ll most likely be great in this recipe.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad with dressing being poured on top.

How Long Will Pasta Salad?

As long as the pasta was cooked al dente, Mediterranean pasta salad will last a good 5 days in the refrigerator.

The salad may need to be drained and a little extra dressing can be added to brighten the flavors. Don’t forget to add a little extra salt and pepper and crumbled feta to make it look brand new again!

Must Try Pasta Salad Recipes

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

This Mediterranean pasta salad recipe is filled with fresh veggies and topped with a homemade Greek dressing for an irresistible dish!

  • 8 oz rotini pasta
  • 1 cup tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 cup cucumbers (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup oil packed sundried tomatoes (drained)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives (or black olives)
  • 1 cup chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/4 cup red onion (diced)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1 cup artichokes (diced and drained)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Dressing

  • 1 cup store bought Greek dressing (or to taste)

OR

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup light olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Cook pasta according al dente according to package directions. Run under cold water to stop cooking.
  2. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to combine.
  3. Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Top with dressing and mix well.
  4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with extra feta cheese and parsley if desired.

Nutritional Information calculated using homemade Greek dressing.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad in a white bowl.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad in a white bowl.
Top photo - Close up of Mediterranean Pasta Salad in a white bowl. Bottom photo - Mediterranean pasta salad ingredients in a bowl.

Easy Orzo Pasta Salad – (quick homemade dressing)

Orzo Pasta Salad is a fun Mediterranean twist on a classic pasta salad recipe. Tomatoes, spinach, and garbanzo beans are all tossed in a lemony dressing that perfectly compliments these flavors!

This orzo pasta salad is a fresh, tangy and tasty recipe. Serve with grilled chicken, pork chops or any roasted meats. It’s the perfect summery side dish to bring to any picnic or backyard barbecue.

Orzo pasta salad in a bowl with a wooden serving spoon in it.

What’s in Orzo Pasta Salad?

  • ORZO: The foundation ingredient here is orzo, which is pasta shaped like large grains of rice. It’s great for salads as it absorbs the dressing and pleasant chewy texture too.
  • VEGGIES: Juicy tomatoes and fresh spinach are great in this recipe but you can add your favorite crisp and crunchy veggies.

Orzo pasta salad ingredients in a bowl.

  • CHICKPEAS: Chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) add texture and protein to this salad (but they aren’t the base of the salad like they are in a Chickpea Salad).
  • BOLD FLAVORS: I add a bit of red onion and some feta cheese along with a simple zesty homemade dressing. You can use any vinaigrette for an Orzo Pasta Salad.

To Make Orzo Pasta Salad

This orzo pasta salad is super easy to prepare.

  1. Whisk together orzo salad dressing ingredients.
  2. Cook orzo until tender, then drain and cool.
  3. Combine all ingredients and toss with dressing. Season to taste.

Refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Re-toss a couple of times to recoat.

Close up of orzo pasta salad ingredients in a bowl with dressing being poured over top.

Can You Make Orzo Pasta Salad in Advance?

This salad contains lots of fresh ingredients, but they can easily be prepared ahead of time. Wash the spinach and veggies and place in a small container.

Cook the orzo and rinse under cold water to stop it from cooking. Whisk dressing ingredients and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

To serve, slice tomatoes and chop spinach. Toss all ingredients together as directed.

A serving of orzo pasta salad garnished with parsley.

Got Leftovers?

Orzo pasta salad will keep in the refrigerator overnight and will last a couple of days (the tomatoes may weep a little). Fully prepared, it is definitely not a good candidate for the freezer. With a salad this tasty, you probably won’t have leftovers to worry about anyways!

More Tasty Pasta Salads

Easy Orzo Pasta Salad

This easy orzo pasta salad is a fun Mediterranean twist on a classic pasta salad. With tomatoes, spinach and garbanzo beans, it is packed with flavor!

  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 15 oz garbanzo beans ((chickpeas) drained and rinsed)
  • 1/3 cup red onion (finely chopped )
  • 2 cups fresh spinach (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  1. Cook orzo until tender. Cool.
  2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.
  3. Combine orzo with remaining salad ingredients.
  4. Toss with dressing and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving

This simple orzo spinach pasta salad is a Mediterranean twist on a classic. Made with feta, tomatoes, and garbanzo beans, tossed in a lemony dressing, it is an easy and healthy summer salad. Serve cold at your next barbecue! #spendwithpennies #orzopastasalad #pastasalad #sidedish #Mediterranean #summerrecipes
This simple orzo spinach pasta salad is a Mediterranean twist on a classic. Made with feta, tomatoes, and garbanzo beans, tossed in a lemony dressing, it is an easy and healthy summer salad. Serve cold at your next barbecue! #spendwithpennies #orzopastasalad #pastasalad #sidedish #Mediterranean #summerrecipes
This simple orzo spinach pasta salad is a Mediterranean twist on a classic. Made with feta, tomatoes, and garbanzo beans, tossed in a lemony dressing, it is an easy and healthy summer salad. Serve cold at your next barbecue! #spendwithpennies #orzopastasalad #pastasalad #sidedish #Mediterranean #summerrecipes

Caprese Pasta Salad – Fresh and Flavorful

Caprese Pasta Salad is a bright, tangy summer salad that is perfect to take to a potluck or picnic. Grape tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, garlic, and fresh basil are the most delicious additions to a pasta salad recipe!

This caprese pasta salad is a great meatless meal or top it with grilled chicken breasts to add extra protein.

Close up of a prepare caprese pasta salad garnished with basil.

Start with Fresh Ingredients

caprese salad is a very simple recipe with few ingredients so it’s important to choose great quality.

  • Tomatoes: I use cherry or grape tomatoes but any ripe fresh tomatoes will be great in this recipe. I also add some diced sundried tomatoes (oil packed is best).
  • Mozzarella: Bocconcini is the perfect creamy addition to this salad. It’s softer and milder than a traditional mozzarella (and available at almost any store).
  • Basil: This is one place it’s really worth it to use fresh, the flavor is amazing! Instead of buying a little bunch of basil at the grocery, check if they have basil plants. They’re only a few dollars and will last a long time!
  • Pasta: Any medium pasta works, choose one with crevices and curves so it can hold the dressing!

Caprese pasta salad ingredients in a bowl.

How to Make Caprese Pasta Salad

This recipe is easy caprese!

  1. Cook and drain pasta, rinse under cold water (to stop it from cooking).
  2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and add tomatoes to the dressing. Let marinate for about 30 minutes at room temperature for maximum flavor!
  3. Combine the pasta with the remaining ingredients and drizzle dressing over.

Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate at least two hour before serving. Garnish with fresh basil and cracked black pepper before serving (the basil is best added just before serving)!

Caprese Salad Dressing

A simple combo of olive oil and red wine vinegar is the base of the dressing. If you are using oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, add a splash of oil from the jar for great flavor!

Some people like balsamic vinegar on caprese, you can add a splash if you like but it’s a bit more powerful than red wine vinegar so use sparingly. I prefer a small drizzle of balsamic glaze before serving.

A serving of caprese pasta salad in a bowl, garnished with basil.

Can You Make This in Advance?

Caprese Pasta Salad can be made in advance, but no more than about a day. Be sure to toss well and adjust the salt and pepper before serving!

Pass the Pasta

Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese Pasta Salad is a bright, tangy summer salad that is perfect to take to a potluck or picnic. This easy recipe can be scooped onto a bed of lettuce or a hearty piece of garlic bread, or served as a side to any grilled meat!

  • 1 pound rotini (cooked & cooled)
  • 3 cups grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (cubed)
  • 1/3 cup red onion (diced)
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup basil (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic glaze

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • salt & pepper
  1. Place dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add tomatoes to dressing mix and allow to marinate at room temperature at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine pasta, mozzarella, red onion and sun dried tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with tomato/dressing mixture and season with salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
  4. Chop fresh basil. Drizzle salad with balsamic glaze and sprinkle basil on top just before serving.

This easy caprese pasta salad is filled with grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella. It is best served cold topped with balsamic glaze after marinating in an olive oil dressing! This recipe is quick to prepare and is always one of the first gone at picnics or potlucks! #spendwithpennies #capresepastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #sidedish #summer
This easy caprese pasta salad is filled with grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella. It is best served cold topped with balsamic glaze after marinating in an olive oil dressing! This recipe is quick to prepare and is always one of the first gone at picnics or potlucks! #spendwithpennies #capresepastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #sidedish #summer
This easy caprese pasta salad is filled with grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella. It is best served cold topped with balsamic glaze after marinating in an olive oil dressing! This recipe is quick to prepare and is always one of the first gone at picnics or potlucks! #spendwithpennies #capresepastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #sidedish #summer

Tuna Pasta Salad – a fun creamy side

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad  is one of our favorite versions of classic tuna salad! When you add in a handful of veggies and some pasta, this becomes an entire meal in no time at all! 

This pasta salad recipe is a warm weather go-to for quick meals or even potlucks!

Pasta with tuna, cheese, peas and celery all tossed with a creamy dressing, in a clear bowl

What’s In Tuna Pasta Salad?

Just like most tuna recipes (think tuna casserole or tuna melts) this pasta salad is simple and delicious. With two main ingredients, tuna and pasta this dish is no-fuss and great as a quick dinner or an easy lunch.

This pasta salad uses sweet pickle relish in the dressing but of course you swap it with chopped dill pickles (but you may want to add a pinch of sugar to the dressing if you do).

  • Tuna: Choose good quality tuna that is packed in water so it doesn’t make the rest of the salad oily. Be sure to drain it well.
  • Pasta: A medium shape pasta works well for this recipe like rotini or shells, the ridges grab the dressing well adding lots of flavor!

Pasta, peas, cheddar cheese, celery and tuna in a clear bowl, with the dressing assembled on the side in another glass bowl

How to Make Tuna Pasta Salad

Making a pasta salad isn’t hard! With a little prep work and three easy steps, you can have this salad ready in 30 mins!

  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta. Drain, set aside to cool.
  2. Drain tuna and add in vegetables.
  3. Gently fold in the mayonnaise and add diced cheddar cheese (cheese is optional).

Whether making in advance or making fresh to eat, keep it chilled until you are ready to serve. Add in a little salt and pepper to taste and watch the flavors pop when served cold!

Pasta salad with tuna tossed with a creamy dressing, ready to serve.

Here’s How to Store It

Keep your tuna pasta salad in a sealed container so it doesn’t absorb the flavors of the other things in the refrigerator. And if taking to a potluck, put ice packs in a cooler around it to keep it chilled!

When serving it outdoors where everyone is helping themselves, put the salad in a bowl and try to position it on a small tray or plate of ice to keep it cold. Stir frequently to keep it all the same temperature!

More Delicious Pasta Salads

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad

This creamy salad combines pasta & tuna to create the perfect light lunch or side to supper! With the addition of pickles, cheese, and peas it is sure to be a hit!

  • 3 cups rotini pasta (measured dry)
  • 6 ounces canned tuna (drained)
  • 1/2 cup celery (diced)
  • 3 green onions (sliced)
  • 3/4 cup baby peas (defrosted and drained)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (diced (optional))

Dressing

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients and set aside.

  2. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking.

  3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  4. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Nutrition Information does not include optional ingredients.

I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal
I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal
I love this creamy tuna pasta salad recipe! Whether taking it to a potluck or enjoying at a barbecue it's fresh and light flavors are always a hit. With pickles, cheese, pea and of course tuna & pasta, it's the best summer side dish I've made! #spendwithpennies #tunapastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #summer #sidedish #30minmeal

Creamy Ranch Chicken Pasta Salad (Easy!)

Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad is packed with flavor, texture and color! While our favorite Italian pasta salad recipe is often served as a side, this hearty dish eats like a meal!

Loaded with chicken, pasta, bacon and veggies this dish is tossed in a rich ranch mayo dressing for the perfect meal to satisfy a crowd.

Chicken pasta salad mixed and garnished with green onions and dill.

This chicken pasta salad is an easy way to stretch any leftover baked chicken breast or you can use rotisserie chicken or leftover roast chicken! You can serve it as a main dish, or as a side at a potluck (and it makes great lunches throughout the week).

What Goes in Pasta Salad

When making a cold pasta salad you can add in as many or as little ingredients are you want. A classic version will always start with a pasta base, meat, veggies and cheese.

  • Pasta: tri-color penne or rotini pasta but of course any medium pasta will work
  • Meat: diced cooked chicken, crumbled bacon… use leftover turkey or ham instead
  • Veggies: opt for a variety of colors and textures to make a pretty and flavorful pasta salad
  • Flavors: get a flavor boost from cheese, onions, fresh herbs or even add sliced olives (black or green)

You can use regular pasta, substitute cheeses according to your preference, and add in what you have on hand. Try some chopped red, yellow and orange bell pepper for a fresh flavor and crunch.

Overview of chicken pasta salad ingredients in a glass bowl.

Chicken Pasta Salad Dressing

For the tastiest pasta salad dressing, I create a delicious and easy ranch style dressing. Making chicken pasta salad with mayo makes it rich and creamy. The addition of fresh herbs adds extra flavor!

Overview of chicken pasta salad ingredients and dressing on top, in a glass bowl before being mixed.

How to Make Chicken Pasta Salad

Chicken ranch pasta salad comes together quickly, once you’ve prepped your veggies and shredded the cheeses. Just follow these steps:

  1. Cook the pasta al dente, drain and rinse.
  2. Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl, and mix in the dressing.
  3. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.

Before serving, sprinkle with fresh chopped green onion and extra bacon.

Close up of chicken ranch pasta salad garnished with green onions and dill.

Can You Freeze It?

Unfortunately, chicken bacon ranch pasta salad is not a good candidate for the freezer. Too many of the ingredients just don’t hold up well. Mayonnaise separates, sour cream turns grainy and watery and fresh tomatoes turn to icky mush. But don’t worry. Everyone loves chicken pasta salad, and you probably won’t have to worry about leftovers!

Like most cold pasta salad recipes, this hold in the refrigerator for about three days, so if you need to make it in advance, plan accordingly.

Popular Pasta Salads

Ranch Chicken Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is packed with flavor and color! Rotini pasta, diced chicken, and a homemade ranch dressing make this tasty side dish!

  • 12 oz tri-color rotini pasta (cooked and cooled)
  • 2 cups chicken (cooked and diced )
  • 6 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (diced)
  • 3 green onions (sliced)
  • fresh parsley and dill for garnish (optional)

Dressing

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 package ranch dressing mix
  • 1/3 cup milk
  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing.
  3. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with green onions and serve.

Serve this ranch chicken pasta salad as a main dish when feeding a crowd! Leftover rotisserie chicken, rotini, and a creamy homemade ranch dressing made with mayo and sour cream make the perfect dish. #spendwithpennies #ranchchickenpastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #sidedish #leftoverchicken
Serve this ranch chicken pasta salad as a main dish when feeding a crowd! Leftover rotisserie chicken, rotini, and a creamy homemade ranch dressing made with mayo and sour cream make the perfect dish. #spendwithpennies #ranchchickenpastasalad #pastasaladrecipe #sidedish #leftoverchicken