Lemony Red Pepper and Asparagus Pasta Salad <br> Photography by Joe Kim Image by: 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.
Getty Images Image by: Getty Images
Pick out one of these international cookie recipes to make for this year's cookie exchange.
Snowy white cookies, double-rolled in icing sugar, melt in your mouth and, if you don't watch out, will deliciously dust your holiday outfit.
Get the recipe: Walnut White Chocolate Snowball Cookies
These beautiful cookies make for an elegant holiday gift. Bake them in small batches, keeping a watchful eye so they don't brown too quickly. To achieve the delicate curved shape, drape the cookies over a rolling pin while still warm.
Get the recipe: Crispy Maple Coconut Tuiles
Crystallized ginger and shredded coconut add a delightful twist to this traditional Jewish cookie. The savoury cream cheese dough complements the sweet jam filling, which caramelizes nicely as the pastries bake.
Get the recipe: Ginger and Coconut Rugelach
These crescent-shaped cookies of German origin are elegant with a drizzle of chocolate. Or dip half in chocolate or dust with icing sugar.
Get the recipe: Butterhorns
The special press needed to shape these unique cookies is easily found in kitchenware stores. You'll want to lightly grease it before using to prevent sticking. Give this Italian cookie recipe a try at your next family get-together.
Get the recipe: Pizzelle
These chewy cookies, with their spicy dough and brandy-tinged filling, are fun and impressive. Use the lightest-coloured figs you can find.
Get the recipe: Fig Pinwheels
These fragrantly spiced cookies originatefrom Holland, where they are enjoyed at the feast of Sinterklaas (S. Nicholas, a Dutch holiday character).
Get the recipe: Spiced Speculaas
These white cookies are truly pop-in-your-mouth delicious. If you like, roll them in more icing sugar for a thicker coat.
Get the recipe: Snowball Cookies
Traditionally served during the holidays and Chinese New Year, these crumbly melt-in-your-mouth cookies have three layers of almond flavour. Ground almonds add a hint of crunch, almond extract lends a sweet aroma and whole almonds make for a pretty garnish.
Get the recipe: Chinese Almond Cookies
Each of these almond shortbreads is studded with a whole clove, a symbol of the Magi's gift of spices to the Christ Child. Kourambiedes are served in the Greek community not only at Christmas, but also christenings, weddings, name days — in fact, at all festive occasions.
Get the recipe: Kourambiedes
These jam-filled sandwich cookies are based on one of Austria's most famous desserts, the Linzertorte. For soft, chewy cookies, assemble a day in advance. For crispier cookies, sandwich the same day as serving.
Get the recipe: Linzer Cookies
Rugalahs are one of the most requested Hanukkah cookies, now popular year-round. When the nut and fruit crescents bake, they ooze ever so slightly, and this rich filling gets crisp and caramel-like around the crescents.
Get the recipe: Rugalahs
This traditional Jewish holiday cookie gets a flavour makeover with the addition of chocolate malt and almonds.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Malted Rugalach
Get the recipe: Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti
These tender, shortbread-like dulce de leche--filled sandwich cookies are popular in South and Central America.
Get the recipe: Mini Alfajores
Melted chocolate transforms classic madeleines into a truly exquisite treat. For the best texture, enjoy them the same day they're made.Get the recipe: Chocolate Almond Madeleines
These crispy cookies are far easier to make than you might think, thanks to our simple shaping trick (hint: it involves the rim of a glass!). Write your own personalized messages on notepaper and fold them into the cookies for a heartwarming end to a festive meal.
Get the recipe: Festive Fortune Cookies
These sweet and buttery cake-like cookies have slightly crisp outsides and perfectly tender centres. You'll find madeleine pans—the seashell-shaped moulds that give these French treats their signature shape—in specialty baking stores.
Get the recipe: Orange Blossom Madeleines
We spoke (and ate) with one of Canada’s favourite celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and restaurateurs about eggs and one of this season’s biggest trends in holiday entertaining.
Turns out, even top notch celebrity chef (and new mom!) Lynn Crawford is looking for new ways to celebrate with friends and pull out the entertaining stops and still find time to cook her signature dishes—all without going crazy. The solution? Brunch. This beloved morning meal might just be the new cocktail party for entertaining this holiday season.
“Making brunch doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Crawford. Given the trend of simplifying and streamlining, it makes sense that some of our cooking and entertaining styles shift from night to day. Hosting or going to brunch “doesn’t eat into your day,” says Crawford, and it still gives both parties those extra pre-party hours everyone covets. If you’re cooking brunch at home, Lynn advises to pick dishes that can easily be made ahead of time or whipped up quickly, like her Spicy Chorizo and Tomato Frittata with Pepper Jack Cheese, which she had breezily mixed together moments before we arrived for this interview.
Since we’re all looking to trim budgets, brunch is an affordable option that doesn’t skimp on flavour or fun—since it’s a shorter window of time, you tend to eat and drink way less. But, that doesn’t mean the menu will be boring, and don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for cocktails, too! Brunch is a moveable feast and can be as intimate or jam-packed as you want. Lynn recommends starting sometime after 11:00 A.M. but cautions that brunch isn’t something you should ever have to set an alarm for.
Try Lynn’s make-ahead frittata:
Preparing this delicious frittata during the holidays has become a Crawford Christmas tradition. It is a perfect dish for brunch, lunch, dinner or even a late night snack on cold snowy nights. Frittatas can easily be made ahead of time, saving you from spending the whole night in the kitchen. Plus, they’re great to make for a potluck dinner—this recipe will feed a crowd and the dish is easily transportable.
SPICY CHORIZO & TOMATO FRITTATA WITH PEPPER JACK CHEESE
8 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
2 chorizo sausage, casings removed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cup pepper Jack cheese, grated
¼ cup parsley and cilantro leaves
Preheat oven to 375*F. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic, onion, peppers and chorizo. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion and peppers are soft and the chorizo is completely cooked thru. Add the eggs and tomatoes and stir together. Sprinkle the cheese on top and place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until egg has set and cheese has melted. Top with cilantro and parsley leaves.