The Secret To Ina Garten’s Best-Ever Pasta Salad

Summer is here, which means it’s time for backyard barbecues, picnics and al fresco meals all season long. And nothing says “picnic” quite like a cool, tangy, bright pasta salad. But with so many variations on this beloved summer staple, how can you find the one pasta salad recipe to rule them all?

Look no further than Ina Garten’s iconic pasta salad. Her recipe for Tomato Feta Pasta Salad on Food Network’s website has over 300 glowing reviews. In fact, when The Kitchn reviewed the most popular pasta salad recipes, reviewer Alexis Deboschnek gave Ina Garten’s pasta salad first place and named her the “Queen of Pasta Salad.”

Deboschnek writes, “It’s rare for me to give a recipe 10/10, but Ina’s pasta salad deserves it.”

So what exactly makes Ina Garten’s pasta salad so special?

The secret to her memorable pasta salad is a dressing that puts all those other ranch or olive oil variations to shame. There’s no packet of Hidden Valley here! And Ina thinks beyond just the standard EVOO and red wine vinegar combo. Instead, her dressing calls for other flavorful additions like sun-dried tomatoes and capers. (If you don’t happen to love sun-dried tomatoes or capers, stick with us, you are still going to love this dressing.)

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While Ina Garten’s pasta salad doesn’t call for many add-ins (she keeps it simple with feta cheese, high-quality black olives and more sun-dried tomatoes), you can feel free to include your own pasta salad favorites. Think salami, bell peppers, chickpeas, red onions, or fresh herbs like parsley and basil.

Don’t be shy about doubling up on the recipe either: This pasta salad goes fast, and since the recipe only calls for half a pound of pasta (as opposed to a whole pound like most pasta salad recipes), it’s a good idea to double it so you have enough to go around.

Wondering what other pasta salad recipes are worth a try this summer?

Well, The Kitchn gave Rachael Ray a nod for her super-smart dressing technique. Her pasta salad recipe calls for vegetable stock, which might sound quite unusual, but it ends up being a yummy way to deepen your dressing’s flavor with very little effort. Find the recipe for Rachael Ray’s Italian Pasta Salad here.

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And Pinch of Yum got a nod for creating the most versatile pasta salad. The “Best Easy Italian Pasta Salad” was noted to be a good base pasta salad that can easily be adapted to suit your own particular tastes, whether you want to include summer sausage or keep it veg-friendly with add-ins like fresh tomatoes and pepperoncini.

Which popular pasta salad got the lowest ranking? Well, we are sad to say it but it seems Martha Stewart’s recipe left the most to be desired. Her Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Chickpeas was deemed to be lacking in flavor and in need of more acid and salt. The Kitchn also called it “unnecessarily fussy” — and fuss is the last thing you want when whipping out a cool pasta salad on a hot summer day.

So, Ina Garten reigns supreme as Queen of Pasta Salad … as will you after you break out this recipe for your next backyard hangout!