11 Noodles to Change Your Pasta Game

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Pasta salad is one of those classic and incredibly versatile summer dishes — the ideal cookout accompaniment, perfectly portable for picnics and a cinch to prepare — that you find yourself craving all year long, then suddenly tiring of by the time August rolls around.

Before you’re bored of bow ties and say farewell to fusilli, consider changing up the type of noodle you employ in making your salads. You’ll be amazed how swapping out twisty rotini tendrils for orecchiette’s button cups, or embracing the hollowed tubes of penne and rigatoni, can change up the texture and even flavor of your dishes.

Italian Chicken Pasta Salad (shown above)

There’s more to macaroni than mayo-heavy dressing and cheesy bakes. Here Geoffrey Zakarian looks to the deli counter for inspiration, mixing the tiny noodle with rotisserie chicken and salami, as well as Mediterranean flavors: tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, olives and peppers. A simple oil-and-vinegar dressing merges the tastes.

Pasta Salad with Lemon Pesto Dressing

Use prepared pesto to make this salad’s lemon juice-drenched dressing — a bright, unusual addition to any summer spread — which clings readily to cavatappi’s substantial ridges. Grape tomatoes, mozzarella and scallions add just enough substance to this light side dish.

Tuscan Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Orecchiette might just be the most-fun pasta to eat, as its little cups catch on the tip of your tongue. They’re also ideal for scooping up flavorful spoonfuls of the recipe’s ingredients; in this case, that’s a medley of grilled veggies, cannellini beans and slivers of cheese.

The Neelys’ BBQ Pasta Salad

Pasta salads are usually served alongside the barbecued meats and grilled mains, but by incorporating those ingredients into the pasta dish, you’ve prepared a simple all-in-one meal that makes feeding a crowd or prepping a picnic a breeze. The Neelys’ pasta is topped with a spicy barbecue sauce and pulled pork, for which tender fusilli forms the perfect backdrop.

Penne with Baby Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Herbs

Unfussy penne is perfect for pairing with this twist on a classic Caprese-like salad. The mozzarella and tomatoes are mixed with an oregano-thyme paste instead of basil, then topped with olives for salty measure.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

With their ribbon-like pleats, bow tie noodles are best when lightly dressed (here with a simple mustard vinaigrette) and paired with equally toothsome ingredients, like sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncini, feta and olives.

Spinach-Artichoke Pasta Salad

Rachael Ray’s pasta play on the classic appetizer dip calls for tortellini (stuffed with the filling of your choice) to be mixed with spinach, artichokes, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes for sweet, tangy and salty balance.

Roasted-Pepper Pasta Salad

Little dressing is needed in a dish filled with large, hollow mezze rigatoni. Coat the noodles with a lemon- and olive oil-infused garlic paste, then toss with a simple medley of broiled bell peppers, almonds and mozzarella.

Gina’s Orzo Salad

Orzo’s tiny rice-shaped noodles are best paired with hearty, textured ingredients like the cherry tomatoes, almonds, feta and two types of onions found in this recipe. Mixed with both basil and mint and topped with a lemon-Dijon dressing, this dish is anything but mild.

Garden Pasta with Bocconcini

Unusual campanelle (Italian for “little bells” or “bellflowers”) is as beautiful to look at as it is fun to eat: Its little cones are topped with a ruffled edge. Mandoline-sliced zucchini help break up the density of these noodles with watery, long, thin ribbons. Pine nuts and basil give this recipe pesto-inspired flavor.

Fregola Salad with Fresh Citrus and Red Onion

This beady Sardinian pasta, fregola, boasts a toothsome bite and nutty flavor that Giada De Laurentiis balances with bright summer herbs (basil and mint) and slivers of orange and grapefruit.