I tried three celebrity chefs' recipes for pasta salad to find my new potluck go-to.
Although I'd swap the Miracle Whip for regular mayo, Sunny Anderson's dish was my favorite.
I would happily make Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine's pasta salads again with a few adjustments.
Although many people have their tried-and-true recipe, there are so many ways to make pasta salad — some versions are filled with fresh squash and herbs, loaded with cheddar and bacon, or packed with spicy ingredients for an added kick.
So I decided to try three different recipes from celebrity chefs Guy Fieri, Robert Irvine, and Sunny Anderson to find the best one.
Fieri's pasta salad features a rainbow of fresh ingredients
The ingredients list looks long, but it's mostly an array of colorful produce like roasted red peppers, carrots, celery, red onion, and pepperoncinis, but my grocery spot only had banana peppers, so I used those instead. The store was also out of peppadew peppers, so I skipped them.
Aside from that, this recipe calls for classic elbow macaroni as well as kitchen staples like mayonnaise, mustard, white vinegar, and garlic for the sauce.
The chopping took the most amount of time
I could have used a food processor to speed things up, but I didn't mind taking the time to chop and mince all of the produce. Although this part took the longest, the rest was a breeze.
While the pasta boiled, I mixed the tangy sauce together and moved it to the fridge to chill.
Once the pasta had cooked and cooled in an ice bath, this salad was as simple as mixing the noodles, sauce, and chopped ingredients together in a large bowl, then chilling it all for an hour so the flavors could combine.
This pasta salad had a nice amount of heat and a great contrast of textures
I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this one. Although I love peppers and onions, I'm not a huge fan of raw carrots or celery. Thankfully, I couldn't taste much of either, but I'd still cut down on those additions next time.
That said, they added a lot of crunch, which balanced the softness of the noodles.
The dressing didn't have a lot of flavor since it was primarily made with mayo, so most of the dish's tang and spice came from the red onions and banana peppers, but I really loved how this kick paired with the cool, creamy sauce.
Irvine's pasta salad features fresh herbs and omits mayo
This pasta salad stood out to me because it doesn't call for mayonnaise. Instead, Irvine uses a homemade dressing made with apple cider vinegar, garlic, dried herbs, stone-ground mustard, salt, pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil.
The pasta salad itself includes sun-dried tomatoes, basil, parsley, and fresh summer squash, which I admittedly wasn't sure how I'd like uncooked but hoped for the best.
This was another easy recipe to assemble
While the farfalle — commonly known as bow-tie — pasta cooked, I blended the dressing ingredients until everything was thoroughly combined before chopping the squash and washing the herbs.
When the pasta was done, I drained and moved it to a bowl. This recipe doesn't specify to cool the noodles in a cold rinse or ice bath, so they were warm when I mixed them with the dressing and toppings.
I added most of the dressing into the pasta, reserving some to serve with the finished dish, then stirred in the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, parsley, and chopped squash. The recipe doesn't state to cut the herbs, but I tore them up a bit before adding them to the dish.
Even though I didn't chill or rinse the pasta before mixing it with the other ingredients, it quickly cooled down and was below room temperature by the time I served it.
This pasta salad's lack of mayo makes it perfect for warmer days
The delicious dressing added a touch of acidity and tang that didn't overpower the fresh ingredients, and I also loved how the sun-dried tomatoes gave the dish some sweetness and a chewy texture that was different than the crunchy squash and soft noodles.
I was right to be skeptical about the uncooked summer squash, so next time, I'd lightly fry or roast the ingredient before adding it in, but this could just be because I don't like raw yellow squash or zucchini.
I'd also chop the herbs instead of just tearing them, as I wasn't a fan of eating huge bites of basil.
Overall, I enjoyed the unique blend of flavors and really liked that the dressing didn't contain eggs or dairy. I could see myself making this for outdoor events to avoid having mayo sit out in the heat.
Anderson's recipe most resembles the pasta salads I grew up eating
I couldn't wait to get started on Anderson's pasta salad, which has the shortest list of ingredients and amount of prep time. This recipe also calls for peas, cheddar, and bacon, a combination I really like for its juxtaposing salty and sweet flavors.
Per the recipe's suggestion, I used Miracle Whip even though I prefer standard mayo, but since I don't eat meat, I opted for plant-based bacon.
This recipe reminds me a lot of the pasta salads my mom made when I was growing up, although she often used ranch dressing as the base.
This pasta salad required minimal prep work
I used cavatappi pasta (macaroni with a corkscrew shape) per the recipe's recommendation, and while the noodles boiled, I cooked my "bacon," shredded some cheddar cheese, and let the peas thaw.
The sauce was simple to throw together since I just combined Miracle Whip, anchovy-free Worcestershire sauce, red onion, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.
When the noodles were cooked, drained, and cooled via a cold rinse, I mixed in the dressing and added the "bacon" crumbles, shredded cheese, and unfrozen peas.
I loved this flavor combination, but I'd definitely swap Miracle Whip for mayo next time
As I anticipated, the contrast of sweet peas, salty bacon, and savory cheese was a winner.
The Miracle Whip added a lot of tang, and although it was OK, I'd much prefer a more neutral mayo, so I'll definitely make this in the future with that swap in mind.
I enjoyed all of the pasta salads, but I'd deem Anderson's the winner if I had to choose
I went into this taste test expecting a clear winner but actually really enjoyed all of the recipes. Although there are little things I'd change about each one, I'd make any of these options again.
If I had to pick my favorite, I'd go with Anderson's recipe, which is the only one that added cheese and had some nostalgia to it since it's similar to what I ate as a kid, but I'd just use regular mayonnaise for the dressing next time.
The other two recipes were also delicious. For Fieri's pasta salad, I'd cut back on the carrots and celery, and I'd lightly cook the squash and finely chop the fresh herbs if I make Irvine's again.
Want more dishes from these celebrity chefs? Check out their most popular recipes from their cookbooks:
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