Picnic Perfect Pasta Salad Recipes


Take your pasta to a whole new level this summer! All you need for a delicious, summer pasta salad is a bit of creativity and your natural instinct for color, flavor and freshness. The variations are endless and the cooking required is minimal. So go to work!

Let’s Talk Ingredients

The best condiments for pasta salads are extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs like basil, parsley and even arugula. To introduce colors and flavors, add fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers. Try them raw, quickly grilled or sautéed in a pan. A classic Italian summer pasta salad contains fresh chopped tomatoes, buffalo or regular fresh mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil added to cooled pasta. Toss up whichever ingredients you like, but follow the season. Each gives us new produce to enjoy! Unlike hot pasta dishes, the ratio of ingredients to pasta is less.

Cook Pasta Just Right

Be sure to cook your pasta very al dente. Remove pasta from cooking water before the suggested cooking time. Drain it and spread it on any clean and fairly large surface that you have, and drizzle some olive oil on top—a large plate or clean kitchen table will do just fine. It will cool down very quickly, especially if you toss it once in awhile, and you will avoid a mushy preparation. For a quicker method, run cold water over the pasta immediately after you have drained it. But only for a few seconds. Any longer will ruin the pasta and leave it mushy!

Whole Wheat, All the Way!

Whole wheat pasta is perfect for creating wonderfully healthy and refreshing salads. Any cut of pasta will do—short pastas, though, are usually preferred because they are more practical for mixing, serving and eating. What we love about our whole wheat pasta is the subtle, toasty flavor it adds to cold salads. And with DeLallo whole wheat, there is no fear of a gritty bite or an overwhelming earthy flavor.

11 Unique Ways to Pasta Salad


#1  Using barbecue leftovers: cut thin slices of leftover grilled chicken breast or tender charcoal-grilled beef with thin slices of peppers, grilled eggplant and sautéed vegetables—such as spinach or chicory—or arugula, and mix with your choice of cooked short pasta. You can add some tomatoes—roasted or raw—and parsley or basil. Toss with extra virgin olive oil and serve room temperature or cold.

Try this grilled vegetable recipe:

#2  Satisfy your summer craving for greens and nourishing whole-wheat short pasta. Five minutes before draining the pasta, add some green beans to the boiling water. When the pasta is al dente, add some cold water to the pot to stop the cooking, then drain and let the mixture cool down in a bowl. Mix in some extra virgin olive oil. Then, add some torn, raw dandelion greens or escarole, chopped onions, dill, parsley and finally lemon juice and thinly chopped lemon zest. For an American variation, add some sour cream, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with dill.

This recipe is so fresh and so green:

#3  This irresistible summer pasta salad features the always winning combination of mozzarella, sopressata (or the salami of your choice), and olives combined with your favorite short pasta—then for the really special touch, add DeLallo’s marinated artichokes and marinated roasted peppers (both cut into bite-sized pieces) and caponata. Apart from the pasta, there is no cooking involved and you can use what you have in the pantry. This is great as an appetizer or as a light main course on a hot summer day.

#4  Fresh ricotta or ricotta salata is a delicious ingredient for pasta, in general. In the summer, you can prepare the pasta ahead of time. Try farfalle, penne or wheel pasta with the ricotta of your choice—adding chopped tomatoes, slices of grilled zucchini, a bit of roasted garlic, pitted and chopped Calamata, Gaeta or Taggiasche black olives. Top it off with basil or a spoonful of DeLallo Pesto, olive oil, salt and pepper.

#5  If you like good-quality canned tuna fish, there are a variety of possibilities. Tuna marries beautifully with olives, capers, anchovies and parsley, for example. You can also mix your pasta and tuna with sliced, raw or grilled yellow and red peppers, green onions, fresh tomatoes and parsley. If you enjoy a little extra crunch and nutty flavor, you can add roasted pine nuts.

The best tuna salad:

#6  Add a little excitement to your picnic pasta salad with cavatappi pasta. Their hollow spiral shape is perfect for scooping up all the goodies we’ve got loaded in this recipe.

#7  We love how pesto really perks up a pasta salad. Featuring springy fusilli, grape tomatoes and our herbaceous basil pesto, this pasta salad recipe will most definitely be talk of the barbecue.

#8  Everything’s better with bow-ties. This cold pasta salad is a colorful combination of briny olives, zesty pickled banana peppers, roasted red pepper, chickpeas… we won’t spoil the whole reveal. Just click for the recipe already!

#9  Inspired by the lemony, bright, bitter and briny flavors of your favorite Greek dishes, this incredible cold pasta salad is like nothing you’ve ever tried. We choose Casarecce pasta to shake things up.

#10  A classic pasta salad in Italy is also one of the simplest: fresh cherry or piccadilly tomatoes, basil, parsley and olives combined with your favorite short cut pasta. Cut plenty of tomatoes in quarters, place them in a colander and sprinkle with sea salt so that they dispel most of their water and seeds. Thirty minutes later, marinate them in a bowl for a few hours in a cool place together with plenty of pitted, chopped olives—green, black or both—copious amounts of chopped parsley, torn basil, extra virgin olive oil, one or two cloves of chopped roasted garlic and black ground pepper or hot chili pepper. Mix the cooked and cooled pasta with the sauce and let it rest for a while before serving.

This is one of our favorite summertime dishes:

Note: There are a few popular variations of this pasta salad, such as the addition of anchovies and capers. Or try this variation: add grilled peppers or eggplant (in the eggplant variation, use fewer olives to avoid bitterness). Also, try adding a generous amount of arugula and cubed mozzarella or Parmesan shavings.

#11 So good, this pasta salad might never make it to the picnic. We load it up with smoky roasted red pepper, pimiento-stuffed green olives and fresh mozzarella tossed with our twisted Tortiglioni pasta. Don’t forget that basil pesto dressing!

NOTE: You should never rinse your pasta unless you are making pasta salad and/or if the recipe says to do so. Click here for some more helpful tips on how to cook pasta perfect every time! 

Need some more inspiration? Check our gallery of recipes!