3 To-die-for pasta salads

When I was growing up, pasta salads were never my favorite thing to eat on the picnic table. They were always so loaded with Miracle Whip and mayo, you could never actually taste the ingredients. Now pasta salads are one of my favorite delicacies, but that’s because I make them decadent while still highlighting the fresh produce and the amazing pasta.

Many people have this idea that decadent means fatty, overwhelming and totally sinful. Which I get, but guess what — that’s not always the case. You can have rich dishes that don’t weigh you down. That’s why I love these sexy little pasta dishes. Each one is insanely decadent but still tastes light and almost refreshing. They are totally the best of both worlds.

1. Spicy harissa pasta salad recipe

Spicy harissa pasta salad

Serves 6


  • 8 ounces rotini pasta, cooked
  • 3-4 tablespoons spicy red harissa paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped olives
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish


  1. In a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and cherry tomatoes. Cook for about 4 to 5 more minutes or until softened. Mix in the harissa sauce, salt and pepper.
  2. Remove from heat, and toss with the pasta. Stir in the olives and Parmesan, garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately.

2. Crunchy Mexican spiced salad recipe

Crunchy Mexican spiced salad

Serves 8


  • 4 cups cooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup enchilada sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 chorizo sausages, cooked and chopped
  • 1 corn muffin, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup chopped tortilla chips


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, tomatoes, cucumber, jalapeño and green onions. Stir in the enchilada sauce, and mix in the cheddar cheese.
  2. Add the sausage, and stir to combine.
  3. Sprinkle the muffin over the salad, and add additional cheese to garnish. Sprinkle with tortilla chips.

3. Avocado bacon ranch pasta salad recipe

Avocado bacon ranch pasta salad

Serves 6


  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 packet ranch seasoning
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 avocado, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped avocado
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the ranch seasoning, mayonnaise and milk. Chill the dressing for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the avocado, dill, mozzarella cheese, bacon and macaroni. Once the ranch dressing has chilled, pour it over the pasta mixture, toss to combine, and serve.

More pasta salad recipes

Bruschetta pasta salad
Asian pasta salad
BLT pasta salad


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