This Italian recipe for angel hair pasta salad is not only delicious but it’s also very easy and quick to make. If you enjoy pasta salads at all, you’ll most certainly fall in love with this refreshing recipe I’m sharing with you today.
If the idea of making pasta salad with angel hair isn’t what comes to mind when you think of cooking angel hair pasta, don’t worry, I too was once a skeptic. But not anymore! You’ll soon see why this is one of the best pasta salad recipes you’ll ever experience.
Angel Hair Pasta Salad
When I mentioned the idea of cold angel hair in a pasta salad to my husband he immediately turned his nose up and said, Yuck, sounds awful! So, I backed off of the idea but the more I thought about it the more I started to get excited at the possibilities where I could take it.
Despite the skepticism, I decided to experiment and create my own personal recipe, but with ingredients I knew would go over well with both myself and my Italian husband. Thankfully, I’ve got the stubborn Italian gene in my blood!
After some testing, adding and removing various flavors, I finally perfected my own version of angel hair pasta salad that turned us both into believers. I’m so happy I didn’t give up because now I can share this special recipe with you!
What is Angel Hair Pasta Salad
Friends, it’s exactly what it sounds like, but a thousand times better. It’s simply a cold pasta salad that uses angel hair instead of short pasta shapes used in other salads, like my pasta salad with tuna recipe for example.
This salad uses fresh ingredients that when mixed together create a balance of flavors that go perfectly with the delicate angel hair. In fact, it makes great cold leftovers which I talk about further down below.
Ingredients for this Recipe
To make this cold angel hair pasta salad recipe you will need the following ingredients. I’ll then explain step by step instructions for how to make the recipe and offer some helpful cooking tips.
Angel hair pasta
Angel hair is a very thin long pasta type. This recipe uses ½ a pound or 8 oz which is approximately half a box.
Extra virgin olive oil
I cannot stress enough the importance of a quality organic extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Make sure to look for a first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil which has a slightly stronger flavor than non-cold pressed olive oil..
You’ll need two garlic cloves. Since the garlic is used raw, I recommend only using one if you are not a fan of garlic or are trying to have a romantic evening, hahahaha….
For the tomatoes, you’ll need 1 cup of chopped tomatoes. In many of my Italian recipes I tell you that canned tomatoes can be substituted, but not so in this case. This is a salad and the tomatoes need to be meaty whole tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or grape tomatoes.
For this pasta salad I found that pitted black olives from the jar were best. I buy them online in an olive oil brine, but some varieties will be marinated with herbs. Black olives have a bold flavor, so I only recommend a ½ cup halved olives.
Red onion is potent, but we love the flavor in this salad. But too much onion is no good, so all you need is 1/8 cup of thinly sliced red onion cut to 1 inch lengths.
For the fresh mozzarella, I used the pre-sliced mozzarella logs by BelGioioso found at Walmart in the deli area. You’ll want 1 cup of chopped mozzarella. You can also the mini-mozzarella balls which work just as well.
Spoiler alert… arugula is my secret ingredient! I bet you’d think I would have used basil like in my tomato caprese salad recipe, right? Arugula has a delightful spicy and peppery taste that mellows as it is blended into the other ingredients. You’ll need about an 1/4 cup chopped arugula.
How to Make Angel Hair Pasta Salad
Now that we know what ingredients are involved, let’s move onto how to make this delicious angel hair pasta salad.
The quick version for my cold angel hair pasta salad recipe is this – cook the pasta and cool it down so it’s cold. Then mix it with all the other ingredients in a large bowl and serve. LOL – that’s really how easy it is!
But I’ll break it down in steps regardless and as usual I will provide helpful tips so it comes out perfectly.
Cook the angel hair pasta
The first step is to start boiling the water for the angel hair pasta. Cook it just as if you were going to serve it normally. I accidentally overcooked one of my batches and was afraid it would be too mushy. However, once the pasta was cold, I found that it didn’t taste like mush at all and kept its form.
Cook it according to the package instructions which generally state 2-4 minutes depending on the brand. If you try to cook it al dente, you may risk having it too undercooked for a pasta salad. With a hot pasta recipe it may be fine as it would continue to cook with the hot sauce, etc.
Rinse the angel hair under cold water
When the angel hair pasta is ready, remove from heat, drain and run under cold water. By doing this, you also remove some of the extra starch!
Place back into the pan and add a 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Prepare the fresh ingredients
While the water is coming to a boil, you can start preparing the other ingredients.
Grab a large mixing bowl where you’ll mix the ingredients. Simply slice a clove in half and rub the open side all around the inside of the bowl. Keep the garlic because we’ll cut it up and use it.
Chop everything to no less than ½ an inch, except the red onion and garlic.
Pro Tip: Do not cut the ingredients into small cubes because they are harder to pick up with the angel hair as you twirl the pasta around the fork. This is something I learned when testing, so please take my advice.
- If using grape or cherry tomatoes, chop them in half to match the mozzarella balls. This is the same process I use for my caprese with cherry tomatoes recipe..
- Olives should be cut in half.
- Mozzarella balls can be cut in half, logs should be cut into squares or cubes.
- Onion should be sliced very thin, but about 1 inch in length. If the onion is sliced too thick, it may overpower the other flavors per bite.
- The arugula should be roughly chopped.
Once your ingredients are prepared and chopped, add them to the large pasta serving bowl and add in the remaining ½ Tablespoon of olive oil.
Pro Tip: I prefer 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in total, but some people don’t like as much – such as my husband. So I recommend that you use 1 Tablespoon with the ingredients here and set the olive oil out so if people want to add more they can.
Mix the pasta with the salad ingredients
Once the angel hair is ready, add it in with the other ingredients and mix well, making sure to get the tomato juices incorporated so it coats the pasta. You can add the pasta to the bowl early if you haven’t finished prepping the other ingredients yet.
Using Other Types of Pasta
You may be wondering if you can use another type of long pasta and if it makes a difference, such as angel hair vs capellini. In this recipe, either will work, but I would not go with any pasta thicker than angel hair – not even thin spaghetti.
In regard to using short pasta types such as rigatoni or penne, yes it would work, but don’t call it angel hair pasta salad. 😊
How to Eat and Serve an Angel Hair Pasta Salad
You serve the pasta salad with the angel hair in a large serving bowl just like any other salad. It can be made in advance without any special preparations necessary. You don’t cut the pasta; you serve and eat it just like you would hot angel hair pasta.
Serve in a pasta bowl or plate with a fork and spoon for twirling the pasta like usual. That is… if you’re a pasta twirler. 🙂
Why Use Arugula and Not Basil
The truth is that basil would also work well with this recipe. But I felt like the salad needed some more depth and the peppery flavor of the arugula accomplished that.
Besides, the red onion already added a brightness to the overall flavor so I didn’t think the basil was really needed. But yes, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil always go well together.
The arugula leaves are soft and not as thick as basil leaves. When adding basil leaves to a warm pasta dish such as my pasta with fresh tomatoes and garlic recipe, they wilt and become more tender due to the heat. With the cold angel hair pasta, they won’t soften as much.
How to Store Angel Hair Pasta Salad Leftovers
I had the joy of having leftovers since I did quite a bit of testing. The good news is that this recipe tastes just as good the day after! You can store the leftover pasta salad in the refrigerator in an air-tight container up to 3 days.
Unlike short thicker pastas, such as my sausage pasta salad, the angel hair doesn’t become stiff and chewy. I think this is because it is so thin in texture and density.
I enjoyed the leftover pasta salad with angel hair much more than any other type of cold pasta salad recipe I have. In fact, with my other pasta salad recipes I like to heat them up as leftovers. However, make sure you know how long pasta salad can stay in the fridge and how to best store it.. And there’s no worry of the pasta sticking, thanks to the olive oil.
What to Serve with Pasta Salad with Angel Hair
Now that you’ve made this delicious pasta salad, what do you serve with it? That’s easy! Stick to the basics of fresh bread, chicken dishes, or other complimentary salads that add some protein. Here are some recipe suggestions for you.
Cannellini bean salad is full of protein and also makes great leftovers
Italian chickpea salad is full of flavor and brightness, not to mention protein.
If it’s summertime, try some pan fried zucchini blossoms to add some crunch on the side!
Other Similar Salad Recipes
If you enjoy Italian salads, I recommend checking these out as well.
Enjoy this pasta salad and sun dried tomatoes recipe for a true Mediterranean treat.
Keep it easy and healthy with a simple Italian green salad.
Enjoy a refreshing Italian potato salad, perfect for a side dish or light lunch!
I hope you enjoy my recipe for angel hair pasta salad. Try it at a get together and be surprised at how many people will rave over it. 😊 Be sure to let me know your own experiences with this recipe in the comments below!
Angel Hair Pasta Salad
- 1/2 lb angel hair pasta cooked, drained, and rinsed with cold water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 Tablespoon chopped garlic cloves approx. 2 cloves – feel free to reduce to one.
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped black olives cut in halves
- 1/8 cup thinly sliced red onion cut to 1 inch lengths
- 1 cup chopped fresh mozzarella or mozzarella balls
- 1/4 cup chopped arugula
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the angel hair and cook according to instructions on box. Usually 2-4 minutes.
- When done, rinse pasta with cold water. Set aside and mix with 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Meanwhile, cut a clove of garlic in half and rub it around on the inside of a large mixing bowl. This can be your serving bowl too. It needs to be large enough to put the pasta in as well.
- Chop the rest of the garlic and add to the bowl along with all the other prepared ingredients including the remaining Tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well.
- Add in the cold angel hair pasta and mix well until all the pasta and ingredients are well coated and mixed together.
- Serve cold.
- Make sure to cut your ingredients on the larger side so it is easy to pick up with the fork. Except for the red onion and garlic.
- If you don’t have arugula you can add in basil or leave it out.
- Add extra olive oil on top when serving, if you prefer more of an olive oil flavor.
- Use a high quality olive oil.
- Makes for great leftovers!