Rediscovering Pasta Salad

When I lived in Fargo, I worked at Josie’s Corner Cafe, a locally owned bakery and cafe that offers a lovely pasta salad each day.

I never gave much thought or consideration to pasta salad, until then. One lunch break, I tried one bite of a Southwestern-themed salad laced with black beans and was hooked. Many of my favorite pasta salads are bound together with creamy mayonnaise or salad dressing. I don’t mind indulging in them on occasion, but wanted to make a lighter version at home.

I kept Josie’s Southwestern theme and loaded the salad with fresh vegetables and black beans. However, I did coat the ingredients with a thin layer of mayonnaise (regular Hellman’s for me), lightened with a spritz of lemon juice. For a healthier version, you could try substituting thick Greek yogurt or combine it with your favorite mayo. Fresh herbs would also make a lovely addition.

This salad held up well during a busy workweek the vegetables retained their crisp four days later. We were happy to have an easy snack or light meal to grab on the run.

Confetti Pasta Salad


Small pasta shells, or other small pasta variety
Fresh bell peppers, diced
Celery, diced
Red onion, diced
Green onion, thinly sliced
Black beans, or whatever’s in your pantry
Mayonnaise, just enough to hold the salad together
Lemon juice, to taste
Salt (I prefer flaky sea salt). You could also use your favorite seasoned salt.
Black pepper
Pinch of sugar
Shredded cheese


  1. Cook pasta until al dente in boiling water seasoned with salt and a little olive oil.
  2. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside to continue to drain, shaking off the extra water a few times.
  3. Chop bell peppers, onions, green onion. I like adding a lot.
  4. Drain a can of your favorite beans and rinse (or cook your own).
  5. Combine the pasta with the chopped vegetables and as many beans as you’d like. I tipped the balance of the pasta salad in favor of the vegetables and beans.
  6. Add just enough mayonnaise to hold the salad together.
  7. Spritz with lemon juice and season with salt, lots of black pepper, and a pinch of sugar to balance the salty and sour.
  8. Toss in a scattering of shredded cheese.


  1. Donna Hup

    Yum! I love pasta salad and it’s super easy to make a gluten free version too 🙂

    • Jeni

      Favorite GF pasta? I remember liking the corn and quinoa types.

  2. Katie

    I’m not a fan of mayo, but otherwise I’m all in! (I usually sub greek yogurt and some mustard).

    • Jeni

      That’s a really good idea.

  3. Beth Ann Chiles

    Pasta salad is one of those things I just don’t think to make. Now I have a new recipe to try thanks to you. Looks perfect for a summer day!

    • Jeni

      It’s such a great lunch to grab and go. Everything you need in one bowl. Plus you can make it a little more healthy. I still like the creamy mayo, but I don’t want my veggies and noodles swimming in it.

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