3 elevated pasta salad recipes for gloriously easy batch lunches

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Forget the boring buffet side dish: done right, pasta salad can be a sensational lunchtime staple. Level up with these three anything-but-average recipes.

Pasta salad. If those two little words make you think of bland buffets and dreary office lunches (a fate also suffered by poor potato salad), hear us out. Cold pasta dishes are ideal for evenings too warm for a steaming bowl of spaghetti – and if you make a big batch, you’ve got no-cook lunches sorted for the rest of the week, too.

Convenience isn’t the only reason why pasta salad deserves a spot on your spread. They’re a great way to make use of fresh seasonal vegetables, from courgettes and tomatoes to broccoli and cucumber, without resorting to a run-of-the-mill salad. 

Best of all, they’re beautifully versatile, ready to be tweaked and customised according to the ingredients you have to hand (a sprinkle of capers? A handful of walnuts? Chuck them in). So if you’re looking for an easy lunchtime win, stuck for what to pack for a picnic or prepping ahead for a light summer dinner, pasta salad’s the way to go. 

If any book can convince you of the endless possibilities of pasta salad, it’s Posh Pasta by Pip Spence. The cookbook has an entire chapter packed with inventive, upgraded pasta salad recipes, and we’ve got three of the best to share below.

First up: an artichoke, tomato and olive orzo salad which goes brilliantly with slices of griddled meat. Next, a hot smoked salmon farfalle salad with quails’ eggs and crunchy apple. And for Caesar salad fans everywhere, we have a vegan spin-off complete with roasted pumpkin, kale and a creamy dressing made from cashews.

Easy, impressive recipes that taste just as good the next day? We’re sold.

  • Artichoke, tomato & olive orzo salad

    Pip says: “Simple to prep and very easy to eat, this picante and sweet salad goes beautifully with griddled lamb and steak. Orzo pasta brings the salad together and bulks it out.”

    Serves 4

    Takes 20 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 1 banana shallot, finely sliced
    • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
    • 200g dried orzo
    • 100g grilled artichokes from a jar (drained weight)
    • 350g heritage tomatoes, some sliced and some chopped
    • 10g flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
    • 100g mixture of green and black olives, pitted
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 30g walnut halves, toasted and chopped
    • sea salt and black pepper

    Method

    Place the shallot in a large mixing bowl with the vinegar, season well and place to one side.

    Cook the orzo in a large pan of boiling, salted water, according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

    Drain the shallot and return to the bowl. Add the artichokes, tomatoes, parsley and olives. Toss together with the olive oil. Add the drained orzo, scatter over the walnuts and serve. 

  • Hot-smoked salmon farfalle salad

    Pip says: “A twist on a good potato salad, but with farfalle, and including quails’ eggs, hot-smoked salmon and crunchy apple. This salad works brilliantly on its own or as part of a larger spread.”

    Serves 4

    Takes 35 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 250g dried farfalle
    • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for the pasta
    • 12 quails’ eggs
    • 20g bunch of dill, chopped
    • 5 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
    • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
    • 65g Greek yogurt
    • 2 tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
    • 1 dessert apple, cored and diced
    • 150g cucumber, peeled, halved, deseeded and cut into half-moons
    • 50g watercress
    • 150g hot-smoked salmon
    • sea salt and black pepper

    Method

    Cook the farfalle in a large pan of boiling, salted water, according to the packet instructions, then drain into a colander, run under a cold tap to cool and tip into a mixing bowl. Dress with a little olive oil and place to one side.

    Meanwhile, boil the quails’ eggs for 3 minutes in a small pan, then drain, run them under cold water to cool, peel and place to one side.

    Put most of the dill in a clean jam jar with the spring onions. Add the 3 tbsp olive oil, the vinegar, yogurt and mayonnaise. Season, secure the lid and shake.

    Add the apple, cucumber and most of the watercress to the pasta and stir in the dressing.

    Transfer to a platter and flake over the salmon.

    Halve the quails’ eggs and arrange over the top, then scatter over the remaining dill and watercress.

    Season with a little more black pepper and serve.

  • Vegan Caesar pasta salad

    Pip says: “Hearty, filling and perfect served with roasted pumpkin, this is reminiscent of a classic Caesar, but the creamy dressing is made from cashews and it’s tossed with crispy croutons, capers and chickpeas, mixed with kale and pasta shells.”

    Serves 4

    Takes 50 minutes

    Ingredients

    • 100g cashew nuts
    • 100g stale bread, cubed
    • ½ x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
    • 2 tsp baby capers
    • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 200g dried pasta shells
    • 250ml cashew milk
    • 2 tsp nutritional yeast, plus extra for sprinkling
    • ½ tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
    • 125g kale leaves, shredded
    • a little red wine vinegar (optional)
    • sea salt and black pepper

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

    Put the cashews in a small bowl, add cold water to cover and allow to soak for 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place the bread cubes in a roasting tray.

    Pat the chickpeas dry and add to the roasting tray.

    Drizzle with the olive oil, season well and sprinkle over the dried mixed herbs and capers. Crush over 2 of the garlic cloves and toss. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until the croutons are golden.

    While the croutons and chickpeas are roasting, cook the pasta shells in a large pan of boiling, salted water, according to the packet instructions.

    Drain the cashews and blitz in a blender along with the remaining garlic clove, the cashew milk, nutritional yeast and vegan Worcestershire sauce.

    Transfer to a large bowl.

    Drain the pasta and tip into the bowl of dressing.

    Add the kale and toss well. Season to taste, add a little vinegar for sharpness, if you think it needs it, and transfer to a platter. Scatter over the croutons, chickpeas and capers and some extra nutritional yeast, and serve. 

    From Posh Pasta by Pip Spence (£12.99, Quadrille), out now

Photography: © Faith Mason

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