Pasta salad is the perfect summer food for a backyard BBQ. Whether you throw hotdogs, hamburgers or chicken on the grill, my Shrimp Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing is the perfect side dish!
Several years ago I was going to a cookout and volunteered to bring pasta salad. Of course I had to make my own and all of the recipes I came across used just a simple bottle of Italian dressing. Don’t get me wrong Italian dressing was a go-to for my family but I needed something different. I knew making my own sun-dried tomato dressing would take this pasta salad to a new level!
What ingredients go in pasta salad?
What I love about pasta salad is that the combinations of ingredients are endless. Between different vegetables, pastas and cheese you can really customize pasta salad to your family’s tastes. I always use cherry tomatoes and cucumbers in mine. I would definitely add Kalamata olives but my husband isn’t a fan so I leave them out.
Another thing to consider is if you are making this for a crowd and you need to double the recipe you may want to leave the shrimp out to keep it more cost effective. That’s perfectly fine, I’ve done that version as well and just added a little more cheese. You can even buy turkey at your grocery’s deli to cut into cubes for the salad. Just ask them at the deli for a thick cut slice of turkey. I’ve done this many times because it’s faster and less expensive way to add protein.
Optional add ins for pasta salad
- Feta Cheese
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Chopped Red Onion
- Red, Orange or Yellow Peppers
These are just a few ideas that you can try in your salad. If you have picky eaters you can always adapt your salad to what works best in your house.
How to roast Shrimp
Roasting shrimp in the oven is so easy and gives the shrimp great flavor! Make sure you start with raw shrimp that have been peeled and deveined. Pat them dry with a paper towel and line up on a foil lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in preheated oven for 7-9 minutes depending on the size of your shrimp. Shrimp will turn pink when cooked.
What type of pasta is best for pasta salad?
There are many different types of pasta that could work for this salad. I usually use penne pasta but bow ties or rotini are also great choices. You can even experiment with a whole grain pasta or one with add vegetables to make this dish a healthier option.
Just be careful to cook which ever pasta you choose to the “al dente” direction on the box. This is an Italian word that means still firm when bitten. Basically we want our pasta to still have a firm texture and not over cooked and mushy. If you aren’t sure time it for the lest amount of cooking time and test a noodle to be sure.
How long will pasta salad last in refrigerator?
For the freshest ingredients pasta salad should be eaten in 2-3 days. Otherwise, the cucumbers and tomatoes begin to break down and get a little mushy. If you want to make this the day before for a cook out I’ve done that many times and just sprinkled a little extra red wine vinegar and stirred it really well. It’s still great the next day, and maybe even better because the flavors have had time to develop.
What Should i serve with pasta salad?
If you are hosting a cook-out during the summer this pasta salad is a great side dish because it goes with everything. I have made it to go along with hamburgers, hotdogs and barbecue chicken. Or you could have a seafood themed dinner with grilled fish.
If you are going to a party and you need a crowd pleasing side dish this will not disappoint. It has so much more flavor than the more ordinary mayonnaise based pasta salads!
Shrimp Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing
- 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
Sun Dried Tomato Dressing
- ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 box 16 ounce penne pasta
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups cucumber, sliced
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees to roast the shrimp.
- Start a pot of boiling water to cook pasta following package instructions. Cook till aldente, drain and set aside to cool.
- While pasta is cooking, prepare shrimp for roasting. Line a baking sheet with foil, spread shrimp out, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Shrimp will take 8-9 minutes or until they turn pink and no longer translucent.
- Fill a small microwave bowl with a ½ cup of water. Microwave for 30 seconds and place sun-dried tomatoes in bowl. Set bowl aside.
- While shrimp and pasta are cooking heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté shallots and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until shallots are translucent being careful not to burn garlic. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl add cooled pasta, tomatoes, cucumbers, cooled shrimp and cubed cheese.
- In a blender add cooled shallots and garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Blend until smooth.
- Add sun-dried tomato dressing to pasta bowl, stirring to incorporate dressing on all ingredients. Serve chilled