Bow Tie Pasta Salad

published May 9, 2023
Bow Tie Pasta Salad Recipe

Your cookout isn’t complete with a big-batch of pasta salad dressed in zesty vinaigrette and tossed together with a rainbow of fresh vegetables.

Serves8 to 10

Makes18 cups

Prep25 minutes to 30 minutes

Cook10 minutes to 15 minutes

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Overhead photo of bow tie pasta salad
Credit: Kelli Foster

The beauty of pasta salad is that just about anything goes. Vegetables, herbs, cheese, meat, shrimp — it’s all fair game. This bow tie pasta salad, inspired by the version my family has been making for decades, is the one I come back to again and again.

Dressed with a tangy red wine vinegar dressing and sprinkled with an eye-catching rainbow of fresh vegetables, this recipe is naturally vegan, but if you love cheese (feta and mozzarella are a nice fit here) or meat (say, salami for instance) — go ahead and toss them in. This big-batch pasta salad is perfect for potlucks, cookouts, and picnics, or anytime you need to feed a crowd. 

Ingredients You Need for Bow Tie Pasta Salad

Bow tie pasta salad comes together with a mix of pantry ingredients and fresh vegetables. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Dried bow tie (farfalle) pasta
  • Red onion
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow summer squash
  • Canned sliced olives
  • Garlic
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Dried oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
Credit: Kelli Foster

Best Dressing for Bow Tie Pasta Salad 

There are many ways to dress pasta salad, but in my opinion the best dressing for bow tie pasta salad is a classic vinaigrette. This one is mixed together with equal parts red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and seasoned with mustard and dried herbs.

A good rule of thumb to remember when making pasta salad is not to add all of the dressing at once. Instead, dress it twice. First toss the vegetables and cooked, slightly cooled pasta with a little more than half the dressing (about one-half cup) before chilling. This way the pasta will soak up some of the dressing for an even more flavorful dish. Then just before serving, dress the pasta salad with the remaining dressing. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Making Bow Tie Pasta Salad

A great bow tie pasta salad is a total crowd-pleaser at any potluck and picnic spread. And to make the absolute best version that stands out, here are some helpful tips. 

  • Don’t forget to rinse the pasta. This is a no-no when making hot pasta dishes, but an important step for pasta salad, as it removes the starch and prevents the pasta from sticking together.
  • Undercooking the pasta. Because there’s no residual heat or cooking once the pasta is rinsed, cook the pasta until tender. That little nub at the center of farfalle can be tough, so you want to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. 
  • Making pasta salad too far in advance. To avoid a soggy pasta salad, this version is best made no more than a day ahead of time. The dressing, however, can be made up to three days in advance and stored in a sealed container in the fridge. 

Bow Tie Pasta Salad Recipe

Your cookout isn’t complete with a big-batch of pasta salad dressed in zesty vinaigrette and tossed together with a rainbow of fresh vegetables.

Prep time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Makes 18 cups

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 clove

    garlic

  • 1/3 cup

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup

    red wine vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    small red onion

  • 1 pound

    dried farfalle pasta

  • 1 pint

    grape tomatoes

  • 1

    medium orange bell pepper

  • 1

    medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)

  • 1

    medium yellow summer squash (about 8 ounces)

  • 1

    (about 4-ounce) can sliced black olives

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, mince 1 garlic clove and place in a small bowl or jar. Add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Seal the jar and shake well to combine and emulsify, or whisk if using a bowl.

  2. Transfer slightly more than half of the dressing (about 1/2 cup) to a large bowl; reserve the remaining dressing for serving. Dice 1 small red onion (about 1 cup). Add to the bowl and stir to break apart the layers and coat with the dressing.

  3. Add 1 pound dried farfalle pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until just tender, 11 to 13 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the following, adding each to the dressing as it is completed: Halve 1 pint grape tomatoes (about 2 cups). Core, seed, and cut 1 medium orange bell pepper into large dice (about 1 1/2 cups). Trim the ends from 1 medium zucchini and 1 medium yellow summer squash. For each one, quarter lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick pieces (about 1 1/2 cups each). Drain 1 (about 4-ounce) can sliced black olives. Stir to coat with the dressing.

  4. When the pasta is ready, drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well. Add the pasta to the bowl and toss to coat. When ready to serve, add the reserved dressing and toss to coat.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The salad can be made up to a few hours ahead and refrigerated. Alternatively, the dressing can be made 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.