Summer Staple: Cold Pasta Salads!

August 18, 2020

Let’s talk about a summer staple: pasta salads as a meal or a side. If your idea of pasta salad starts and ends with elbow macaroni, break your habit occasionally with one of these summer sensations using hearty tortellini, penne, orzo or soba noodles! 

Hearty Mediterranean Salads

One of the best things about this Tuscan Tortellini Salad recipe from Delish is the swapping possibilities. While this simple salad uses spinach, salami, sundried tomatoes and Parmesan, you could use kale, bacon, fresh cherry tomatoes and Pecorino instead. And the easy vinaigrette – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and salt/pepper – is a simple, but perfect dressing complement. Real Simple has a version, too, with asparagus, basil and lemon zest that looks substantial and rich, with caramelized shallots.

We’re still in the general vicinity of Tuscany with this Real Simple recipe for Grilled Mediterranean Pasta. To twisty campanelle pasta that are doused with a balsamic dressing, you’ll add crispy cubes of halloumi cheese, grilled vegetables, and fresh oregano. And while the recipe calls for zucchini, bell peppers, and red onion, a wide variety of veggies will do – including off-the-vine tomatoes, or grilled eggplant or mushrooms.

EVOO and Mayo Dressings

Leave it to Rachael Hartley to come up with a garlicky spinach and penne recipe with white beans, walnuts, feta, anchovies and EVOO – extra virgin olive oil. For the uninitiated, according to, extra-virgin olive oil is made from pure, cold-pressed olives, whereas regular olive oil is a blend, including both cold-pressed and processed oils. EVOO is made by grinding olives into a paste, then applying pressure to extract the oil. There’s no heat involved, hence the “cold-pressed” label you’ll see at the grocery stores.

Summer’s the right time for orzo with mint and this salad from Giada de Laurentiis at the Food Network takes advantage of summer veggie and herb bounty for her recipe. Setting aside a homemade red wine vinaigrette (made with EVOO) for a moment, Giada combines garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes, red onion, basil and mint with her orzo and serves it all at room temperature.

Real Simple has an orzo salad recipe with red wine vinegar, too – but with roasted tomatoes, Dijon, honey, parsley and Parmesan.

Ree Drummond is picky about her pasta salads and says, “Macaroni salad is a religion to me.” She likes a “confetti of wonderfulness coloring the whole mix with flavor, spice and texture.” The Pioneer Woman’s best/favorite recipe for pasta salad uses mayo, plus red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, roasted red peppers, milk, black olives, green onions and pickles – dill or sweet, your choice. 

Innovative and Exotic Pasta Salads 

One of the most popular macaroni salads in Japan is this recipe from Cookpad combining macaroni, squares of sliced ham, chopped boiled eggs, thinly sliced cucumber and onion, and sweet corn kernels, with Japanese mayo. Japanese mayonnaise is made with only egg yolks and so richer compared to “Western mayo” which uses the entire egg. And it’s typically made with rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

Soba noodles grab the dressing in this recipe and hold on for an exotic ride. Made from white miso, coconut milk, mirin, sesame oil, seeds and lots of broccolini, scallions and unsweetened coconut chips. The recipe from Real Simple has a combination of flavors – nutty and rich. To make this a meal, just add a bit of shredded cooked chicken or poached shrimp – plus a bit of avocado. Despite its name, buckwheat is the main ingredient in soba noodles which is actually a gluten-free seed. So, for those of you spurning gluten, dig in!

Year-Round in Southshore

Pasta salad is a staple for home chefs in Southshore – to add as a side to family barbecues – and it’s grilling season throughout this exclusive master-planned community adjacent to the Aurora Reservoir. Set up an appointment to tour the models built by Colorado’s finest home builders –  brand new homes from Taylor Morrison, Richmond American Homes and Toll Brothers. Life at the Lake offers floor plans for ranch and two-story designs, priced between the $400s and the $700s, and close to all the essentials you’ll ever need.