These easy, crowd-pleasing pasta salads are 5-star favorites.

Summertime is salad time, and pasta salad ranks right up there as one of the season's most popular types of salad. Infinitely customizable, pasta salad is a perfect make-ahead for light meals at home or as a take-along to picnics or potlucks. Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, showed you how to make potato salad, and now she's going to demonstrate how to make the two most popular pasta salads on Allrecipes. One has a vinegar-based dressing and the other has a mayonnaise-based dressing, and they both have hundreds of solid 5-star ratings from our community of home cooks. Watch the video up top and scroll down to get links to the recipes plus Nicole's top tips.

1. Pasta Salad With Vinegar-Based Dressing

Antipasto Pasta Salad
Credit: makmak

Get the recipe for Antipasto Pasta Salad.

"A delicious pasta, meat, and cheese combination with a homemade dressing. It serves a crowd and is great for a picnic." -Dayna

Nicole's Top Tips

  1. Choose a pasta shape that captures and holds the flavorful dressing. Good choices include rotini and shell pastas.
  2. Salt the water well to flavor the pasta as it cooks. Most of the salt will drain away, so don't be shy about salting. Rinse the cooked pasta in cold water to stop the cooking.
  3. The best antipasto-type salads have a variety of textures, flavors, and colors. Nicole likes to use red and green bell pepper, but if you don't like them, you can substitute another ingredient that's crisp and crunchy.
  4. Chop your ingredients into small, evenly sized bits so everything fits nicely on a fork for that perfect bite.
  5. Add chopped parsley to bottled dressing (or any dressing) to freshen up the flavor.
  6. Cover and chill for a couple of hours before serving to let the flavors develop.

2. Pasta Salad With Mayonnaise-Based Dressing

"Whether it's sitting next to some smoky ribs or just a humble hot dog, this deli-style macaroni salad will always be a crowd favorite, as long as you pay attention to a few key details." -Chef John

Nicole's Top Tips

  1. Macaroni is the classic pasta shape for this kind of salad, but you can use small shells if you like.
  2. Nicole likes this recipe because it (like the antipasto pasta salad earlier) incorporates ingredients that gives it lots of color and texture, including a little kick from diced jalapeño and poblano peppers. Remove the seeds and membrane to tamp down the heat.
  3. You can use the dressing from this recipe in your coleslaw, too!
  4. Cover and chill for at least four hours before serving.

Important Food Safety Tip

Whichever salad you make, be sure to keep it chilled when you take it out of the fridge. Any salad that contains cooked food - whether it has a vinegar-based or mayo-based dressing - should not sit out for more than two hours, and even less on a hot day. To avoid bacteria growth that causes food-borne illness, keep pasta salad cool by nestling it in a bed of ice.


You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.

More tips, tricks, and ideas from Nicole: