Why It's Best To Dress Pasta Salad While It's Still Warm

Of all the classic summertime side dishes — from potato salad to baked beans to corn on the cob — one of the most delicious is pasta salad, that old standby of noodles tossed with dressing and a variety of mix-ins. For many of us, the iconic pasta salad might very well be the familiar Italian type from the picnics and potlucks of our youths, which can include sliced olives and cubes of mozzarella and salami (via Allrecipes), but the beauty of pasta salad is its versatility. How about a southwest version loaded with creamy chipotle dressing and corn, beans, and peppers, or one tossed with pickle juice for a salty, briny kick?

Whatever floats your boat when it comes to pasta salad recipes, there's one rule you should always apply, and that's dressing the salad while the pasta is fresh from the colander and still steaming hot. Read on to find out why.

Hot pasta absorbs dressing better

If you've ever prepared potato salad and made sure to toss the potatoes in their dressing while they were still hot (via Epicurious), remember that the same technique applies to pasta salad, too. In both instances, the warm, starchy ingredients will better absorb their dressing, resulting in a more flavorful salad. According to Kitchn, the best strategy to employ with pasta salad is to take the just-drained pasta and toss it with two-thirds of the dressing called for in the recipe: The warm starch will soak up the dressing and plump with flavor and texture. Later, just before serving, you can mix in the rest of the dressing to ensure an adequate level of moistness and slickness.

Epicurious explains further, that if the dressing you're using is mayo-based, take care to let the pasta cool a bit, before employing this method. In the case of too-hot pasta (or potatoes — the advice applies to both), a mayo-based dressing could split. Using an oil-based dressing for your pasta or potato salad? Go ahead and toss while piping hot.