bowtie pasta salad featured image
Loaded Pasta Salad is packed with meat, cheese, and veggies, all tossed in a creamy dressing. This quick and easy summer recipe is perfect for warm weather meals.
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Table of Contents
  1. Easy Pasta Salad
  2. Why We Love This Bow Tie Pasta Salad Recipe
  3. Ingredients
  4. Substitutions and Additions
  5. Recommended Tools
  6. How to Make Creamy Pasta Salad
  7. Tips from Our Recipe Developer
  8. Storage
  9. Frequently Asked Questions
  10. Other Easy Pot Luck Recipes
  11. Creamy Pasta Salad Recipe

This sweet Creamy Pasta Salad recipe is a quick and easy summer side dish that is hearty enough to be served as the main meal.

Loaded with bow tie pasta, meat, cheese, and vegetables, all tossed together in a homemade tangy Ranch dressing. This cold pasta salad is the perfect way to feed your friends at your next warm-weather gathering.

bowtie pasta salad hero image

Easy Pasta Salad

Our Loaded Pasta Salad recipe is so much more than macaroni salad doused in dressing. It will change the way you think about that classic creamy bowtie pasta bowl on the picnic table!

It takes just minutes to prepare this dish of tender pasta, ham, cheese, onions, cucumber, and tomatoes, and toss it all in a flavorful homemade dressing.

My favorite thing about a cold summer salad is that it has no rules. There are a variety of ways to create your own customized version and fill it with your favorite foods and dressing ingredients.

Serve your bow tie pasta salad as a side dish, eat leftovers for lunch, or make it the main meal. It’s the perfect marriage of fresh flavors and textures that taste delicious when tossed in a mayo dressing.

Why We Love This Bow Tie Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Quick and easy to make in 20 minutes.
  • Uses simple, budget-friendly ingredients.
  • Packed with protein and plenty of vitamins.
  • Completely customizable and versatile recipe.
  • Great recipe to feed a crowd and can easily be doubled or tripled.
  • Hearty and satisfying side that pairs well with many main dishes, like grilled chicken, beef or fish.
  • Make-ahead and travel-friendly salad makes it perfect for potlucks, picnics, barbecues, and summer parties.

More Easy Pasta Salads

bowtie pasta salad in a wooden spoon

Ingredients

  • Mayonnaise
  • Whole milk
  • White vinegar: I used white vinegar to make my dressing but apple cider vinegar will work too.
  • Ranch seasoning
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Bowtie pasta: (cooked pasta) Make sure to cook and drain according to box instructions.
  • Smoked uncured ham steak
  • Cheddar-monterey jack cheese
  • Cucumber
  • Red onion: Feel free to use sweet yellow onion if you prefer.
  • Grape tomatoes

Substitutions and Additions

  • Choose Your Cheese: I like the flavor of the block of cheddar-monterey jack cheese but you can certainly substitute a different cheese. We also love sharp cheddar, colby jack or a block of swiss cheese. Or you can try using mozzarella or provolone in your salad instead.
  • Pick Your Pasta: You can substitute rotini, farfalle, penne, fusilli, shells, elbow macaroni, or any short pasta for the bowties.
  • Pick Your Protein: Feel free to swap the ham for your favorite protein. Some ideas include crumbled bacon, hard salami, grilled chicken, and pepperoni.
  • Vary The Veggies: A loaded bow tie salad can easily be customized. Try adding your favorite veggies, like peas, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, sliced black olives, celery, and even sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Vegetarian Version: You can make a vegetarian version of this salad by omitting the meat and adding some extra veggies. You bulk it up with beans, like garbanzo beans, chickpeas, black beans, or kidney beans.
  • Large bowl
  • Measuring tools
  • Whisk
  • Serving bowl
loaded pasta salad on a plate
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How to Make Creamy Pasta Salad

  1. Make The Dressing: Whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, ranch seasoning, sugar, salt, and pepper. Transfer ½ cup of the dressing to a separate bowl and set aside to thicken.
  2. Prepare The Salad: Coat the cooked and cooled pasta with your creamy dressing. Add the pasta to the meat, cheese, and veggies. Toss well.
  3. Serve: Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!
loaded pasta salad collage process

Tips from Our Recipe Developer

  • If your ham steak has been packaged in a liquid, you will want to pat it dry before dicing it. I also like to trim off the tough edges before dicing it as well. This does not have to be done, as it is an edible part of the ham steak, however, it is a personal preference for me.
  • Make sure that you dice all your vegetables, block cheese, and ham steak the same size (approximately ¼-½ inch-sized cubes). Your grape cherries only need to be cut in half.
  • Drain and rinse! After you boil your pasta, run it under cold water to cool. This stops the cooking process so the noodles don’t get overcooked and mushy.

Storage

  • To Store: Keep any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • To Freeze: This pasta salad does not freeze well.
loaded pasta salad with bowtie pasta

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this salad need to be chilled before serving?

This bowtie pasta salad can be served immediately or after it has been refrigerated. If you refrigerate this pasta salad before serving then you may want to add that reserved ½ cup of dressing and toss it with the chilled pasta salad.

Does creamy pasta salad need to be refrigerated?

A creamy pasta salad will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it should only be left out for about 1 hour.
If you’re making the pasta salad in advance, it should remain in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.
Any leftovers should also be covered and stored in the fridge.

What should I serve with my pasta salad?

Our Loaded Pasta Salad is substantial as its own meal, but it also makes a great side for dinner. Try it next to my other mains like my Lemon Chicken, 3-Ingredient Brown Sugar Italian Chicken, Grilled Salmon, and Garlic Butter Steak Bites.

pasta salad on a plate

Other Easy Pot Luck Recipes

5 from 7 votes
bowtie pasta salad featured image

Creamy Pasta Salad

Serves — 12
Loaded Pasta Salad is packed with meat, cheese, and veggies, all tossed in a creamy dressing. This quick and easy summer recipe is perfect for warm weather meals.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

Dressing

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning (from a 1 oz. packet)
  • teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Pasta Salad

  • 12 oz box bowtie pasta (cooked and drained according to box instructions)
  • 7 oz smoked uncured ham steak diced
  • 1 cup cheddar-monterey jack cheese block diced
  • 1 cup cucumber seeds removed and diced
  • 1 cup red onion diced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes that have been cut in half

Instructions
 

  • To make the dressing whisk together, in a medium bowl, the mayonnaise, whole milk, white vinegar, ranch seasoning, granulated sugar, salt and pepper. Transfer ½ cup of the dressing to a separate bowl to reserve. Set aside the dressing to thicken up while you make the rest of the recipe.
  • In a large mixing bowl add the cooked and drained bowtie pasta and allow it to cool for 10 minutes while you dice all your other ingredients.
  • To the cooled bowtie pasta add the remaining 1 cup dressing and toss it to coat all the pasta with the dressing.
  • To the bowl of pasta and dressing add the diced ham, diced cheddar-monterey jack cheese, diced cucumber, diced red onion and grape tomatoes halves.
  • Toss all the diced vegetables, diced ham and diced cheese with the dressing coated bowtie pasta until everything is evenly distributed.
  • Transfer to a large serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Jenn’s Notes

Storage:
  • To Store: Keep any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • To Freeze: This pasta salad does not freeze well.
Tips:
  • If your ham steak has been packaged in a liquid, you will want to pat it dry before dicing it. I also like to trim off the tough edges before dicing it as well. This does not have to be done, as it is an edible part of the ham steak, however it is a personal preference for me.
  • Make sure that you dice all your vegetables, block cheese and ham steak the same size (approximately ¼-½ inch sized cubes). Your grape cherries only need to be cut in half.
  • After you boil your pasta, run it under cold water to cool. This stops the cooking process so the noodles don’t get overcooked and mushy.
  • I like the flavor or the block of cheddar-monterey jack cheese but you can certainly  substitute a sharp cheddar, colby jack or block of swiss cheese. 

Nutrition Info

Calories: 288kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 662mg | Potassium: 222mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 255IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 108mg | Iron: 1mg
Jennifer Fishkind

About Jenn

Jenn is a mom to three beautiful boys, wife to an amazing husband, social influencer and blogger. I love all things easy recipes, easy crafts, all things hacks, traveling EVERYWHERE and feeding my Pinterest addiction!

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