This Balsamic Basil Pasta Salad is packed with delicious Italian flavors and is a crowd favorite! The perfect healthy side dish to bring to any potluck, picnic or barbecue!
Happy almost 4th of July, party people! Do you have big plans? We plan on having a perfectly chill Fourth, where we'll grill, drink and be merry (and then, of course, find some fireworks). Can't wait! I LOVE grilling - well, if you want to get technical, I love to eat grilled food, my husband does all of the grilling here (probably another reason why I love grilling). 🙂
The bonus to him doing all of the actual grilling is that I can focus on any and all delish sides that I want to make*, like this crazy-good Balsamic Basil Pasta Salad. Um, YOU GUYS. You need to make this pasta salad. Let me just tell you why it's so awesome before I get to some commonly asked questions about pasta salad.
Why this Balsamic Basil Pasta Salad is so awesome:
- Even though there's a bit of chopping (like all pasta salads), it's super easy to put together.
- It can be made ahead and honestly tastes even better when it is.
- It goes SO well with grilled and barbecued foods.
- It's perfect for a picnic because it can sit out for quite a while without being refrigerated.
- It can serve a crap-ton of people.
- It has a HUGE portion size for a side dish - this is particularly great if you're bringing this somewhere where there won't be much healthy food, at least you can load up on this without feeling guilty!
- It's packed with balsamic and basil flavor and who doesn't love that?
Have I convinced you yet?? Well either way, let's see if I can help you out with some commonly asked questions about pasta salad!
Can pasta salad be made ahead?
Absolutely! In fact, I find that it tastes even better if it's made ahead! I often make it the day before I need it or early that morning, this really gives that delish dressing time to soak into everything.
How long will this Balsamic Basil Pasta Salad last in the fridge?
Three to four days.
Should you rinse your pasta with cold water after it cooks for pasta salad?
This is a hotly debated topic, but I'm going to give you my answer from my own experience, DO NOT RINSE YOUR PASTA. Here's why: rinsing your pasta rinses away the outer layer of starch on your pasta which is what helps the dressing to stick. I have rinsed my pasta before (in my early cooking days) and was so bummed that the pasta never tasted like the dressing because the dressing just kept sliding off of it!
Those who are pro-rinsing say that rinsing stops the cooking process so your pasta doesn't overcook and it keeps the pasta from sticking together. My solution is after you drain the pasta, add a couple of tablespoons of your dressing to it (this will keep them from sticking together) and then put it directly in your fridge. This works perfectly every time.
Is pasta salad healthy?
Not always, but this Balsamic Basil Pasta salad is! Often pasta salads can include fatty, sodium laden meats (like pepperoni or salami), a ton of cheese, waaay more pasta than veggies and SO much oily dressing. But I've got you - I've taken all of the guesswork out of making a delicious, healthy pasta salad.
Can pasta salad be a main dish?
Since I've personally eaten this for dinner, I'm going to say hell to the yes. If you didn't need this to be vegetarian you could even add some chilled grilled or roasted chicken breast to it, it would be incredible in the balsamic dressing!
Can pasta salad be made gluten-free?
Absolutely! My favorite gluten-free pasta is Banza Chickpea pasta (<- affiliate link), but Barilla also makes a chickpea pasta that's really great!
How much pasta salad should I make for a crowd?
This is always the question, isn't it? Even though I have made this to have big, 1 cup servings, I usually budget about ½ cup per person if I'm taking pasta salad (or any kind of side salad) somewhere where there will be a bunch of other side dishes.
This Balsamic Basil Pasta Salad recipe makes 13 (1 cup) servings, so at a party it could feed 26 people ( and maybe even more depending on the number of other dishes)!
This has become such a family favorite, I hope you guys like it as much as we do!
*And also desserts - have you guys seen this amazing looking and HEALTHY strawberry shortcake from my blogging bestie at Confessions of a Fit Foodie?? It's gotten a ton of great reviews in our FB group! Need!!!
Looking for some more great 21 Day Fix summer recipes? Check out this fun post! ↓
If you make this Balsamic Basil Pasta Salad recipe be sure to snap a pic and tag me @thefoodieandthefix or use #thefoodieandthefix on Instagram so I can check it out! It makes me ridiculously happy to see what you guys are making 🙂
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dijon or spicy brown mustard
- pinch of salt and pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 7 oz (about 2 ¼ cups) dry whole wheat rotini pasta or chickpea pasta if you're gluten-free, cooked (3 ½ cups cooked pasta)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1 ¼ cups cucumber, chopped (I like to use an English cucumber for this)
- 1 ½ cups orange bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup red onion, chopped and soaked in ice water for a few minutes, then drained (this takes some of the bite out)
- 1 ¼ cup mild (or hot if ya like!) pickled banana pepper rings, drained and chopped
- 1 can (3.8 oz) sliced black olives, drained
- 1 (8 oz) block of mozzarella cheese, diced
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (or more if you like!)
- Boil your pasta. While your pasta is cooking, make your dressing. Whisk together the vinegar, garlic powder, mustard, salt and pepper. While still whisking, drizzle in your olive oil. Once fully combined, set aside.
- When the pasta is done cooking, drain well then add a few tablespoons of the dressing to the pasta to prevent sticking and refrigerate until cold in a large bowl - this makes about 13 cups so be sure to have a big enough bowl! (Hot Tip: Don't rinse your pasta in cold water after cooking, removing the outer starch can keep the dressing from sticking well to it!)
- Add the remaining ingredients to the pasta (you may need to give the dressing another good whisking before adding if the oil has separated). You can serve this right away, but it's even better if it can have some time to marinate in the fridge! Once it's refrigerated, I like to let it sit on the counter for a few (the olive oil will thicken in the fridge and setting it out re-liquifies it) then give it a good stir before serving.
21 Day Fix Container Counts per Serving: ½ Yellow, ½ Green, ¼ Blue, ½ Orange
Weight Watchers Freestyle Points: 5
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 13 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 157Total Fat: 9g