Easy Creamy Pasta Salad: A Picnic Classic

Like picnics, but hate the headaches? Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Try my easy, creamy pasta salad recipe. It is super easy and anyone can make it!

It’s picnic and potluck season!

And I get it… gatherings of any sort can be really stressful. It could be a family reunion of people you haven’t seen in years. Maybe it’s a church function for a time of fellowship. It could just be a potluck with friends. I don’t know what goes on with your summers, but you are bound to go to one at some point this season!

I think we’ve all had one occasion where we volunteer to bring something for a picnic or potluck, thinking that it would be super simple and easy to make. But once you are halfway through the recipe, you realize that it is going to take a lot longer than you expected! Being a lover of cooking, I have bitten off more than I could chew on more occasions than I am willing to admit. 

Or the exact opposite happens… you volunteer to bring something, anything, only to realize you have no idea what to bring.

If these haven’t happened to you before, consider yourself lucky. I mean, it’s not the end of the world, but either situation can be stressful.

Today, I’ve got a recipe with no surprises: an easy creamy pasta salad!

Creamy pasta salad is a no-brainer picnic classic. Cutting up ingredients and making pasta is the most work that you will need to do! Well, that and making the hard-boiled eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are easy enough to make but if you are really pressed for time, you can usually buy them at the grocery store.

But after that, it’s just throwing everything in a bowl, mixing it around, and letting it chill until the event!

There are a bazillion recipes for pasta salad on Pinterest (believe me, I counted!). Y’know what I didn’t see a lot of, however, was a standard creamy pasta salad. This is the kind of pasta salad I grew up with! And now I get to share it with you. 🙂

My recipe has broken down pasta salad to its main components:

1. Pasta, obviously: Do not use strand pasta, large shells, or stars. Get some sort of pasta in the middle, like elbow macaroni or rotini.

2. Meat: not essential, but your typical pasta salad will have a pre-cooked meat like ham cubes or pepperoni. The meat will add flavor, texture, and protein. If you want a vegetarian option, use hard-boiled eggs. I will be using both ham and eggs. Why? Because it’s tasty!

3. Vegetables: Use vegetables that have a crunch and can be served raw, like celery and/or bell peppers. Steer clear of soft vegetables that are susceptible to liquid damage, like spinach and mushrooms. Tomatoes, as I used in my recipe, are the exception to this rule.

4. Dressing: There has to be some sort of liquid, sauce, or paste that holds everything together. If you want a light pasta salad, consider leaving out the mayo and use an oil/vinegar base instead. It won’t stick together, though, so weigh your options.


But Gem, how do I make this recipe gluten free?

That is very simple: use gluten free pasta, my dear reader! Pasta is the only ingredient in this recipe that contains gluten, so this switch out will be very easy.

The only thing about gluten free pasta is that it doesn’t make for very good leftovers. It has a tendency to get dry and hard, even when it is sitting in liquid. Use a brand of pasta that you know, like, and trust. And don’t go home with any because you will be very disappointed come the next day!

Oh! And one last thing before I give you my pasta salad recipe. Cut your meat, vegetables, and other additives to the size of the pasta you are using, if not smaller. If you have elbows in your pasta salad, having half-inch chunks of ham and peppers are going to overpower the flavor of everything else in the dish.

Trust me on that one. I have made that mistake on more than one occasion!

Anyway! Make the next potluck you go to easier. Whip up some pasta salad and don’t forget to use #fdlfoods so I can see it at your next picnic!

Cheers dears!


Easy Creamy Pasta Salad

Like picnics, but hate the headaches? Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Try my pasta salad recipe. It is super easy and anyone can make it!

Yields: 1 potluck-sized bowl of pasta salad

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni or rotini pasta
  • 1 pt. grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • Cut these items into 1/4" inch cubes:
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 3/4 cup cubed ham
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 7 oz. (approx. 1 1/2 cup) cheddar cheese

Prepare pasta as instructed on the box for al dente pasta. Drain and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except cheese. Chill for at least two hours.

Mix in cheese before serving. Enjoy.

  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Total time: 2 hours 25 minutes

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