Need to know how to make pasta salad? Here are the basic steps to create the perfect dish!
Pasta salad is a great little meal - satisfying, economical, versatile and easy to take to work for a healthy lunch.
But what's the best way to go about putting one together? And what are some really good flavor combinations to try?
The main ingredient is - of course - the pasta!
Bite-size pasta - like penne, rotelle, macaroni, fusilli, farfalle - is ideal. It is possible to use larger pasta shapes, but they can be messy and awkward to eat!
Just cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packaging - but stop when the pasta is ever-so-slightly underdone.
The reason for this is that underdone pasta will hold its shape much better when it's tossed with a dressing. This is especially important if it is likely to sit in the dressing for some time. Pasta tends to absorb liquid easily and will turn very mushy if it it completely cooked through from the start.
Don't rinse your pasta after you've drained it - instead, just toss it with a little olive oil and set it aside. Avoid using butter - it will harden as it cools, forming clumps on your pasta.
Pick your proteins
Every balanced meal contains a protein - and the good news is that just about everything works well with pasta!
Here are some ideas - choose just one or combine a few:
- Strips of cooked chicken breast
- Canned tuna
- Shrimp (peeled and cooked)
- Cubes of thick-cut ham
Canned beans (drained and rinsed)
Bring on the bold flavors!
Most pasta salads are defined by the strongest flavor they contain (feta cheese for a Greek pasta salad, for example).
Decide on the 'theme' of your salad, then pick from the flavors below. Remember - these are ingredients with a strong taste, so don't add too much!
- Crumbled feta
- Crumbled goat's cheese
- Grated parmesan
- Chopped olives
- Crispy bacon
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Smoked fish
Serrano ham or Prosciutto
Choose your veggies
Once again you can choose as many of these vegetables as you like!
Some vegetables will need cooking first. You can either steam/boil them, or blanch them by adding them to the water when you cook the pasta, just a minute before the end of the cooking time. This gives them a great texture to use in pasta salads!
- Carrots (grated raw, or chopped and cooked/blanched)
- Trimmed asparagus
- Broccoli or cauliflower florets
- Green beans
- Chopped tomato
- Chopped celery
You can add canned vegetables too - canned sweetcorn brings a little pop of sweetness!
Herbs and spices
The addition of finely chopped herbs and certain spices can elevate your pasta salad into something memorable!
Why not try:
Add stronger tasting herbs with caution, so you don't overwhelm the dish!
The final steps...
Put your pasta into a large bowl and add all of your chosen ingredients. Mix together thoroughly, then toss with your salad dressing of choice.
And that's all there is to it - you now have a perfect pasta salad, made just the way you like it!
Looking for a few 'ready made' ideas?