Lemony Red Pepper and Asparagus Pasta Salad <br> Photography by Joe Kim Credits: Lemony Red Pepper and Asparagus Pasta Salad <br> Photography by Joe Kim
Planning a picnic or family barbecue anytime soon? Give yourself one less thing to worry about and go for one of our easy pasta salad recipes. It's sure to be a hit!
Pasta salads are great to make ahead, and are absolute tops for large groups. They also take the cake for being an extremely versatile dish – with a host of added ingredients, toppings and dressings, simple pasta salads can go from humble side to star entrée in no time.
We asked Test Kitchen food specialist Amanda Barnier to share some top tips for preparing pasta salads, and why they're a crowd favourite. Here's what she had to share:
Pasta salads: the perfect make-ahead dish
"Pasta salads can easily be prepped in advance and can feed a crowd with little effort," Amanda says. "It can be made in advance and cooled immediately after cooking."
One important tip to remember, she adds, is to "add dressing the day it's being served, because it will quickly absorb the dressing."
Pasta salad favourites
"I like using cheese filled tortellini for a hearty salad. Soba and rice noodles are great with Asian dressings, whole grain and coloured pastas," Amanda says.
How to store pasta salads
"Keep salads well wrapped and refrigerated," she says. "Salad has the same storage life as its ingredients. Seafood is best eaten within 2 days, and chicken (within) 2 to 3 days. If traveling, be sure to store pasta salads in coolers packed with lots of ice."
"Proteins should not be within 4 C and 60 C for longer than a four hour period," she adds.
The long and short of it: best pasta shapes
"Short shapes are best with vinaigrettes and creamy dressings, and chunky ingredients such as chopped vegetables and beans," Amanda says.
"Long pasta shapes are better used with thinly sliced vegetables, proteins, herbs, spices and vinaigrettes."
Tips for making pasta salad
"If making a pasta salad in advance, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and drain well," she advises. "Add dressing just prior to serving. Pasta quickly absorbs liquids; if the dressing is added too soon, the pasta will absorb it."
So whether you prefer chunky pasta salads with a cool, creamy dressing perfect for summer picnics, or entrée-worthy pasta salads with long rice noodles and a tangy vinaigrette, you're sure to find a new favourite with from our collection.
Easy pasta salad recipes:
Lemony Red Pepper and Asparagus Pasta Salad
A bright vinaigrette makes this pasta salad the ultimate dish to serve at any summer party.
Photography by Joe Kim
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
This salad highlights many fresh flavours of the Mediterranean and is at its best when made with good-quality olive oil.
Photography by Jeff Coulson
The Best Macaroni Salad
This is a great keeper salad and perfect for a picnic or BBQ. Just make sure you pack it with plenty of ice packs to keep it nice and cold, both during transportation and at the table.
Photography by Annabelle Waugh
Chicken, Broccoli and Bocconcini Pasta Salad
Make this pasta salad for the whole family—the kids will love the mild dressing and round bocconcini cheese, while the adults will appreciate it as a light alternative to a sandwich.
Photography by Jeff Coulson
More great pasta salad recipes:
Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
This salad is simple to assemble for a quick family meal.
Warm Spinach and Ham Pasta Salad
Dressed with Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar, this penne pasta salad is a winner topped with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes.
Winter Vegetable Pasta Salad
Cook everything together in one pot for this easy warm salad.
Pea, Pepper and Pasta Salad
This make-ahead salad is perfect for toting to a potluck barbecue or picnic. Toss the salad with the dressing right before serving so the peas stay bright green.
Summer Pasta Salad
Serve this light summery salad with crispy, homemade Parmesan Breadsticks.
Mediterranean Fusilli Salad
Fresh basil, hearty beans, piquant sun-dried tomatoes and al dente pasta make the perfect summer salad.
Warm Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
The dressing lends a taste of summer any time of year. The red peppers provide vitamins A and C and potassium. Quick and easy to make, this salad is perfect to take to a last-minute potluck or picnic.
Grilled Sausage, Pepper and Bocconcini Pasta Salad
This delicious pasta salad is made with tasty Italian sausage and lots of colourful peppers.
Bow-Tie Pasta Salad
This easy, colourful salad has the sunny fresh tastes of Greece.
Tuna Pasta Salad
Using tuna packed in both oil and broth means you'll need less oil in the dressing.
Salmon Pasta Salad
Start with melon wedges to whet your appetite for this quick and light dinner.
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad
Grilled market-fresh veggies meet marinated olives and artichokes in this healthy dish made with whole wheat rotini. So chock full with taste and texture, carnivores won't complain about this vegetarian dish.
Party Parmesan Pasta Salad
Try this hearty salad studded with salami, olives, tiny tomatoes, roasted pepper and fresh basil.
Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad
This easy tasty pasta salad is loaded with calcium. Omit the banana peppers if your child is not a fan of hot food.
Deli Pasta Salad
Add 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) extra pasta to the pot at dinner the night before to have enough for this lunchtime salad the next day.
Sirloin Steak with Green Bean Pasta Salad
Sirloin steaks paired with green beans and tomatoes make this salad a hearty entrée.
Looking for more great recipes? Try our best potato salad recipes.
Cherry Icebox Cookies
Any of these traditional cookies are sure to be a hit at your cookie exchange.
These red and green-speckled cookies are the perfect way to spread the festive spirit.
Get the recipe: Cherry Icebox Cookies
Everyone loves chewy toffee and melted chocolate. Mixing the two into a net little shortbread cup is a brilliant way to unite these two decadent treats.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Cups
Canada, meet your new favourite cookie.
Get the recipe: Maple Shortbread
Eggnog is a rich indulgence, and these cookies live up to the name.
Get the recipe: Iced Eggnog Cookies
The holidays wouldn't be complete without sweet, buttery shortbread, so we've perfected a classic.
Get the recipe: The Ultimate Shortbread Cookies
Buttery shortbread gets a warm hug from spiced gingerbread dough in this mash-up of two favourite holiday cookies.
Get the recipe: Two-Tone gingerbread and shortbread cookies
Tested Till Perfect.
Get the recipe: Gingerbread Cookies
Rich dark chocolate and fragrant orange zest make these cookies ultra-sophisticated.
Get the recipe: Dark Chocolate, Orange and Cardamon Icebox cookies
Sweet chocolate chips and crunchy toffee bits give these buttery cookies a festive touch.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Toffee Icebox Cookies
Easy to make and undeniably popular, thumbprint cookies are the perfect no-fuss holiday sweet.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
These cookies may look intricate, but they couldn't be simpler to make.
Get the recipe: Mint Chocolate Chip Icebox Cookies
Cinnamon and sugar make these cookies smell like everyone's favourite holiday breakfast.
Get the recipe: Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Use this classic ginger cookie dough to create four deliciously different ginger cookies.
Get the recipe: Basic Ginger Cookie Dough
Coarse sugar coats these delightful cookies, giving them an icy glow.
Get the recipe: Chewy Ginger Sparkles
Similar to French shortbread cookies called sables, these treats have a slightly sandy texture and rich flavour.
Get the recipe: Double Chocolate Icebox Cookies
Beyond Thanksgiving dessert and carving jack-o’-lanterns, this autumn gourd has a host of health benefits. Here are five ways pumpkins can improve your diet, sleep and skin, plus five easy and nutritious pumpkin recipes.
1. Healthy eyes
Pumpkin is a rich source of beta-carotene—it’s what gives it that rich, vibrant colour. Packed with potent antioxidants, it helps protect your vision from degeneration. Bonus: You’ll also see stronger nails and healthier hair.
2. Glowing skin
Pumpkins are rich in a host of skin-healthy vitamins: the properties from antioxidant-rich vitamin A (retinol) act as a shield for your skin, protecting you from the damaging affects of free radicals; vitamin C helps promote collagen production and renew the skin for a glowing face; and vitamin E improves skin tone.
3. Energy boost
The daily recommended iron intake for women is higher than for men, and as women age or become pregnant, the necessary dose increases. Pumpkins are full of iron, an immunity-boosting mineral that can help ward of illness and fatigue and keep your energy high.
4. Better diet
High in fibre (7 grams per one cup of canned pumpkin) and low in calories (26 calories for 100g), pumpkins can help you stay full longer and keep your digestion on track. The Heart & Stroke association recommends 21 to 38 grams of fibre a day, however most people don’t quite reach half that amount.
5. Improved sleep and mood
Don’t toss the seeds. Raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) are rich in tryptophan (yes, the same snooze-inducing amino acid that kicks in post-turkey dinner) and can help you get more Zs. This compound also supports serotonin, which not only helps you sleep better, but boosts your mood, too.
Whether you use the whole pumpkin, the pulp or the seeds, here are five must-try recipes, ranging from savoury to sweet.
Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup
This silky soup is a mix of traditional sweet and sour Thai flavours and has only 159 calories per serving. It’s guaranteed to be your go-to winter warm-up soup.
Pumpkin Spice Muffins
A muffin is a great grab-and-go treat. Skip the maple cream cheese spread to keep the calorie count (250 calories) low.
Arugula and Pepita Pesto
Add this pesto to salad, soups or over meat. Keeps in the freezer for up to six months.
Almond Pepita Butter
This fragrant nut butter with a mix of almond and pepita is a super-satisfying topper.
Pumpkin Pie Granola
A mix of pepitas, pecans, flaxseeds, puffed rice cereal and a medley of aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, ginger and cloves gives this granola loads of flavour.
From hearty casseroles, to tacos, meatloaves and pasta dishes, we share our favourite ground beef recipes.
Our quick mini lasagnas give you all the cheesy, hearty flavours of classic lasagna, without the time-consuming process of layering.
This tasty recipe is a quick fix when tacos just won't do. There is no rolling involved and each slice has a generous helping of thick enchilada sauce.
East meets West in these tasty little bites. We've doubled up on the spring roll wrappers, which provides extra crunch and prevents the filling from bursting out.
The beef and lentil combination gives the burgers a tender texture, and the jalapeno supplies a spicy kick.
A touch of horseradish adds zesty flair to classic meat loaf. Cooking the onion, celery and garlic before adding them to the mixture means the loaf is tender and evenly flavoured.
This kid-friendly dinner is made with ingredients most people keep on hand in the refrigerator and pantry.
This quick meal packs the addictive flavours of classic beef tacos onto crispy flatbread crusts. Go ahead and customize the recipe using any produce from your fridge.
Spinach adds extra nutrients to these juicy beef meatballs.
This tidy version of a sloppy joe is perfect for small hands. Serve the extra sauce on the side for dipping. Kids with bigger appetites will want to eat two!
Creamy mushroom sauce elevates meat loaf to new heights. A double dose of mushrooms – dried in the loaf and fresh in the sauce – is a dream for mushroom lovers.
Ginger, cumin and curry powder give this beef and rice dish some serioius flavour. This quick meal is perfect for weeknights, as it cooks in 30 minutes.
Layer after scrumptious layer of rich meat sauce, tender pasta and creamy cheese make this lasagna the best you'll ever have.
These bite-size meatballs are tossed in a retro sweet and sour sauce that everyone will love.
All you'll need to make this classic dish is some ground beef, a couple of onions and some pantry staples.
There's no need to choose between shepherd's pie and beef Stroganoff, thanks to this simple skillet dinner, which combines a creamy mushroom-and-beef filling with a smooth, buttery potato topping.
Fifteen minutes of prep time is all you need to make these flavourful muffin meat loaves.
Classic beef tacos are a real crowdpleaser and a family favourite. To feed more people, simply double or triple the recipe.