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Bow Tie Pasta Salad

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Perfect for BBQ’s and picnics, Bow Tie Pasta Salad is cool and creamy and loaded with a big flavors from Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. This is one of those dishes that everyone will ask you for the recipe!

bow tie pasta salad in a serving bowl

What Is Pasta Salad?

Pasta salad is my go-to dish on hot summer days. I either serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken or burgers, or I just have it on its own as a cool and light summer lunch.

Similar to a traditional lettuce salad, pasta salads are served cold and are loaded with ingredients like vegetables, fresh herbs, meats and cheeses and then tossed together with some sort of a dressing.

The only difference being that pasta is used in place of lettuce.

Since pasta salads can be made ahead of time, they are great to bring to a potluck or pack on a picnic.

What kind of pasta works best in pasta salad?

The great thing about pasta salad is that you can really have fun experimenting with different flavors and ingredients.

The trick to making a pasta salad successful though, is using a good noodle.

You will want a noodle that has some shape and curve to it so that the dressing can settle into all of the “nooks and crannies” of the noodle, and give it flavor.

For this recipe, I prefer bow tie (also called farfalle or butterfly) noodles. The way the noodle “gathers” at the center created perfect little pockets for the tangy dressing to settle into.

Other noodles that are great for pasta salad include:

  • rotini
  • fusilli
  • penne
  • gemelli
  • radiatori
  • cavatappi
  • macaroni
  • campanelle

How to cook pasta for Bowtie Pasta Salad

How you cook pasta for pasta salad is very important.

You will want to cook it until it’s al dente which means its almost fully cooked, but has a tiny amount of firmness still. As the pasta sits, the dressing will soak into the noodles, softening them even further. If you cook your noodles all of the way, they will turn mushy one mixed with the dressing.

Check the box for cooking instructions, and be sure to taste test, but I find that cooking bow tie pasta approx 6-7 mins in boiling salt water cooks them perfectly.

Pro Tip: Be sure add a few pinches of salt to your water as you bring it to a boil. This will infuse flavor into the pasta noodles as the cook.

What ingredients do you need for Bow Tie Pasta Salad?

  • Bow Tie or Farfalle pasta (like this)
  • celery
  • red bell pepper
  • red onion
  • dijion mustard
  • mayonnaise (I prefer this one)
  • red wine vinegar
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • dried parsley
  • sharp cheddar cheese
ingredients for bow tie pasta salad

How do you make Bow Tie Pasta Salad?

In a large pot , bring salted water to a rolling boil and add 8oz of bow tie (farfalle) noodles. Cook until al dente and drain. Give them a quick rise with cold water to stop any further cooking. Set aside.

add bow tie pasta to boiling salt water
drain bow tie pasta and rinse with cold water

Using a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of celery (thinly sliced into small pieces), 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper, and 1/2 cup of diced red onion. Stir to combine.

diced onion, red peppers and celery in a bowl

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of mayo, 2T dijion mustard, 1T red wine vinegar, and 1/2t garlic powder. Wisk all ingredients together until fully mixed. This is your dressing.

To the large bowl of veggies, pour the small bowl of dressing over top and give everything a good stir. Add the cooked bow tie pasta.

add pasta to veggie and dressing mix
stir bow tie pasta salad in large bowl

Add in 4 oz of sharp cheddar cheese cut into small cubes and mix to combine.

Sprinkle in 1T of dried parsley, 1/2t salt, and 1/4t pepper over top of the salad and stir until everything is fully coated in the dressing and well mixed.

Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for 30 mins before serving if you prefer it colder.

transfer bow tie pasta salad to a serving dish and serve

Pro Tip: If you want to make Bow Tie Pasta Salad a day ahead of when you will serve it, only add 2/3 of the dressing and store the remainder in an air tight container in the fridge. Then, when you are ready to serve, stir the rest of the dressing into the salad.

Should you let pasta cool before adding the mayo?

Not necessarily. Pasta that is still a tiny bit warm will actually combine with the dressing better and be easier to stir. You definitely don’t want to use hot noodles though.

Do you rinse pasta for pasta salad?

Definitely. Give your pasta a quick rinse with cold water once its done cooking, and then drain. This will not only stop the pasta from cooking any further, it will also help cool down the noodles quickly enough that you can stir them right into the salad.

Is pasta salad better the next day?

It can be. As the pasta and veggies sit in the sauce, they absorb more flavor. If the salad seems to be getting a bit dry after a day or two, its because the noodles are soaking it up. Simply mix up a couple of tablespoons of extra dressing and stir it into salad to freshen up leftovers.

How long will pasta salad last in the fridge?

Pasta salad should last up to 5 days when stored in an air tight container in the fridge.

bow tie pasta salad in a serving bowl

What do you serve with pasta salad?

Pasta salad is so versatile. Toss some grilled chicken on top and it could be a meal on its own.

Or serve it as a side salad along dishes like Air Fryer Chicken Sandwiches, Sloppy Joes, or Italian BLT Wraps.

Its also great with grilled meats like chicken, steak or fish.

Grilling burgers or brats? Bow tie pasta salad is perfect with those as well.

Also try Easy Pasta Salad with Spaghetti Noodles for a great summer side dish.

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bow tie pasta salad in a serving bowl

Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Liz Olberding @ Up North Nosh
Perfect for BBQ's and picnics, Bow Tie Pasta Salad is cool and creamy and loaded with a big flavors from Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. This is one of those dishes that everyone will ask you for the recipe!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 6 people
Calories 360 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 pot
  • 1 large bowl
  • 1 small bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz bow tie or farfalle pasta
  • 1/2 cup celery thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 T dijion mustard
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese cut into small cubes
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil and add 8oz of bow tie (farfalle) noodles. Cook until al dente and drain. Give them a quick rinse with cold water to stop any further cooking. Set aside.
  • Using a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of celery (thinly sliced into small pieces), 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper, and 1/2 cup of diced red onion. Stir to combine.
  • In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of mayo, 2T dijion mustard, 1T red wine vinegar, and 1/2t garlic powder. Wisk all ingredients together until fully mixed. This is your dressing.
  • To the large bowl of veggies, pour the small bowl of dressing over top and give everything a good stir. Add the cooked bow tie pasta.
  • Add in 4 oz of sharp cheddar cheese cut into small cubes and mix to combine.
  • Sprinkle 1T of dried parsley, 1/2t salt, and 1/4t pepper over top of the salad and stir until everything is fully coated in the dressing and well mixed.
  • Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for 30 mins before serving if you prefer it colder.

Notes

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
Tip: if leftovers seem to be getting a bit dry after a day or two, its because the noodles are soaking up the dressing. Simply mix up an extra tablespoon of dressing and stir it into salad to freshen up leftovers.
Also try Easy Pasta Salad with Spaghetti Noodles for a great summer side dish.
If you make this recipe, please leave me a star rating and/or review at the bottom of this blog post.
Sign up here if you’d like my recipes latest sent straight to your inbox.
Follow along on social media: InstagramFacebook and Pinterest

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 360kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 10gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 503mgPotassium: 192mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 639IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 158mgIron: 1mg
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