Do You Ever Just Want To Eat Pasta Salad? My Favorite Version.

Do you ever just want to eat pasta salad? I’m having a lot of deep questions this week:

  • Do you ever just want to drink Lambrusco? You know, the good stuff, like they serve at Olive Garden.
  • Do you ever just want to buy those frozen potato disc puffs shaped like happy faces?
  • Do you ever just want to wear something Bedazzled?
  • Do you ever just want to eat a corn dog?

I didn’t end up caving for Lambrusco, potato happy faces, Bedazzled clothing or a corn dog, but I did make pasta salad.

Whenever I eat pasta salad I think of our Italian friend. He thought pasta salad was a strange and terrible thing. “Why would you do that to pasta?” he wondered.

I’m not sure if we Midwesterners can claim pasta salad as our own invention, but I remember encountering it at ever potluck imaginable, whether church basement or workplace. Variations included the sweet, gloppy macaroni pasta salads many of our mom’s bought at Cub Foods, the fancier chicken cherry pasta salads we sometimes splurged on at Byerly’s, tuna noodle salad with green peas, and the saucy rotini pasta salad dotted with olives and coated in Italian dressing.

The recipe below is how I make my favorite pasta salad at home. It’s inspired by a long parade of pasta salads from Minnesotan potlucks past, as well as a version I enjoyed when I worked at Josie’s Corner Cafe in Fargo, ND.

My version contains mayo. For years, I only bought Hellman’s, but I’m now obsessed with Duke’s. I don’t feel guilty about using the real stuff. A little goes a long way when you combine it with fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard.  I also add lots of crunchy celery and black beans along with the chicken for some extra protein. If you need lunch in a rush, it’s a compact meal in a bowl.

Jeni’s Favorite Pasta Salad
Use whatever shape of pasta you like. I like bow ties because they make me feel fancy. For this recipe I added chicken breasts that I grilled on the Foreman. You could use thighs, rotisserie, or whatever meat you have on hand. The guidelines below aren’t meant to produce an exact recipe, but serve as clues to make your own version. Taste as you go and your pasta salad will turn out swell 🙂 

Pasta, cooked al dente & cooled.
Chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces.
Black beans (if canned, rinse and drain).
Celery, finely diced
Green onions or chives, thinly sliced.
Optional: Nuts like chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds.
Dijon mustard
Lemon juice


  1. Combine the pasta, chicken, black beans, celery, green onions, craisins, and nuts in a bowl.
  2. Add a few good dollops of mayo, mustard and fresh lemon juice. Stir. If there’s not enough dressing to cover the ingredients, add a little bit more mayo and/or mustard.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Taste. Adjust seasonings accordingly.

1 Comment

  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    Hey — guess what? I just bought bunny pasta so I am thinking this might be a good thing to make tonight to take to the beach!!! Great timing!!!

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