This creamy pasta salad with mayo is quick, easy to prepare and so delicious! With al dente macaroni and crunchy vegetables dressed in a tangy homemade mayo/sour cream dressing, it's perfect for summer BBQs, picnics or as a simple side dish that everyone will love.
Everyone needs a classic pasta salad recipe in their collection. With a light, creamy homemade salad dressing and packed with crunchy veggies, you will absolutely love the fresh flavours and textures in this one. Whether you pair it as a simple side for a family dinner or take it to share at a BBQ or Christmas celebration, this pasta salad with mayo is ALWAYS a winner!
Why You're Going To Love This Recipe
- Quick and Easy - made with basic pantry staples, this dish is last-minute throw together salad that can be made from ingredients you’ll find in your pantry and fridge.
- The BEST Homemade Salad Dressing that holds on to the pasta perfectly. Made with a mix of mayonnaise and sour cream, it is creamy, but still light.
- Perfect for Entertaining and Feeding a Hungry Crowd - bring it along to your next barbeque or picnic and watch it disappear!
- Better than Store-Bought - it might be easier to buy pasta salad from the shops, but making this version with fresh ingredients and an easy homemade dressing tastes so much better!
- Vegetarian - a great option when catering for vegetarian family and friends.
What You Need
A few simple ingredients from your fridge and pantry are all you need to make this creamy pasta salad!
Note: Please scroll to the recipe card at the bottom for ingredient quantities and the full detailed method.
- Mayonnaise -I suggest using whole egg mayo, like Hellman’s, Praise or Heinz. Full fat mayonnaise is richer and creamier in taste. However, you can substitute for a low fat version if you prefer.
- Sour Cream - helps to lighten the dressing while still adding creaminess.
- Dijon Mustard - adds depth and flavour to the dressing. You can find Dijon mustard in all supermarkets.
- Vinegar- adds that little bit of little tang to balance the creamy dressing. White or apple cider vinegar is recommended, but most kinds of vinegar like white wine vinegar will suit.
- Sugar - caster sugar or white sugar.
- Chives - fresh, chopped.
- Garlic - fresh, powder or store-bought minced.
- Salt and Pepper - are essential seasonings to flavour the salad. Start with a small amount and then season to taste.
- Elbow Pasta or Macaroni - is the perfect pasta for this salad, as its shape clings to the creamy dressing. If using another type of pasta, choose a type with a shape that will hold the dressing, like shells, spirals or even bowtie pasta.
- Vegetables - I use a mix of carrot, capsicum, celery and spring onion for a mix of colours and textures. You could also add some corn, parsley, finely diced brown or red onion or diced cherry tomatoes.
Step by Step Instructions
I love how easy this pasta salad is! Perfect when you need a last-minute side, this recipe only takes 25 minutes to throw together. Let's get started!
Step 1 - Make The Dressing.
Place all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
Step 2 - Cook The Pasta.
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Be careful not to overcook. Drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process.
Add the well drained pasta to a large serving bowl and set aside to cool while you prepare the vegetables.
Step 3 - Add The Vegetables
Add the chopped vegetables to the cooled pasta.
Step 4 - Add The Dressing.
Pour over the dressing and stir to combine. Season with extra salt and pepper, if needed. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until required.
Expert Tips & FAQs
Follow these helpful tips for the BEST pasta salad!
The term 'al dente' comes from an Italian phrase which translates as "to the tooth." When cooked al dente, pasta should be tender but still firm to the bite. If pasta is overcooked, it will become too soft to hold its shape when mixed with other ingredients.
Overcooked pasta will make the salad too soft and mushy. Follow the packet directions as a guide, but the best way to test that pasta is done is to taste it!
Start to test it 1-2 minutes before the end cooking time on the packet. Once pasta is al dente, immediately drain and run under a cold tap to stop the cooking process and remove the starch from the pasta.
For pasta salad, small pieces of pasta with plenty of nooks and crannies to hold the dressing is ideal. Elbow pasta, often referred to as macaroni, is a great choice, but penne, spirals, bowtie or shells can also be used.
To avoid bland pasta salad, start seasoning from the beginning. Add salt to the pasta water while cooking. Once the salad is ready, be sure to taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
Store this salad in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It is best when eaten at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge around 30 minutes before serving.
Yes! Place the pasta salad into a good quality, airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months. To thaw, place it in the fridge overnight or allow it to thaw at room temperature for a few hours (don’t microwave). Then stir well.
Need a tasty salad or side dish for next summer BBQ, picnic or celebration? These delicious recipes are sure to impress!
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Creamy Pasta Salad
For The Dressing
- ¾ cup whole egg mayonnaise see notes
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tbs vinegar white or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbs dijon mustard
- 2 tsp sugar caster sugar or white sugar
- 1 tbs fresh chives chopped
- ½ tsp garlic powder or minced garlic
- salt and pepper to season
For The Salad
- 250 g dry macaroni pasta or any other small dry pasta
- 1 red capsicum small, finely diced
- 1 carrot medium, grated
- 1 celery stalk finely diced
- 1 spring onion stem green onions, chopped finely
- Place all of the dressing ingredients into a bowl, stir well to combine and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a large pinch of salt and cook the pasta as per the packet directions.
- Drain the pasta and run it under cold water to cool. Drain well again, then place in a large bowl.
- Add the chopped capsicum, carrot, celery and spring onions to the pasta.
- Pour over the dressing and stir to combine.
- Season with extra salt and pepper if needed.
- Set the pasta salad aside for 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to develop.
- Keep any leftovers stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. For best results, allow the salad to come to room temperature before serving.
- Don’t overcook the pasta - overcooked pasta will make the salad too soft and mushy. Follow the packet directions as a guide, but the best way to test that pasta is done is to taste it! Start to test it 1-2 minutes before the end cooking time on the packet. Once pasta is al dente, immediately drain and run under a cold tap to stop the cooking process and remove the starch from the pasta.
- Choose the right size and shape of pasta - for pasta salad, small pasta with plenty of nooks and crannies to hold the dressing is ideal. Macaroni is a great choice, but penne, spirals, bowtie or shells can also be used.
- Season the pasta - to avoid bland pasta salad, start seasoning from the beginning. Add salt to the pasta water while cooking. Once the salad is ready, be sure to taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
- Storage - store this salad in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It is best when eaten at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge around 30 minutes before serving.
- To freeze - place the pasta into a good quality, airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months. To thaw, place it in the fridge overnight or allow it to thaw at room temperature for a few hours (don’t microwave). Then stir well.