A great pasta salad is a beautiful thing. It anchors a picnic, a potluck, a buffet with aplomb. It’s portable, it’s flexible, and easily and often vegetarian, so a great crowd-pleasing offering for anyone who is not eating meat. One of the first things I made for my then-boyfriend’s (now husband’s) parents was a pasta salad, and for whatever reason it really won them over, and became a most-requested dish.
And it’s such a nice way to play around with the vegetables of the season, giving you the chance to keep changing things up all throughout the year. Spring and summer are peak moments to scoop up all of the great produce at the farmers’ market, grab a box of pasta and quickly turn all of it into a crowd pleasing and easy side or main dish. I tend to pack in the vegetables—and the results are beautiful and nicely tilted into the healthy side.
The asparagus and the sugar snap peas get a bit more tender and keep their bright green color after a quick simmer, and the best part is that you can add them right into the pasta at the end of the cooking time, and save a step and an extra pot.
If you chop the leafy greens they will blend into the salad more, but sometimes I like to leaves them whole and have the whole thing be kind of a cross between a pasta salad and a regular salad. This is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but I love it.
You can make this ahead of time, up to 1 day. In a perfect world it’s best to leave the arugula, spinach and basil out, and add them right before serving. Adding the greens at the last minute keeps them from getting wilted and darkening. Also, hold off on the tomatoes: ideally tomatoes never see the inside of a refrigerator, and since you’ll have to refrigerate the salad to keep it fresh (duh), tossing in the tomatoes at the very end will keep them from getting slightly mealy.
If you have made it ahead, let it sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes to take the chill off before serving, so the flavors all come shining on through. Also, if you refrigerated the salad, the pasta will have absorbed the dressing a bit; add an extra drizzle of olive oil, and give it a toss, to get it nice and glisteny again.
More Pasta Salad Recipes:
- Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Herbed Mayonnaise
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- Pasta Salad with Salmon and Creamy Cilantro Dressing
- Pasta Salad with Chicken, Green Olives, and Ramp Vinaigrette
Simple Vegetarian Spring Pasta Salad
- 1 pound dried spiral pasta or cavatappi ziti or fusilli or other pasta salad-friendly shaped pasta
- 2 cups (8 ounces) halved sugar snap peas
- 2 cups 1-inch pieces asparagus
- 2 cups baby or roughly chopped arugula
- 2 cups baby or roughly chopped spinach
- 1 bell pepper red, yellow, or orange, finely diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half, or quarters if larger
- ½ cup sliced scallions
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup chopped shallots
- ½ cup slivered fresh basil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan
- Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions – but one minute before the pasta is tender, add the sugar snap peas and the asparagus. Cook for one minute, then drain the pasta and the vegetables and rinse under cold water. Drain well.
- Place the pasta, sugar snap peas, and asparagus in a bowl with the arugula, spinach, peppers, tomatoes and scallions.
- In a small bowl or container combine the olive oil, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, shallots, basil, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss well to combine. Add the Parmesan and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
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