This Broccoli Pasta Salad is a 10 minute, super yummy Summer side dish. Fresh broccoli, bowtie pasta, and crispy bacon tossed in a tangy mayonnaise dressing.
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One of my favorite things about Summer is pasta salad – be sure to check out all my pasta salad recipes! This broccoli pasta salad recipe in particular is near and dear to my heart because I grew up eating it—just like every Midwesterner probably grew up eating something similar.
I’ve had this pasta salad more times than I can count…you’ll understand once you try it. It’s so good.
Pasta AND bacon? Yeah, you know a recipe is going to be good if those two things are involved.
- Bowtie Pasta – or your favorite noodle shape. Short pastas – like bowtie, elbow macaroni, etc. – work best for pasta salads.
- Broccoli – without broccoli this would just be pasta salad. 😉 I love the fresh flavor and crisp texture.
- Green Onions – add a bright, earthy flavor.
- Sunflower Seeds and Cashews – give the pasta salad an extra crunch!
- Raisins – provide a delicious chewy texture and add a little bit of sweetness.
- Bacon – adds a smoky flavor.
- Mayonnaise, Sugar, and Apple Cider Vinegar – make up a creamy, sweet, tangy, delicious dressing.
How to make
Cook pasta, crisp bacon, chop broccoli, and throw everything into a big bowl. Seriously. It’s that easy!
- Cook your pasta. Set aside.
- Whisk together your dressing ingredients.
- Combine all of your ingredients in a large bowl and mix until fully combined.
- Chill then serve and enjoy!
Do you cook the broccoli?
No, the broccoli in this recipe is raw. It provides an amazing fresh flavor and crunchy texture. Be sure to chop the broccoli into bite sized pieces for the most desirable texture. The apple cider vinegar in the dressing actually helps break the broccoli down so it doesn’t taste super raw once it sits for a while.
If you really can’t stand raw broccoli feel free to blanch it. You can do this by bringing a large pot of water to a boil, adding the broccoli, and cooking until the it’s lost some of that raw bite. DON’T OVERCOOK. Once it’s cooked to your liking, drain it in a colander and rinse it right away with cold water so it’s ready to go for the cold pasta salad. (*not tested)
What type of pasta to use
Short pastas work best in this recipe. Bowtie pasta is what I use and recommend, because it soaks up the sauce beautifully and the shape works well with the other ingredients. Don’t have bowtie? Try elbow macaroni, penne, rotini, or medium shells!
All pasta is delicious, let’s be honest. 😉
I love this broccoli pasta salad just the way it is but if you’re feeling adventurous feel free to play around with additions!
- Add more veggies. Try adding small pieces of cauliflower, carrot, zucchini, pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.
- Make it vegetarian. Just leave out the bacon!
- Lighten it up. Sub the mayonnaise out for a lighter, olive oil-based mayonnaise or try replacing half of the mayo with plain Greek yogurt.
- Add cheese. Toss in pieces of your favorite cheese. Feta is delicious!
- Add another protein. Mix in chicken, ham, or pieces of hard-boiled egg.
Any added ingredients will bulk up the salad which may require you to make additional dressing. With that in mind, adjust measurements if necessary!
What to serve with broccoli pasta salad
This broccoli pasta salad is the best Summer side dish. I love to eat it alone as a light lunch or dinner or serve it up with some other delicious Summer recipes. Here are some of my favorites!
Can pasta salad be made ahead of time?
Pasta salad is great made in advance! Letting the pasta salad sit actually gives the pasta and broccoli time to really soak up the flavor from the dressing. Feel free to make it a day ahead of time and store it in the fridge.
How to store
Leftover broccoli pasta salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
I don’t recommend freezing it since the veggies are raw. The texture won’t be the same once it’s thawed.
Broccoli Pasta Salad
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 (12 oz) box bowtie pasta cooked al dente according to package directions
- 1 head broccoli cut into small pieces (about 1 pound)
- 5 green onions sliced (just use white/light green parts)
- 1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup salted cashew halves/pieces
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1/2 pound cooked bacon roughly chopped
In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, sugar, and vinegar until well combined.
Add in cooked pasta, broccoli, green onions, sunflower seeds, cashews, raisins, and bacon.
Stir until throughly combined.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator until cold, then serve and enjoy!
This post was originally published July 29, 2015 and has has been updated to provide more detailed content.