This Last Step Is Crucial For The Most Flavorful Pasta Salad

A picnic without a pasta salad? Unimaginable! The versatility of this carby cookout classic is what makes it such an awesome make-ahead dish to serve to a crowd. Whether coated in a traditional mayo-based dressing or doused in a fancy vinaigrette with aromatic herbs and chunks of salami, it's always a winner. It doesn't need reheating, keeps well in the fridge, and can be served with hot chicken wings or cold sandwiches. But, to guarantee that your next batch of pasta salad is as flavorful as possible, dress it twice and serve it at room temperature.

Pasta salad is breezy to prepare. Simply dress it, refrigerate it, and allow the flavors to develop as it chills. However, making your pasta salad in advance also means it has more time to absorb the dressing. Throw in the cold environment of the fridge, which wicks away existing moisture, and you're left with a salad that's dry and claggy instead of toothsome and moist.

Dressing the salad again just before serving replenishes that lost moisture, lending it an appetizing sheen and an unctuous texture with an extra dose of flavor. Simply reserve a third of your dressing for later when you're assembling your pasta salad with the remaining two thirds. Pop the reserved dressing in the fridge alongside your salad and when you're ready to serve it, pour the leftover sauce over it and stir to incorporate.

Serve pasta salad at room temperature

Refrigerating the pasta until chilled realigns the amylose chains in its chemical makeup (a process known as retrogradation) causing its texture to firm up. Chilling the noodles also has the added benefit of turning them into a resistant starch. This variety of starch, which functions like fiber, is harder for the digestive enzymes in the gut to break down, which can help to reduce surges in blood glucose. Having said that, the firm texture of fridge-cold pasta can be uninviting, as can the congealed consistency of a cooled sauce. The hard won flavors of a pasta salad can also taste duller, weakly seasoned and subdued when it's too cold. The solution is to let your pasta salad come to room temperature before serving it. This simple trick allows the noodles to soften to a delectable texture — without becoming floppy and gummy — while reawakening the imbued flavors of herbs, seasonings and aromatics.

There are many more tips to make the ultimate pasta salad, and one key one is to include briny ingredients, such as capers, pickles, and marinated red peppers, which will cut through the richness of a mayo dressing. Similarly, lemon juice lightens and lifts a pasta salad that tastes heavy, and has the added perk of loosening an overly thick consistency.