Cold Creamy Pasta Salad with Mayo

Cold creamy pasta salad with penne, mayonnaise, pickle relish, and hard boiled eggs is sweet, savory, crunchy and totally delicious. Feed a crowd with this easy make-ahead recipe for cookouts, backyard bbq’s, picnics and potluck parties.

pasta salad in white bowl on blue table with two glasses, overhead.

Cold Pasta Salad

One of my favorite summer side dishes is creamy pasta salad. This one ticks all the boxes as it’s got texture, flavor, and you can make it ahead for easy entertaining.

This traditional pasta salad is coated in a creamy mayonnaise dressing. Diced vegetables, sweet relish, and eggs make it a southern classic.

Pair it with bbq-brushed plank grilled salmon, grilled kabobs, burgers, or a hot dog bar.

Why You’ll Love It

  • We think it’s the BEST pasta salad! It’s an easy tried and true recipe that’s been passed down and around to friends and family for years.
  • You can make it ahead. As with most salads of this nature, it tastes better if it’s allowed to sit for several hours or overnight.
  • There’s a perfect balance of flavors that you’re going to love.
  • Fresh ingredients like diced vegetables make the flavor come alive. Shredded cabbage is an unexpected touch that adds crunch.

Serving Suggestions

This is a cold pasta salad which needs to be kept chilled because it has perishable ingredients. It can sit at room temperature for about 2 hours, then it should be covered and refrigerated up to 4 days.

This is a fantastic dish to serve at backyard bbq’s, bridal showers, spring ladies’ luncheons, picnics and tailgating, and baby showers.

To complete a meal add baked beans, grilled corn on the cob, and watermelon salad.

PARTY TIP: To keep cold salads cold at a party, fill a large bowl or urn with an ice bath. Add rock salt to slow the ice melting process. Nestle a smaller bowl, filled with the pasta, into the ice bath to keep it chilled.

serving dish with spoon filled with pasta salad, on blue table.

How to Make It

This side dish is easy to prepare, but you want to make it early enough so the flavors have time to combine. This makes it a good recipe for make-ahead party prep.

Ingredients

  • Box of pasta – elbow macaroni, penne, or rigatoni are good choices; use whole wheat for a nutritional boost. Don’t over cook the pasta. It should be al dente so it still has a bite and isn’t soggy.
  • Eggs – hard boiled eggs add flavor and a protein boost.
  • Onion – you only need half of a medium size onion to dice.
  • Green pepper – you’ll need half to dice.
  • Celery – cut off the leafy ends and use some to garnish the top of the salad.
  • Cabbage – just use pre-shredded bagged slaw mix.
  • Sweet pickle relish – this is one of the keys to making it “southern”.
  • Celery seeds
  • Black pepper

PRO TIP: Save time and effort by purchasing hard boiled eggs that are already peeled and ready to use. Find them in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.

ingredients for pasta salad in white bowl with dressing in small bowl.

Dressing

  • mayonnaise
  • yellow mustard
  • sugar
  • vinegar
  • salt
  1. Cook the pasta according to box directions, to al dente. Drain it and rinse it under cold water. Give it a good stir to make sure it’s not sticking together.
  2. Mix the dressing ingredients separately using a whisk, and pour over pasta salad ingredients. Make sure the pasta is completely cool before adding the dressing to ensure it isn’t absorbed into the warm pasta, making it dry and less creamy overall.
  3. Combine well and cover with foil or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight if possible.
close up view of penne pasta salad with sliced egg on top.

FAQ’s

Should pasta salad be made the night before?

I recommend making this pasta salad at least 2 to 3 hours before serving. And making it the night before gives it even more time for the flavors to fully combine and develop. You can also make it in the morning and let it sit in the refrigerator for 8 hours or so.

When making pasta salad do you rinse the pasta?

When pasta is used for cold salads you should rinse it under cold water to help stop the cooking process, and to rinse off the starch. It also helps prevent the pasta from sticking together.

PARTY TIP: Garnish the top of the salad with sliced egg pieces so guests know there is egg inside. Sprinkle fresh celery leaves over the top for some green color and extra flavor.

More Pasta Salad Recipes

Want more recipes to round out your menu? Try these.

I just know you’re going to love this cold creamy pasta salad for your next gathering or summer party ideas. It’s a great southern classic recipe!

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recipe for creamy penne pasta salad with sliced eggs on top.

Creamy Pasta Salad Recipe with Penne

Yield: about 12 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes

Classic southern pasta salad with creamy dressing, pickle relish, and hard boiled eggs. Add loads of texture and flavor to your table with this side dish recipe.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces of pasta – elbow macaroni works well, as does petite penne, or rigatoni
  • 5 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
  • black pepper to taste

Dressing

  • 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta al dente (according to directions on box) and rinse and drain.
  2. Add pasta and all salad ingredients to a large bowl.
  3. In a smaller bowl, mix together dressing ingredients and pour over pasta salad. Combine well and cover.
  4. Place in refrigerator and let chill for at least 2 hours or overnight if possible.

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One Comment

  1. I <3 pasta salad in the worst way and for some reason, it's my most craved summer food (besides ice cream). That looks super delicious and refreshing.