The Easiest 4-Ingredient Pasta Salad We're Making All Summer

It uses store-bought shortcuts.

<p>Buckwheat Queen</p>

Buckwheat Queen

If you opt for the easiest thing when asked to bring a dish to a cookout or picnic, and rolls and drinks are already claimed, may we suggest you whip up a super-simple four-ingredient pasta salad that you can make as small or large as you want?

Bringing a cold pasta salad is great because it can be made ahead of time. In fact, putting it together about 12 to 18 hours early means the flavors have time to meld and make this popular side dish even tastier.

We have many pasta salad recipes on Allrecipes, along with a fantastic guide to making pasta salad, but if you want to make the simplest version of them all, we’re digging this simple formula that starts with one important ingredient: mozzarella balls marinated in olive oil.

The Simplest Pasta Salad Ever

Store-bought marinated mini mozzarella balls swimming in olive oil and herbs, such as those sold at Trader Joe’s or Aldi, are a brilliant pasta salad ingredient. Why? Because using them takes care of the cheese and the salad dressing all at once. Since the mozzarella and the marinade come together in one container, the two equal one ingredient, right?

Another must for pasta salad is, of course, cooked pasta. The pasta you choose should be bite-sized (this is not where you want to choose spaghetti or linguini). It’s also smart to use something that the dressing (aka the marinade from the mozzarella balls) can cling onto. Pasta shapes such as spiral-shaped fusilli, ridged elbow macaroni, or orecchiette that can hold the sauce in its “little ear” are all good choices.

What are the final two ingredients? That’s up to you. You can choose two vegetables, one vegetable and a cured meat, or a veggie and fresh herb. (Note: If you’re making the pasta salad ahead of time and using fresh herbs, don’t add until just before serving.)

We do have some suggestions if you want us to do all the thinking for you—which we're happy to do, because you shouldn’t have to think too hard when something is called the “simplest ever.”

Ideas for the Final Two Ingredients

Try these tasty combinations:

  • Chopped sun-dried tomatoes and drained chopped marinated artichoke hearts.

  • Cherry tomatoes cut in half and ripped basil leaves (sort of like a Caprese pasta salad).

  • Chopped red, yellow, or orange bell peppers and thawed frozen peas.

  • Salami (or pepperoni) and halved grape tomatoes.

  • Bacon and chopped green onion.

  • Arugula and chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar).

How To Make 4-Ingredient Pasta Salad

Here’s how we suggest you go about making this pasta salad:

  1. Boil water and cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, chop up any ingredients you need to chop up.

  3. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the bowl you’ll be making the pasta salad in.

  4. Allow the pasta to cool for about 10 minutes and stir it every few minutes to release the heat so the mozzarella balls don’t melt when they hit the super hot pasta.

  5. After 10 minutes, add the mozzarella balls (but not their marinade) and your other two chosen ingredients.

  6. Add the marinade a little at a time until you feel you’ve added enough. (Do not toss the rest of the marinade.)

  7. Refrigerate until serving.

If you find that the pasta has absorbed all the dressing as it’s sat in the fridge, add a little more of the reserved marinade. If you’ve used it all, drizzle on some good olive oil.

The marinade for the mozzarella balls will have salt and herbs in it. You may not need any salt at all. But, if after tasting you feel it needs more salt—or some freshly ground pepper—add a little at time until you’re satisfied with the flavor.

Read the original article on All Recipes.