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Super summer pasta salads

The summer is definitely heating up, and with that is the kitchen. Cooks everywhere are looking for ways to beat the heat, stay within the grocery budget and serve tasty and nutritious food to their family. Cold pasta salad can help.

Cold pasta salads can give needed relief from a hot kitchen.
Cold pasta salads can give needed relief from a hot kitchen.
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Summer pasta salads can really help when the kitchen and cook are feeling the heat.
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When making pasta salad, first decide on the type of pasta you want. There are so many variations; bow tie, spiral, corkscrew, penne, wagon wheels, ziti, shells, macaroni and many more. The key to cooking pasta for salad is to bring a large pot of water to boiling, then add the pasta. Add two tablespoons of salt, then stir the pasta. When the pasta is just tender (not mushy) drain and rinse with cold water. If the pasta sticks together the salad dressing will help loosen it up.

Next is to decide on main ingredients. This can be a type of protein such as cooked cubed chicken or turkey, cubed ham, strips of salami, drained tuna. Another main ingredient can be cooked and drained vegetables such as broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, asparagus, diced or coined carrots. You can use one or more of these ingredients. This is a way to be creative in the kitchen, use up some leftovers and eat seasonally.

This is also the time to consider some raw vegetables for additional crunch. This could be diced celery, chopped onions, diced sweet peppers (additional color when using red, yellow, or orange peppers), summer squash.

Next could be something intense, such as olives, cooked bacon, feta cheese. Use sparingly due to their robust flavor.

Adding some diced green onions and a handful of fresh chopped or minced herbs is going to add to the complex flavors. For herbs, consider parsley, basil, thyme, marjoram, dill, chives, garlic chives.

Last would be to dress the salad. Using an Italian style dressing would be great, as would a simple oil and vinegar combination. Another great way is to just squeeze fresh lemon juice and toss.

Here are a few pasta salads to get you started. Enjoy!

Antipasto Pasta Salad

1 package bow-tie pasta

1/4 pound salami, diced 

1 small green bell pepper, cut into strips

1 jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and
 cut into strips

1 can pitted and sliced large ripe olives, drained

1/2 cup chopped drained pepperoncini peppers - these are bottled
 Italian peppers

1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained

1/2 cup Italian dressing

  • Cook and drain pasta.
  • Rinse with cold water; drain.

  • In large bowl, place pasta and remaining ingredients except dressing.
  • Add dressing; toss gently.

BLT Mac Salad

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

5 green onions, finely chopped

1 large tomato, diced

1 1/4 cups diced celery

1 1/4 cups mayonnaise

5 teaspoons white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled

  • Cook macaroni then drain and rinse in cold water.

  • In a large bowl, combine macaroni, green onions, tomato and celery.

  • In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Pour over macaroni mixture and toss to coat.
  • Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

  • Add bacon just before serving.

Dilly Pasta Salad

2 cups uncooked pasta

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped red or green bell pepper

1/2 cup shredded carrot

3/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar

1 teaspoon dill weed

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon onion salt


Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  • Rinse with cold water; drain again.
  • Add onion, celery, green pepper and carrots; toss.

  • Mix remaining ingredients and gently stir mixture into the pasta.
  • Chill at least one hour before serving to combine flavors.

Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad

12 ounces spiral macaroni, cooked

1/2 bag frozen peas

1/2 cup onion, chopped

3/4 cup cheese, shredded

1 jar ranch dressing

Bacon bits


  • Put peas into a bowl.
  • Drain macaroni then add to peas.
  • Mix all together.
  • Refrigerate overnight.

Tuna Tortellini Pasta Salad

1 package family size
 three cheese tortellini, cooked, rinsed and drained

1/2 pound green beans, cut into small pieces, cooked
 until tender

2 cans (6 ounces each) solid white tuna packed in
 water, drained

1 large tomato, chopped

3/4 cup sliced ripe black olives

4 green onions, sliced

3/4 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3/4 teaspoon celery salt

  • Combine tortellini, green beans, tuna, tomato, olives and green onions in a large bowl.
  • Combine mayonnaise, vinegar and celery salt in a small bowl.
  • Stir mayonnaise mixture into pasta mixture.
  • Season with salt and ground black pepper.
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