One thing I love about the warmer months is Salads! We are no longer craving the hearty sustenance that we craved all winter but are longing for lighter, fresher flavors and ways to really incorporate as much of the fresh produce available at this time of year as we can!
I am a person who enjoys salads any time of year, but in the summer months we can get a bit more inventive with them, and pasta salads are a wonderful way to do that. A tiny bit heartier than a bit of lettuce and cucumber they go really well with all of our BBQ's, Picnics, Pot Lucks and outdoor eating!
Today I am sharing some of my absolute favorite pasta salads, each one designed to bring some flavor and flair to all of your warm weather meals! Quick, easy and yes, delicious!
Be sure to scroll down to the bottom to read all of my hints and tips for making this the best pasta salad season ever!
TURKEY, SOUR CHERRY, & ALMOND PASTA SALAD - This is a lovely main dish salad. I like to use farfalle (bowtie)pasta for this, whole wheat if I can get it It has the perfect shape to use in a pasta salad. Nice and open, but with a few little pleats to hold in the dressing.
And the dressing for this salad is delicious. A homemade poppy seed dressing that is lovely and tangy from fresh lemon juice, with a bit of punch from Dijon mustard and sweetness from creamy honey.
The salad itself boasts the inclusion of cubed cooked turkey breast. You could also use chicken if you don't have any turkey. Also in the mix are dried sour cherries for a bit of sweet tartness, sharp red onions, crunchy celery and salted almonds . . . and creamy tangy Gorgonzola cheese.
ITALIAN PASTA SALAD - This fabulous salad is a small batch salad designed to feed only two people, but can be very easily multiplied to feed more! Italian Pasta Salad is actually a pretty versatile salad. Basically you can add any Italian style ingredients you wish. I used a hard Italian Salami in this version, but you could also use bite sized bits of pepperoni!
Bocconcini, fresh peppers, basil, parsley, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, artichokes, salami and a punchy Italian dressing complete the picture. You will want to use a nice corkscrew type of pasta that helps to hug in all of that tasty dressing!
BACON & TOMATO PASTA SALAD - All the flavors of your favorite toasted sandwich in a delicious salad! With fresh cherry tomatoes, crisp bacon, spring onions and celery.
Mix that with some fusilli and a punchy creamy dressing and you have a salad combination that goes with just about anything!
GREEK PASTA SALAD - This delicious salad embodies all of the elements of a good Greek Salad with fresh crisp cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, plenty of parsley and a delicious red wine herbed dressing.
Oh, and pasta twists, which while not exactly traditional, make this a fabulously tasty and hearty salad! Don't have pasta twists? Use any other pasta that will work to hug all of that fabulous red wine herby dressing and hold it close!!
TEX MEX PASTA SALAD - with red and yellow cherry tomatoes, red onions, peppers, sweet corn, avocado, coriander and black beans! Add a zippy Tex Mex dressing and Bob's your Uncle! This salad goes well with all of your BBQ favorites!
I love to use Farfalle for this one. Add some cubed cooked meat or cheese and you can easily turn this fabulous salad into a delicious main dish salad!
PASTA SALAD WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS & TOMATOES - This is a beautiful salad which I like to make each year which showcases this lovely vegetable beautifully. I quite simply adore roasted asparagus, and it shines in this simple and quick salad, which also contains roasted cherry tomatoes, and al dente farfalle pasta.
I make a simple dressing for it by mixing some lemon mayonnaise, ranch dressing and a bit of fresh basil pesto. Tossed together and garnished with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese you would be hard pressed to find a tastier salad!
CREAMY MACARONI SALAD - this simple salad which dresses up well with a bit of crunch and colour, which you get from the liberal use of fresh vegetables here . . . celery, carrots, radishes, onion and peppers . . .
The dressing for this tasty salad is not overly mayonnaise-y . . . it's lightened a bit with the use of salad cream, and some fresh and tangy lemon juice, with just a hint of sugar to counteract the tartness of the lemon so that it doesn't smack you in the face and make your jaws ache.
BUFFALO CHICKEN PASTA SALAD - This really is an excellent chicken salad. It does pack a bit of a punch. I only add the smaller amount of hot pepper sauce. (I used Chiloula) It is plenty hot with that, but if you are a lover of really hot and spicy, do add more!
In addition there is plenty of crunch from the use of celery & carrot and some sharpness from chopped spring onions. An added creaminess comes from a hint of blue cheese. This is a great way to showcase leftover cooked chicken in a most delicious way!
PASTA SALAD PRIMAVERA - An old weight watchers favorite salad with plenty of fresh vegetables . . . cauliflower, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and red onions . . . chopped fresh basil.
There are as many vegetables in this tasty salad as there is pasta but you won't miss it. Its fabulously tasty with a beautiful punchy homemade Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese!
MACARONI COLESLAW - A delicious mash-up of two summer classics, this Macaroni Coleslaw is loaded with plenty of texture and great flavors!
Not to mention crunch! I do love crunch in a salad, don't you? I also love color! This tasty combination can be as colorful as you like, depending on the coleslaw mix that you use.
FIVE RULES TO FOLLOW WHEN MAKING PASTA SALADS
1. Always make sure to use the right type of pasta shape for your particular salad. This depends on the dressing you are using. A vinaigrette dressing is suited to almost any shape, but if you are using a creamy dressing you will want to use a pasta which will hug onto and hold the dressing.
2. Take care not to over cook the pasta, or under cook the pasta. Remember your pasta will absorb some of the dressing and soften a bit upon standing, so you want your pasta to be cooked just to al dente. Crunchy under-cooked pasta is never good any time. Follow the directions included on your package of pasta to get it right!
3. Make sure you season your pasta right, which means cooking it in salted boiling water, and then tasting it when its done. If you think it needs a bit more salt or pepper then add it. Just be careful not to add too much. You cannot remove what is already done.
4. Unless otherwise directed do not dress your pasta salads while the pasta is still warm. Warm pasta will soak up all of your dressing and leave you with a dry pasta salad. You can add half of the dressing while it is still warm, but hold off on adding the remainder until the salad is completely cold.
5. Take care not to make your salad too far in advance or you will end up with a bowl of soggy pasta. Making it on the day you are actually going to serve it is a great rule of thumb to follow.
If you follow these five rules there is no reason why your pasta salads can not all be delicious and popular at any gathering!
One final rule, less is more! Don't be tempted to go overboard with either the dressing or the add ins!
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