Mix-and-Match Pasta Salad

Design your perfect picnic dish. This recipe leads to thousands of combinations!

Pasta Salad

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Photo by: Kang Kim

Kang Kim

1. Choose a Pasta

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 1/2 pound of any of these pastas as the label directs; drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Pick a Protein (Optional)

Add 1 cup of any of these ingredients, if desired.

  • Chicken, cooked and chopped
  • Steak, cooked and chopped
  • Ham or salami, cubed
  • Roast beef, chopped
  • Canned tuna, drained and flaked
  • Lump crabmeat, picked over
  • Shrimp, cooked and chopped
  • Eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
  • Baked tofu, chopped

3. Pick Your Vegetables

Add 2 of these vegetables or beans, 1 cup each. (To blanch vegetables, boil until crisp-tender, then drain and cool in ice water.)

  • Broccoli florets, blanched
  • Corn kernels, blanched
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Green beans, blanched and chopped
  • Frozen peas or snap peas, blanched
  • Celery, sliced
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Red onion, diced
  • Bell pepper, diced
  • Asparagus, blanched and chopped
  • Canned chickpeas or white beans, drained and rinsed

4. Pick a Mix-In

Add 1/3 cup of any of these ingredients.

  • Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • Roasted red peppers, chopped
  • Olives, pitted and chopped
  • Any cheese, shredded or crumbled
  • Any nut, toasted and chopped
  • Bacon, cooked and crumbled

5. Dress the Salad

Make one of these dressings, then pour over the pasta salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Chill for up to 3 hours.

Vinaigrette

Whisk 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 minced shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.

Creamy Herb

Whisk 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons sour cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup chopped mixed herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic Oil

Cook 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of red pepper flakes in 1/3 cup olive oil over medium heat, stirring, 3 minutes; let cool. Season with salt and pepper.

Creamy Parmesan

Mix 1/4 cup each mayonnaise and sour cream, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon finely grated garlic, 3/4 cup grated parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.

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