A delightful summer pasta salad full of crunchy veggies, chicken, and fresh herbs, with a light Italian dressing. This salad is a perfect lunch or dinner.

Close up image of pasta salad is shallow square white bowl, with blue striped cloth in background.

You’ll love this summer pasta salad. You could almost say it’s a clean-out-the-fridge salad. 

This is the scenario that begat this salad: I had some chicken breasts in the fridge which I had originally planned to bake. I didn’t want to make hubby grill on weeknights because he’s exhausted when he gets home from work.

But Michigan just so happened to grace us with a sunny, warm day and I didn’t feel like turning on the oven. So what was my solution? I poached the chicken and turned it into this pasta salad. If you happen to have rotisserie chicken or if you’ve meal prepped and have some chicken already cooked, you’re way ahead. 

Hubby got a whole chicken breast served alongside of his salad because he’s not really the salad-as-a-dinner type guy, even if it is a salad with pasta filling in for the leafy stuff. Everyone’s happy, right?

Over head view of pasta salad in square white dish, with fork holding one bow tie pasta. Red background.

 

About this pasta salad:

For this salad, I use these mini farfalle (or bow ties, if you prefer) which I bought because they were cute. We didn’t need pasta. Pasta wasn’t on the menu, and certainly not mini-farfalle, but they are adorable. I know, it is a very smart and economical shopping technique, not! Please don’t listen when I complain about my high grocery bills.

You can use whatever pasta you happen to have in the house. Any bite sized pasta will work, from macaroni to orzo to penne to orecchiette (“little ears”) which is really cute, too. 

This isn’t a gourmet pasta salad. Most pasta salads aren’t. If you love pasta salads as much as I do, keep reading for more recipes that I love.

If you prefer, eliminate the chicken in this recipe and add a can of beans (black, garbanzo, white…doesn’t really matter). Or leave the chicken in and add the beans, too. 

If I have feta in the house, I would probably use that instead of Parmesan. If you’re an onion fan, throw in some red onions or green onions. If you have a tomato or several grape tomatoes, by all means, add them. Chopped celery would be great too. Or green peas. 

To keep this salad really easy to make, I use bottled Italian dressing. Normally I make my own dressings and this homemade red wine vinaigrette would be perfect. If you enjoy creamier dressings, try homemade jalapeño ranch dressing or Parmesan peppercorn dressing.

Don’t save this summer pasta salad for special occasions. It’s a great lunch or dinner that you can enjoy all year round. It keeps well in the fridge for at least a few days and would be welcome at any summer gathering. 

Side view of pasta salad in same dish, with fork, and blue striped cloth in background.

 

Easy pasta salads

I love all the different ways you can make pasta salads. They are so convenient and are perfect for picnics! Try:

 

 

Partial close up view of pasta salad in bowl.

Close up view of pasta salad with farfalle pasta and carrots, corn, cucumber, chicken, and parsley.

Summer Pasta Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A delightful summer pasta salad full of crunchy veggies, chicken, and fresh herbs, with a light Italian dressing. This salad is a perfect lunch or dinner.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. box of mini farfalle (or any other pasta of your choice)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 of English cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced into cubes (preferably cooled)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 15.25 oz can corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again.
  2. Put pasta in large bowl with all other ingredients and mix until combined.

Notes

  • This salad is quite lightly dressed because that is the way we like it. Add more dressing (little by little, stirring as you go), until it is how you like it.
  • Use homemade or a bottled dressing of your choice.
  • Add other vegetables of your choice.
  • Omit chicken, and add a can of rinsed, drained beans such as garbanzo.
  • Substitute feta, mozzarella, or cheese of your choice for the Parmesan.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 main course salad
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 433Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 725mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 4gSugar: 10gProtein: 44g

RachelCooks.com sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Verdict: This summer pasta salad is exactly what I like. A light, cool, summer salad. There are endless variations possible.
Husband’s take: He likes it!
Changes I would make: More veggies, less pasta. I know, I’m a crazy lady. I love my vegetables!
Difficulty: Boil, chop, mix, eat. Sound hard?

What would you put in this pasta salad? Do you like Italian dressing or would you toss in a different vinaigrette?