Don’t skip this simple step.
You’ve probably made pasta salad more times than you can count. I’ll bet you could make it with your eyes closed, without even consulting a recipe. Maybe you have your own signature recipe.
However you like your pasta salad, there is one small thing you can do to make it better. And it requires no special skills or ingredients, only patience.
Cook the pasta
According to package directions for “al dente,” in well-salted boiling water. (But you already knew that.)
Drain and rinse
Rinse the pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process and rinse off the starch that will make the noodles stick together. (Again, you’ve got this.)
Make the dressing
Whether you like a creamy mayonnaise-based pasta salad, or one that is dressed in a tangy vinaigrette, make the dressing in a large bowl, and add the pasta. Toss the noodles to coat. (All standard stuff, I know.)
Stop! Don’t add anything else!
Here's where we take a sudden detour. Before you toss in the cubed salami, the handfuls of torn basil, the roasted tomatoes, or whatever you like in your pasta salad, cover the dressed pasta and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This will help the noodles soak up the dressing, which makes them more flavorful and also less likely to dry out. (Bet you didn’t know that! Or maybe you did.)
WATCH: Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing
Proceed as directed
Before serving the pasta, give it a good stir, then add in your add-ins. Add delicate ingredients like fresh herbs just before serving.
Serve at room temperature
Don’t serve pasta salad straight from the refrigerator; cold noodles are chewy and all of the flavors of the ingredients won’t come through as well when they’re still a bit chilled. Let the pasta come to room temperature for the best flavor and texture. (Did you know that too? You’re a bonafide pasta salad expert.)