Pasta Salad

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When the weather warms up, it’s time for the sides to cool down.

I’ve always enjoyed pasta salad from the deli. This recipe nails the slightly sweet dressing of traditional macaroni salad, and with a grilled chicken breast, shrimp, or portabella mushrooms makes a great meal. I vary the vegetables and pasta shape depending on what’s on hand.

Today I had some bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and black olives. Other times it may be a carrot, celery, or broccoli. Let it chill for at least four hours to allow the full flavor to develop.

If you have cucumbers, you may want to peel and seed them, but it’s not mandatory, you do you. 

I like to keep the onions really thin, but that’s my personal preference. You can adjust the pepper to yours. Just remember that the dressing for this pasta salad is on the sweet side and plan accordingly. When you first mix the dressing, the sugar won’t fully dissolve, so it will be a bit grainy. Don’t stress! This will resolve itself while the pasta salad is resting in the refrigerator.

Please remember that this salad has a mayonnaise base and must be kept out of the bacterial danger zone if you decide to take it on a picnic or to a potluck. Keep the pasta salad cold until it is time to serve. Give it a good stir and if it is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, you will need to throw it out. 

Don’t get anyone sick and have them blame the recipe. 

Deli Style Pasta Salad

Large elbow noodle pasta salad with black olives, red and green bell pepper in a white bowl with decorative trim

Slightly sweet pasta salad, similar to what you find in many Southern American grocery delis.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes


  • 2 cups dry pasta – such as rotini, bow tie, or large elbow
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8th cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup oninon – finely diced
  • approximately 1 – 2 cups vegetables of your choice: diced, grated, or chopped to bite size
  • Vegetables to consider: Bell peppers, cucumbers, grape or cherry tomatoes, black olives, broccoli, grated carrot
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste


  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. While the water is coming to a boil, prep your vegetables.
  2. Prepare the dressing by stirring together the 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/8th cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon of mustard, 1/3 cup sugar, and the 1/4 cup finely diced onion.
  3. As soon as the pasta is done rinse it under cold, running water until it is cool and allow it to fully drain. (If you have a large enough bowl, you can place your colander in ice water, to speed up the process)
  4. Once the pasta has drained, fully. Combine, the pasta, vegetables and dressing. Check the taste and pepper accordingly
  5. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator for four hours or overnight to allow the flavors to develop.


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5 thoughts on “Pasta Salad”

  1. This was a wonderful idea–thanks so much!! Twas my first attempt at pasta salad and my husband raved about it whoohoo!


  2. thank you for posting this link today. i made this for our block party tonight and cannot wait to show it off! delicious. 🙂

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