Since the season of hot sunny days and poolside shindigs came and went in what feels like just the blink of an eye, how about we enjoy the last licks of summer with the secret formula for making a vibrant pasta salad recipe loaded with an assortment of fresh vegetables, herbs, and punchy flavor? (Thank you for your service, Dijon mustard.) This August and onward, it’s all about the #PastaSaladSummer. Ready to dig right in?
The secret formula for making the perfect pasta salad
According to Kyra Selner, the culinary manager for legendary Dijon mustard company Grey Poupon, the secret to making a perfectly well-balanced pasta salad boils down to (pun intended) one simple equation and a few key ingredients.
First and foremost, Selner recommends using a small pasta shape. Preferably one that scoops and holds dressing (or sauces) well. Our top-tested recommendations are as follows:
- Giadzy’s Nodi Marini pasta, whose curling “sailor’s knots” are a great match for flavorful ragus, chunky sauces, and pasta salads alike
- 3 Farm Daughters’ penne and rotini pasta, which are both made from premium non-enriched wheat flour and durum wheat semolina and pack nine grams of fiber per serving.
- Another option is orecchiette, whose cup-like shape is optimal for grasping pasta salad dressing. “The orecchiette pasta shape is my favorite for pasta salad because the little pockets in the noodle hold the delicious vinaigrette so well,” Selner says.
Next, Selner says you’ll want to add in fresh herbs, some of your favorite summertime fruits or veggies (three different ones offer a good amount of variety per bite), one source of protein (plant-based or not), one crumbly cheese, and a sweet and tangy vinaigrette (made with a dash of Grey Poupon’s Dijon mustard, obvi). In sum, the formula for the perfect pasta salad is: a small pasta shape + fresh herbs + one protein + three veggies + one crumbly cheese + a vinaigrette. Chef’s. Freaking. Kiss.
In sum, the formula for the perfect pasta salad is: a small pasta shape + fresh herbs + one protein + three veggies + one crumbly cheese + a vinaigrette
Then when it comes to the vinaigrette, Selner recommends something effortless and classic. “The Grey Poupon vinaigrette is simple, showcasing our mustard by combining it with honey, olive oil, and rice wine vinegar,” she says. Of course, the start of this dressing is a touch of Grey Poupon is the perfect base for a vinaigrette. “Its peppery taste and acidic flavor make your mouth salivate,” she says. Not to mention, Dijon mustard helps emulsify the ingredients in a vinaigrette for a smooth and creamy texture.
A quick note about the vinaigrette: The dressing-to-salad ratio will depend on the moisture of the ingredients, Selner says. For example, tomatoes have a lot of moisture (and therefore will need less dressing), while asparagus has low moisture (which means more dressing).
How to make the most of the season’s harvest using pasta salads as the base
There are undoubtedly an endless number of ways of making pasta salad. However, leading with the seasons is one of our favorite ways to dream up the perfect recipe, making pasta salads perfect for summer and year-round.
In the summertime, when farmers’ markets are in full swing, pasta salads more than likely will be packed with the season’s produce, like corn, cucumber, tomatoes, asparagus, and zucchini, as featured in Grey Poupon’s summer pasta salad recipe. “I selected asparagus and cherry tomatoes as the perfect summer veggies and included red grapes for little pops of sweetness throughout the salad,” Selner says. Meanwhile, she says the feta cheese adds a creamy texture, and the herbs bring out the brightness of the vinaigrette. (It’s also packed with 15 grams of protein per serving, BTW.)
But in the fall, the perfect pasta salad might include beets, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, apples, or broccoli. That’s to say: Pasta salad summers can easily become pasta salad winter, spring, (summer), or fall… all you have to do is call.
Grey Poupon’s Summer Pasta Salad
Yields 8 servings
2 cups orecchiette pasta
2 cups cut-up fresh asparagus spears (1-inch lengths)
2 Tbsp Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 Tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan as directed on the package, adding asparagus to the boiling water for the last two minutes.
2. Meanwhile, beat mustard, vinegar, honey, and salt in a small bowl with a whisk until blended. Gradually whisk in oil.
3. Drain pasta mixture; place in a large bowl. Add mustard mixture and all remaining ingredients; toss to coat the pasta ingredients with the mustard mixture evenly.
4. Refrigerate for several hours or until chilled.
Pro tip: According to Selner, one quick and easy way to simplify this simple pasta salad recipe is by using a fully-cooked rotisserie chicken from your local supermarket. “It makes a great shortcut when you need cooked chicken for recipes,” she says. “If you are not using the chicken immediately, cut it into pieces and store it in tightly covered containers in the refrigerator for up to three days.”
An easy 30-minute, gluten-free pasta recipe:
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