Easy 3-Ingredient Pasta Salad Ideas for Whatever You Have in Your Pantry

updated Apr 27, 2020
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Pasta salad is always a good thing to have in your back pocket for easy dinners, weekday lunches, and virtual potlucks. While you could dig around for a perfect recipe, we’ll let you in on a little secret: pasta salad doesn’t really need a strict recipe. Here’s what you do: Cook up your favorite dried pasta until it’s al dente, drain it, run it under cold water to quickly cool it down, then toss it with a few add-ins plus salt and freshly ground black pepper and maybe a bit of olive oil and vinegar to taste. And you’ve got pasta salad. Easy.

To get you started here are 11 different 3-ingredient combinations (excluding the pasta and basics like salt, pepper, and olive oil) for whatever you might have in the pantry, in the fridge, or in the freezer.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

1. Orzo + {Eggplant + Goat Cheese + Red Pepper Flakes}

Combine orzo with cubes of roasted eggplant, a handful of crumbled goat cheese, and a healthy sprinkle of red pepper flakes for heat. Finish with olive oil, vinegar, and salt.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

2. Penne + {Olives + Roasted Red Peppers + Parsley}

Keep things colorful by tossing penne with marinated olives and a bit of their flavorful oil, chopped roasted red peppers, and lots of chopped fresh parsley. Don’t forget a little vinegar, salt, and black pepper.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

3. Fusilli + {Pesto + Green Beans + Parmesan}

A classic Italian pesto pasta in salad form: Mix twirly fusilli with basil pesto, chopped blanched green beans, and curls of Parmesan. Drizzle with a little olive oil and finish with salt and pepper.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

4. Tortellini + {Baby Spinach + Prosciutto + Red Onions}

Tortellini makes for an extra-hearty pasta salad. Combine it with baby spinach, torn prosciutto, and thinly sliced red onion before seasoning with a bit of olive oil, vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

5. Orecchiette + {Cucumbers + Yogurt + Za’atar}

Toss ear-shaped orecchiette with smashed cucumbers, plain yogurt, and lots of tangy, herbaceous Middle Eastern za’atar. Sprinkle in salt to taste.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

6. Spaghetti + {Butternut Squash + Ricotta + Pistachios}

Get twirly spaghetti in on the pasta salad fun too. Combine it with cubes of roasted butternut squash, a few spoonfuls of creamy ricotta, and chopped toasted pistachios. Season with salt and pepper.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

7. Orzo + {Preserved Lemons + Dill + Peas}

Rice-like orzo plays well with tart yet complex chopped preserved lemons, chopped fresh dill, and blanched peas. Add a little olive oil and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

8. Shells + {Chickpeas + Tahini Dressing + Mint}

Toss shells with smashed chickpeas, a quick tahini dressing, and chopped fresh mint for a pasta salad with Middle Eastern flair. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

9. Fusilli + {Oven-Dried Tomatoes + Mozzarella + Basil}

For a caprese-like pasta salad, mix fusilli with sweet oven-dried tomatoes, bite-sized balls of fresh mozzarella, and chopped fresh basil. Drizzle in olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

10. Farfalle + {Pesto + Yogurt + Zucchini}

Dress farfalle with pesto and yogurt and add chopped zucchini to the mix for an extra-creamy pasta salad. Sprinkle in a little salt and freshly ground black pepper to season.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

11. Angel Hair + {Tapenade + Red Bell Pepper + Parsley}

Skinny angel hair gets a salty, briny punch from olive tapenade, crunch from chopped red bell peppers, and freshness from chopped fresh parsley. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil for good measure.