Recipes Cold Pasta Salad

A cold pasta salad is one of those dishes that is not only delicious but feels distinctly healthy and nutritious.  They can be served as a main course, as a side to something like a grilled meat straight off the barbecue and are perfect as picnic food.  A pasta salad is also a good way of using up leftover ingredients such as cooked meats, salad ingredients and store cupboard staples including that nearly empty packet of dried pasta shapes.  Pasta by itself is quite dull so the dressings are all important, bringing together all the different component parts into a unified whole.

SUNSHINE PASTA SALAD, Serves 4 as a side.

This version of a classic pasta salad takes inspiration from the Mediterranean, Greece in particular, and is best eaten outside in the sunshine perhaps as part of a family picnic.  Cooked pasta is marinated overnight in a herb-infused dressing before the rest of the salad ingredients are added at the time of serving.  Try and use fresh herbs as dried ones won’t have the same impact and don’t hold back on the quantities.

Dried Pasta, whatever you have.

For the marinade:
Small handfuls of fresh Basil, Oregano, Parsley and Mint, all chopped together.
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
3 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Wine Vinegar (White, Red, Cider, Sherry, whatever)
Sea Salt and Black Pepper

For the salad:
1 Red Pepper, chopped roughly
1 Green Pepper, chopped roughly
2 Large Tomatoes, de-seeded, chopped roughly
Handful of Olives (whatever you can get / afford)
100g Feta Cheese, broken into chunks
Olive Oil
Extra Wine Vinegar
Sea Salt and Pepper

1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
2. When cooked and while still hot, add the marinade ingredients and allow to cool.  Leave for several hours or overnight.
3. When ready to serve, combine all the salad ingredients with the pasta and mix well.
4. Adjust the dressing with a little extra wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning.

– Wonderful served with grilled chicken, eaten outside in the sun with a nice glass of chilled dry white wine.
– Try and stick to roughly a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar when making the marinade.
– The pasta will keep marinating in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.
– Vary the herbs in the marinade but avoid ‘woody’ ones like Rosemary or Thyme that could overpower the dish.
– Vary the salad ingredients too.  Try de-seeded and chopped cucumber, artichoke hearts, blanched broccoli or sliced radish.

THAI BEEF SALAD, Serves 2 as a main.

While pasta is not a typically far-eastern ingredient, it can be used to great effect when paired with some oriental herbs and spices.  The measurements here are deliberately vague in this version as it’s a case of ‘use what you have’.

Dried pasta, your choice, cooked according to the packet instructions.
Sirloin or Rump steak, cut into thin strips.
Mushrooms, your choice, sliced or whole, as you like.

For the pasta salad:
Cucumber, roughly chopped into 1cm cubes
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Spring Onions (Scallions), roughly chopped.
1/2 Green Pepper, chopped finely
1/2 Red Pepper, chopped finely
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan.
Beansprouts, Baby Corn, blanched French Beans, sliced Radish, blanched Broccoli

For the dressing:
1 red chilli, chopped finely.
2 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tsp Fish sauce
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
3 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 tbsp Coriander
1 tsp crushed Black Pepper corns
A squeeze of lime juice

1. Combine the cooked pasta with all the salad ingredients and mix well.
2. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jam-jar and shake to emulsify.
3. In a very hot pan or wok, throw in the strips of beef with a little seasoning.
4. Stir fry for absolutely no longer than a minute.
5. Remove, add a splash of soy to the beef and allow to rest for a couple more minutes.
6. Meanwhile, throw the mushrooms into the pan and cook for one or two minutes.  You may need to add a teaspoon of oil if it’s too dry.
7. After cooling slightly, add the beef and mushrooms to the salad along with the toasted sesame seeds and mix well.
8. Add the dressing while the beef and mushrooms are still hot and give everything a final toss.  Don’t forget to taste as the salad may need final adjustments of oil, soy or vinegar.  There should be a nice combination of sweet, sour and salty flavours.

– Cooked noodles will work just as well instead of the pasta.
– Use as much chilli as you dare.  The amount of chilli mentioned here is enough to give a slight background heat.  Thai food tends to be quite hot but adapt to suit your own taste.


A good friend of mine, Julie, came up with this simple, delicious and colourful pasta salad. 

Dried Pasta, cooked according to the packet instructions then rinsed under cold water.
1/2 Green Pepper, finely chopped
1/2 Red Pepper, finely chopped
1/2 Yellow Pepper, finely chopped
Cucumber, de-seeded and roughly chopped.
Cherry tomatoes halved.
1 tin tuna
2 eggs, hard-boiled, very roughly chopped.

Red Onion Dressing:
1/2 red onion, sliced very thinly.
2-3 tbsp Red wine vinegar
5-6 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Combine the red onion with all the other dressing ingredients and allow to sit for at least half and hour.
2. Add all the salad ingredients to a bowl and mix well.
3. Add the dressing to the pasta salad and toss, making sure everything is coated.
4. Taste before serving to ensure it is seasoned well and the flavours are nicely balanced.

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