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Pick a peck of pasta salads

By Staff | Apr 13, 2018

-GRIT photo by Lori Dunn Pasta salads, such as those featured in “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” cookbook, can be made with a pasta of your choice.


GRIT Magazine

One of summer’s many gifts is the freedom to prepare simpler, lighter meals using ingredients from right outside your back door.

Most of my warm-weather meals are made sans recipe and depend completely on what was harvested in the garden that day, not to mention avoiding a hot oven at all costs. This means lots of fruits, vegetables, herbs, beans, and any meat I can cook on an outdoor grill.

I have found that adding pasta noodles with any number of these ingredients makes a complete and filling meal. Drizzle a homemade dressing over it all, and you’ll have a salad better than anything you can buy out of a deli case. Plus, there are always leftovers for another meal or two.

Leftovers can be turned into a fresh pasta salad. Use leftover corned beef for an Irish twist.

Use these warm months as an excuse to keep the oven turned off and explore new ways to serve up the garden bounty. Feel free to mix and match any of the following combinations. Pasta salad is about as versatile as it comes.

Remember that you can change any homemade dressing in a pinch by adding fresh herbs and experimenting with various oils, vinegars, and citruses – see what happens when you substitute fresh-squeezed orange juice if a vinaigrette calls for lemon juice. Try a sliced, boiled egg for extra protein if you’d rather not add meat. The pasta suggestions in the recipes that follow are just that, suggestions. If you prefer spaghetti noodles to bow tie, go right ahead, or substitute whole-wheat noodles.

Chicken and gemelli pasta


Yields 4 servings

8 ounces gemelli pasta, cooked and drained

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 large tomato, sliced in thirds to make thick disks

1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise in long strips

1 large yellow squash, quartered lengthwise in long strips

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4)

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

4 cups shredded romaine lettuce or mixed baby greens

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, optional

Place pasta in large bowl.

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and chicken broth. Reserve 1/8 cup to baste grilled vegetables and chicken; the rest will serve as dressing. Set both portions aside.

Season tomato, zucchini, and squash with salt and pepper to taste. Grill vegetables on oiled rack over medium-hot gas or charcoal fire until vegetables are browned and tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. During last 2 minutes of cooking, brush with reserved lemon baste. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Grill chicken on oiled grid until no longer pink in middle, about 8 minutes, turning once. During last 2 minutes of cooking, brush only once with lemon basting; discard remaining baste. Remove chicken to cutting surface.

While chicken is grilling, chop grilled vegetables; toss with pasta, dressing mixture, and Parmesan cheese.

Divide lettuce among 4 serving plates. Spoon pasta salad onto lettuce and top with slices of chicken. Sprinkle with basil, if desired.

Green vegetables and dill pasta salad

Yields 4 servings; 2/3 cup dressing

6 ounces rotelle pasta, cooked and cooled (about 3 cups cooked)

2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

2 cups coarsely chopped leaf lettuce

2 cups cooked, cut green beans, cooled

1 cup cooked green peas, cooled

1 cup halved green bell pepper strips

1 cup sliced, quartered cucumber

1/2 cup sliced scallions

2/3 cup Parmesan Dill Dressing, recipe follows

In large bowl, combine pasta, Swiss cheese, lettuce, green beans, peas, green pepper, cucumber, and scallions. Just before serving, toss with Parmesan Dill Dressing.

Parmesan dill dressing

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dill weed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

In small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients; whisk well.

Summer pasta salad

Yields 4 servings

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1 cup sliced zucchini

1 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup bell pepper strips

1/4 cup sliced red onion

2 cups canned, flaked tuna, or cooked, diced chicken

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Ground pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste

4 cups small pasta shells, cooked

In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Chill for 1 hour.

Zesty shrimp pasta salad

Yields 6 to 8 servings

8 ounces rotini pasta, cooked and drained

1 1/2 cups medium-size shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined

1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)

1 small can (3 1/4 ounces) medium-size pitted black olives

3/4 cup green bell pepper strips

2/3 cup plain yogurt

3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Place pasta in large bowl. Add shrimp, tomatoes, cheese, olives, and bell pepper; toss well.

In small bowl, combine yogurt, mustard, chives, and lemon juice. Season with cayenne.

Pour yogurt mixture over pasta mixture, and toss gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Southwest corn

pasta salad

4 ounces macaroni, cooked (about 2 cups cooked)

3 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (raw, blanched or cooked on cob and removed)

1 cup chopped celery

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3/4 cup chopped red onion

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 cup picante sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine macaroni, corn, celery, green pepper, onion, and tomatoes in large bowl.

In jar with lid, combine picante sauce, oil, lime juice, garlic, oregano, and salt; shake well.

Pour oil mixture over macaroni mixture; toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Irish pasta salad

Yields 6 servings


4 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

In small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients; mix well and set aside.


8 ounces corned beef, cooked and sliced thin

6 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup chopped green onions

15 ounces shaped pasta, cooked, drained, and rinsed in cool water

In large serving bowl, combine corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and onions. Gently add cooked pasta.

Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss gently to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

BLT pasta salad

Yields 6 servings

8 ounces bow-tie pasta, cooked, rinsed and drained

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

6 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1 cup packed, coarsely chopped arugula leaves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Coarse salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked until very crisp

In chilled bowl, combine pasta, tomatoes, scallions, and arugula; set aside.

In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss with pasta and vegetables. Crumble in bacon, and toss to combine.

Greek pasta salad


3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic powder, basil, oregano, pepper, and sugar; set aside.


1 pound penne pasta, cooked, drained and cooled

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 small cucumber, halved and chopped

3/4 cup black or Kalamata olives, pitted

1 cup fresh spinach leaves

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced, optional

1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese

For salad:

In large bowl, toss together pasta, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, olives, spinach, and chicken.

Pour dressing over top. Chill well. Top with feta cheese just before serving.

Excerpted from Grit, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from Grit, please visit “http://www.grit.com”>www.grit.com or call (866) 624-9388 to subscribe.

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