The Perfect Picnic Pasta Salad Pasta salad is almost always the most disappointing side dish at the picnic or cookout, but this recipe shows you how to transform what is normally an “afterthought” to a dish that’s good enough to enjoy on its own, or as the perfect complement to grilled meat. Top this with extra fresh chopped herbs if you like.

prep: 15 mins cook: 10 mins additional: 3 hrs 20 mins total: 3 hrs 45 mins Servings: 8 Yield: 8 servings


  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pound rotini (corkscrew) pasta
  • 1 cup sliced snow peas
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • ½ cup shelled English peas
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • ½ cup diced bell peppers
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onions
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste


    Step 1

    Whisk Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, rice vinegar, salt, sugar, and cayenne together in a large bowl for about 30 seconds. Whisk in olive oil in 1-teaspoon increments until emulsified. Whisk in tarragon, dill, parsley, chives, and thyme. Remove and reserve 1/2 of the dressing in a separate small bowl.

    Step 2

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; cook rotini at a boil until tender yet firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Add snow peas, carrots, peas, and broccoli about 2 minutes before the pasta is done. Drain pasta and veggies well, but do not rinse.

    Step 3

    Transfer hot pasta mixture to the vinaigrette in the large mixing bowl and toss well to combine. Let rest for 5 minutes and toss again. Toss occasionally until the mixture is almost room temperature, 15 to 20 minutes.

    Step 4

    Add bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, green onions, salt, and the reserved dressing and toss well.

    Step 5

    Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before serving. Toss and adjust seasoning before serving.

Chef's Notes:

Use a mild-flavored olive oil, or an olive and vegetable oil blend. You can use sugar snap peas instead of snow peas.


You can serve this right away, but for best results, chill for a few hours before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 492 calories; protein 9.1g; carbohydrates 50.9g; fat 28.1g; sodium 641.6mg.


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