Recipe Review

Rachael Ray’s 1-Ingredient Trick for Better, More Flavorful Pasta Salad

published Jun 2, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Rachael Ray is known for quick and easy recipes that repeatedly deliver, and her pasta salad recipe looked to fit that bill exactly. It calls for just three steps — cook the pasta, make the dressing, then toss with the mix-ins — and it doesn’t require any chill time before serving.

Despite its simplicity, there were still two interesting things that stood out to me. The first is that the dressing is made in a food processor with vegetable stock. It’s not uncommon to use water in salad dressing, but I had never used stock before and wondered how it would taste. The second is that the recipe calls for cubanelle peppers, roasted red peppers, and pepperoncini. I love all three, but wondered whether this recipe would taste too much like pepper salad rather than pasta salad. Here’s what I found out when I tested it. 

Get the recipe: Rachael Ray’s Italian Pasta Salad

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How to Make Rachael Ray’s Italian Pasta Salad

Cook the pasta according to package instructions in a large pot of salted water. Drain the pasta in a colander, then add to a large bowl. Add the garlic, parsley, vegetable stock, and red wine vinegar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. With the motor running, add the olive oil until smooth. Pour the dressing over the pasta along with the provolone, red peppers, cubanelle peppers, red onion, and pepperoncini, and toss to combine. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

My Honest Review of Rachael Ray’s Pasta Salad

You know the pasta salad you get at a deli? Well, this is pretty much it. It’s got a nice tang, thanks to an ample amount of red wine vinegar that balances nicely with all the add-ins. Using vegetable stock in the dressing added a ton of flavor — I’ll definitely be using this trick in future pasta salads!

I will say my hesitation about the amount of peppers was spot-on. I loved the roasted red peppers and pepperoncini, but I found three cubanelle peppers to be a bit too much. Next time, I’ll leave them out and use a different vegetable (or maybe salami!) as an add-in. And while I love cavatappi, it doesn’t feel like the right noodle here. Cavatappi is best when there’s a sauce that can cling to its curves, and in pasta salad, it just feels naked. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

If You’re Making Rachael Ray’s Pasta Salad, a Few Tips

  • Cut down on the peppers. Unless you’re a huge cubanelle pepper fan, I’d cut the amount down to 1 and add some of your other favorite ingredients instead. I thought this salad could have benefitted from some hard salami or black olives to really round it out. 
  • Choose a different noodle. Cavatappi doesn’t work in this recipe. I’d recommend using another pasta shape that can scoop up all those peppers, like shells or orecchiette. 

Overall Rating: 7/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Have you tried Rachael Ray’s pasta salad? Let us know in the comments!