The Absolute Best Pasta To Use For Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is one of the most popular side dishes when you need to feed a crowd. It's perfect for make-ahead prep and it's super versatile, meaning you can bring in flavors from practically any cuisine to complement your meal. Pasta salad can even serve as your main course if you throw in a grilled protein like chicken. And when your pasta salad is full of brightly-colored, fresh ingredients, like our southwestern pasta salad, the dish is visually appealing, too.

That's not to say pasta salad is foolproof. Serious Eats, for example, cites undercooked pasta as a common pasta salad mistake. They recommend cooking pasta for just a few minutes past the al dente stage so that it doesn't get too firm when it's refrigerated. Of course, cooking the pasta too long means it will turn mushy, so watch your timer carefully. Once you've selected your style of pasta salad and you know how to cook the noodles to perfection, perhaps your most important decision is made before you even enter the kitchen. Is there an ideal shape of pasta for pasta salad?

There's a clear winner for pasta salad

America's Test Kitchen argues that there is one shape of pasta that's best, and it's fusilli or corkscrew pasta. They offer several reasons why. First, they explain, "fusilli's spiral is like pasta velcro," meaning that all the dressing and flavorful ingredients adhere to the pasta, rather than settling in the bottom of the serving bowl. Second, when cooked, fusilli bends, rather than breaks, so you have visually appealing whole pieces of pasta. And third, corkscrew-shaped pasta is easy to eat with a fork since the spirals collapse when speared.

If you need a second opinion on which pasta shape is best for a salad, Food Network notes that Ina Garten's top choice for her tomato feta pasta salad is fusilli as well. Now that you know the secret, you can simply replace the pasta in any chilled pasta salad, like this delicious Hawaiian macaroni salad, with fusilli pasta to make chilled pasta perfection.