With late summer and early fall comes a bit of a back-to-school feeling—likely, you're easing back into your fall routine after a (hopefully) leisurely summer. But all of this change and general busyness can be exhausting, so when it comes time for dinner, you may not feel like making anything. That is until you’ve tried these easy pasta salad recipes. The most cooking you'll probably do is boil pasta, while the rest of the recipe instructions require simple assembly, and mixing a dressing. Plus, they make an awesome packed lunch to take to work for the week (seriously, it’s a win-win).
We could literally go on and on about how versatile pasta salad is, including how you can eat it hot or cold, but instead, we’ll just share some of our favorite picks. From basil and goat cheese over fusilli, to a green pasta salad with tons of veggies, and even a tasty vegan option, we guarantee there’s something up your alley.
Keep scrolling for our top 12 easy pasta salad recipes to make this fall. Start boiling the water.
Basil Goat Cheese Pasta Salad
The Recipe: Basil Goat Cheese Pasta Salad
Why We Love It: Some pasta salads are too heavy, but this one is more of a “greens and veggie” salad with some macaroni mixed in. To make this recipe from Half Baked Harvest, start by roasting some beets (red or yellow will work), and add thin slices of zucchini or squash, watercress, avocado, and fresh corn. Top it off with some cooked fusilli pasta and homemade basil vinaigrette, and then add the goat cheese so it melts into the sauce.
Pro Tip: Don't have watercress on-hand? Use spinach instead.
Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad
The Recipe: Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad
Why We Love It: If you’re looking to find a go-to, easy pasta salad recipe for fall, then this one from Chelsea's Messy Apron is it. Nothing says autumn quite like a salad of spinach and orecchiette filled with apple slices, dried cranberries, and toasted pecans.
Pro Tip: If you like a bit of sweetness, candy your pecans before mixing them in.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta
The Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta
Why We Love It: This gluten-free and vegan pasta salad from Minimalist Baker only takes 20 minutes to make, so you have zero excuses not to have it for dinner this week. It all relies on a dairy-free pesto, and the meal tastes just as good heated up as it does right out of the fridge. We swear that little ones will gobble it up too.
Pro Tip: This recipe will keep in the fridge for 3–4 days.
Simple Green Pasta Salad
The Recipe: Simple Green Pasta Salad
Why We Love It: If you have nut allergies and can’t normally eat pesto, then this recipe from Pinch of Yum for green pasta topped with O & Co’s nut-free basilic spread may make your day. The dish itself is a combo of macaroni, spinach, and green beans garnished with shredded parmesan, and includes a creamy sauce. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar before serving for a slight kick.
Pro Tip: Other ways to jazz this recipe up include bacon, tomatoes, chickpeas, and fresh basil leaves, per Pinch of Yum.
Mediterranean Chickpea Pasta Salad
The Recipe: Mediterranean Chickpea Pasta Salad
Why We Love It: This nutritious pasta salad by Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian nutritionist, is packed with chickpeas, hydrating cucumber, and tangy feta. Top with refreshing mint and a savory lemon vinaigrette dressing, and lunch is served in a mere 20 minutes.
Pro Tip: To avoid a watery pasta salad, be sure to remove seeds (try using a spoon) from the cucumber before dicing, advises Moore.
Easy Macaroni Salad
The Recipe: Easy Macaroni Salad
Why We Love It: Love & Lemon's simple macaroni salad also features veggies like peas and bell peppers, as well as herbs like dill and parsley. Add capers or dill pickles for a hint of briny flavor to a dressing of mayo, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice.
Pro Tip: For a vegetarian feast, serve this salad alongside portobello mushroom burgers, or egg salad sandwiches, suggests Love & Lemons.
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
The Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
Why We Love It: The spicy, tangy, and creamy buffalo sauce from this Yes to Yolks recipe ties all of the pasta salad ingredients together. For Yes to Yolks, that's chicken, corn, cheddar cheese, bell peppers, red onion, and scallions and blue cheese crumbles for garnish, though any protein and veggie combo goes.
Pro Tip: Sub feta for blue cheese, if preferred; or omit completely. "You do you," writes Yes to Yolks. And as for the best pasta to use, "Any short pasta shape will work."
Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad
The Recipe: Hawaiian-Style Macaroni Salad
Why We Love It: Spoon Fork Bacon's rendition of Hawaiian-style macaroni salad is full of flavor, thanks to a sprinkle of bonito flakes. Also add carrot, celery, red onion; and mayo, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard to elbow macaroni. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
Pro Tip: If you can't find bonito flakes in the international foods aisle of the grocery store, or at an Asian specialty market, sub in canned tuna, writes Spoon Fork Bacon.
Green Goddess Pasta Salad
The Recipe: Green Goddess Pasta Salad
Why We Love It: A creamy, herby dressing makes this greens-filled pasta salad taste decadent. Just 3/4 cup of mayo is needed to make The Modern Proper's recipe, which serves 10. Regarding greens, you'll want asparagus, spinach, snap peas, cucumbers, and lots of herbs like basil and chives.
Pro Tip: As an option, add pitted Casteveltrano olives. A few of The Modern Proper's favorite pasta shapes to use include rigatoni, fusilli, penne rigate (or ridged penne), and orecchiette (or "little ears").
Summer Tortellini Pasta Salad
The Recipe: Summer Tortellini Pasta Salad
Why We Love It: With the help of pre-made cheese tortellini, The Modern Proper's pasta salad recipe saves time in the kitchen, without sacrificing flavor. For a quick and satisfying weeknight meal or easy weekend lunch, add shredded chicken, cherry tomatoes, pearl mozzarella, roasted bell peppers (from a jar), and basil pesto.
Pro Tip: Garnish with fresh basil.
Ham and Broccoli Pasta Salad With Yogurt Dressing
Why We Love It: Hola Jalapeño calls her Eating Well-inspired pasta salad recipe "healthy and hearty," and that's exactly what we want when our stomachs grumble. You'll include diced ham, broccoli florets, and baby spinach with fusilli pasta in a creamy and tangy dressing made with sour cream, greek yogurt, white wine vinegar, mustard, and rosemary.
Pro Tip: "Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes before serving," writes Kate Ramos of Hola Jalapeño.
Antipasto Pasta Salad With Herby Parmesan Vinaigrette
Why We Love It: This pasta salad recipe from Half Baked Harvest is mayo-free, and requires virtually no cooking. Toss with roasted bell peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, spicy salami, and torn, fresh mozzarella.
Pro Tip: As an option, top with chopped pine nuts.