Broccoli pasta salad is one of my favorite dishes for lunch or as a side for dinner. This recipe just screams summertime. Sitting out on the deck and enjoying this favorite, after an afternoon of swimming in the pool, is my idea of a perfect summer day!
This broccoli pasta salad is both filling and versatile. Originally vegetarian, you can easily switch it up and have it include a protein as well. I've included options for switching this pasta salad recipe up to your needs and preferences below. Get ready to enjoy a truly delicious summertime salad!
How To Make This Pasta Salad
The Best Pasta for Pasta Salad
To make this broccoli pasta salad I like to use farfalle, or bow-tie pasta. However, if you like other pastas more, you can try using fusilli (spiral) pasta. The shape of bow-tie pasta is perfect for catching and holding on to the deliciously creamy dressing. But the same effect can be achieved with fusilli!
When cooking your pasta, make sure that it is al dente and not overcooked. Al dente means that the texture should be firm to the bite, not super soft. After draining your pasta in a colander, drizzle some olive oil over it and toss. This prevents it from sticking together while you are preparing the other ingredients.
How to Prepare the Broccoli for Broccoli Pasta Salad
To make broccoli for the broccoli pasta salad, you want to use a blanching technique. Blanching ensures that the broccoli stays crunchy, but is not raw. The broccoli will also get a vibrant green color, which looks beautiful in the salad.
To blanch the broccoli, bring water to a boil and toss in the cut broccoli. You'll want to cut the broccoli into small pieces. Leave the broccoli in the boiling water for about 2-3 minutes, drain, and throw into an ice bath. The ice will stop the cooking process and keep your broccoli bright green and crisp.
How to Make A Healthy Pasta Salad Dressing
Pasta salads often have dressings that are filled with mayonnaise and sugar. This healthy pasta salad dressing doesn't have any of that! Instead, this dressing using Greek yogurt and extra virgin olive oil. I prefer to use full fat Greek yogurt for a richer texture and flavor, however if you prefer a lighter version, try using low fat.
When you choose an olive oil for the dressing, make sure it is high quality, extra virgin so you that you get the best possible flavor. This recipe also calls for fresh minced garlic, fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest.
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and store in the refrigerator until its ready to be used.
Assembling The Salad
For the rest of this broccoli pasta salad recipe, you'll want to include some more veggies and fruits. I like using bell peppers, tomatoes, and cranberries. Slice all the vegetables into pieces. If you don't like dried cranberries, you can use grapes instead!
Then in a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, blanched broccoli, bell peppers, and cranberries. Toss all the ingredient to mix well. Add some yogurt dressing and toss again until thoroughly combined and serve.
If you would like to make this broccoli pasta salad heartier, consider adding in some chicken! Pan fried or grilled chicken is a wonderful addition to this pasta salad.
For this salad, I like to use chicken breast. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder. Then pan sear it in some avocado oil. When the chicken is fully cooked (internal temp of 165), squeeze some fresh lemon on top.
I like to serve this salad with bite-sized pieces of chicken, so I cut the breast into chunks. However, you can also serve each breast individually on a plate, instead of tossing it in the salad!
Tools You May Need To Make Broccoli Pasta Salad
- Bowl for mixing all the ingredients together for the dressing. This stainless steel bowl is big and easy to keep clean.
- Cutting Board for all your slicing and dicing needs! This bamboo one is antibacterial and looks beautiful in the kitchen.
- Pot for blanching your broccoli to perfection!
- Pan for cooking the chicken breast. I love this cast iron skillet for getting a good sear on the chicken.
- 2 cups (dry) Farfalle (Bow-Tie) Pasta, cooked al dente
- 1 head broccoli, florets only
- 1 red bell pepper, core removed and cut into thin slices
- 1 yellow bell pepper, core removed and cut into thin slices
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries [optional]
- 1 chicken breast (optional)
- 1 cup traditional Greek yogurt (full fat)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 T. high-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T. fresh lemon juice
- 1 T. fresh lemon zest
- salt and black pepper, to taste
For The Dressing
- In a glass bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and zest with a fork or whisk.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- If making ahead of time, place in refrigerator for the flavor to meld.
For The Salad
- Prep and blanch the broccoli florets. Allow them to cool completely.
- Slice the bell peppers.
- If adding chicken to the salad, season the chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
- Sear in a pan and cook until done.
- Cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, steamed broccoli, red and yellow pepper, cranberries, and chicken (optional).
- Toss to mix well.
- Add some yogurt dressing and toss again until thoroughly combined and serve.
Nutrition InformationYield 2 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 465Total Fat 17gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 13gCholesterol 57mgSodium 457mgCarbohydrates 47gFiber 9gSugar 24gProtein 36g
The Perfect Summer Side Dish
This broccoli pasta salad recipe is one of my favorites. It is easy, quick and tastes even better! You can make this recipe a day or two ahead and store in the refrigerator, so it’s perfect for taking to gatherings. Or make it same day and serve it alongside your summer barbecue!
Did you try this recipe? How do you make your pasta salad? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!