Broccoli pasta salad is my summer barbecue go-to, and I’ll admit, it isn’t for the best reasons.
I choose pasta salad because it’s a complete, satisfying meal that will fill me up in the event that all of the other food at the party is… less than delicious. Sorry, but as someone who lives (and loves) to eat, I just can’t take any chances.
In the case of this easy broccoli pasta salad, I’d eat it whether I was headed to a potluck dinner or just hungry at home on a Tuesday. I’d bring it to a summer picnic or picnic on my couch during an extended work-from-home lunch.
Packed with crisp, green broccoli, crunchy, toasted almonds, nutty, salty Pecorino cheese and a smattering of fresh mint in a simple, slightly-too-vinegary vinaigrette, it’s too good to make for just one event in the summer. It’s a pasta salad for all seasons, if you will. Finally!
Tips for the best pasta salad
- Lots of veggies. Ideally, more vegetables than pasta by weight.
- Bright, tangy, no-mayo dressing. I have nothing against mayonnaise, but I just don’t want it in my pasta. Olive oil is a much more compatible fat source. Use it with abandon!
- Make substitutions as necessary. Swap the cheese for nutritional yeast or a plant-based substitute to make this vegan. Use gluten-free pasta to make this grain-free. Or, if you’re not looking for a vegetarian option, add chicken!
- Make it ahead. Let the pasta salad sit for at least 10 minutes before serving so the flavors can meld.
- Pasta salad does not have to be—and, frankly, shouldn’t be— cold. Enjoy it warm or at room temperature (my preference).
Notes on the ingredients
- 12 oz of pasta. Don’t hate me, but this is about ¾ of a standard 16 oz box. I found that a whole box was too much pasta, and half a box was not enough. See notes for ideas on how to use the rest of the box. It’s worth it, promise!
- Fresh broccoli. You can use almost any vegetable here, I like the hearty crunch of broccoli but you can also try well-roasted zucchini rounds, chopped, steamed asparagus, thinly sliced raw cucumber, etc. Notice the green theme here—keep things monochromatic for a unique look.
- Red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. Two forms of acid add a one-two punch that firmly places this dish in the “salad” category. Feel free to swap out the red wine vinegar for white or balsamic vinegar.
- Almonds, mint, and Pecorino cheese. Use any combination of nuts, herbs, and cheese that you like. Try walnuts with basil and Parmesan. Pecans with parsley and feta. Hazelnuts with dill and manchego. There are no wrong answers here!
What to serve with pasta salad
Let’s make broccoli pasta salad