Creamy Pasta Salad – Nance and Robyn make the same recipe

Every week we’ll post a recipe that we both made. This week’s recipe was Creamy Pasta Salad, found over at Simply Real moms. Printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this post.

Robyn’s Take:

This week’s recipe was my choice. I don’t have a clue where I spotted it – most likely on Pinterest. With the weather finally kind of warming up, summer cookouts are on the horizon, and what’s better with grilled burgers and steaks than pasta salads that you can throw together in advance so that they’re ready and sitting in the fridge when it’s time to eat?

Your ingredients:

PastaSalad (1)

Mini pepperoni (you could use regular sized, but the minis are so CUTE!), shell pasta, frozen peas (thawed), carrots, broccoli (the original recipe called for a head of broccoli, chopped, but I opted for the easier way), and cheese sticks. Also, there’s a packet of ranch dressing mix. The original recipe called for ranch dressing and then said that the kind you make yourself, from the packet, is way better.

We’ll discuss ranch dressing in a bit.

Also, the recipe called for “shaped pasta.” As is my way, I wrote down the ingredients that I needed to buy at the grocery store, and then when I was actually AT the store, I was like “What the fuck is ‘shaped pasta’?” So I bought wagon wheel pasta (what? Wagon wheels are a SHAPE.) and then when I got home, I went to the site where I got the recipe from, and saw that she’d used shell pasta. So I made Fred stop on his way home from work and buy a box of shell pasta because I’m a stickler for stupid details like that, even though I’m sure the wagon wheel pasta would have been fine. Also, I now have a box of wagon wheel pasta in my cabinet. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that shit?

Put your pasta on to cook, and while it’s cooking, chop up your carrots. I opted to dice them by hand, cutting the carrots into coins and then cutting each coin into little squares, and hello. What a pain in the ass.

PastaSalad (2)

Next time, I’m just going to chop them up in the food processor.

I cut the broccoli florets into smaller pieces, then tossed them into the bowl with the carrots and peas.

PastaSalad (3)

This is where I predict that Nance is going to have a hissy about the peas, because although she and I never discuss the recipes beforehand (that would ruin the surprise aspect of it), she did say something along the lines of “Peas in a pasta salad? WTF?”

There are people, like my friend Liz, who takes the very existence of peas as a personal affront. I happen to LOVE PEAS WITH AN ABIDING PASSION and I would add them to everything. I think that if you want to make this pasta salad and don’t like peas, then perhaps you would leave them out. That goes for everything else in the recipe – if you don’t like it, leave it out. (Though if you hate peas AND broccoli AND carrots, you might want to skip the whole thing.)

I know, it’s a revolutionary idea. You heard it here first, folks.

Cut up your cheese sticks and add them to the bowl, too. I actually sliced my cheese sticks in fairly thin slices, but I’d advise cutting them in chunks rather than slices. Takes less time, and I’d rather have a chunk of cheese than a slice. But you can go with your own personal preference. I won’t tell anyone. Also, of note: the original recipe called for Monterey Jack cheese sticks. I looked in two different grocery stores, and there were NO Monterey Jack cheese sticks to be found, no matter how hard I looked. So I bought Colby Jack sticks instead, and that worked just fine. Cheese experts (and Amanda) will gasp and shake their heads when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: cheese is cheese. I like most cheese, except for the kind that smells like feet. I’ll pass on that kind, thanks.

PastaSalad (5)

Once the pasta was done, I drained it, then laid it out on paper towels to drain further. THEN I pressed lightly on the pasta with a piece of paper towel in an attempt to get it as dry as possible. In retrospect, that was going a bit overboard. I truly don’t think a little bit of water in the pasta salad would have hurt anything.

Toss the mini pepperoni and cheese chunks into the bowl…

PastaSalad (7)

Add the pasta….

PastaSalad (8)

Not shown: the part where I put the lid on the bowl and shook the bowl vigorously to combine everything. Also not shown: the part where I added the entire batch of Ranch dressing (which I made earlier in the day) and stirred it all together well.

The finished product:

PastaSalad (9)

The verdict? Fred said it was “okay”, but I was super surprised when he informed me that he just doesn’t care for pasta salads. Seriously, we’ve been married for almost 15 years, and I had no idea he was not a fan of pasta salads. Well, hmph to him, I say.

My verdict? Here is where we discuss Ranch dressing. I’ve been myself for 45 years. I KNOW I’ve had Ranch dressing multiple times in that 45 years. And yet it came clear to me only as I was eating my bowl of pasta salad that I do not like Ranch dressing.

Just not a fan.

Don’t like it.

Um. What? What kind of an idiot doesn’t KNOW that she doesn’t LIKE ranch dressing? Good god.

So while I like EVERYTHING in this pasta salad EXCEPT the Ranch dressing, the Ranch dressing coats everything, and thus I only ate one small bowl of it, and the chickens got the rest. They liked it a LOT. Apparently THEY like Ranch dressing.

I’m such an idiot.


I’m very much up for trying a different kind of dressing if you guys have any suggestions. (Also, I think this would be good with the addition of chopped up zucchini, which I will try this summer.)


Robyn the Dumbass.

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Nance’s take:

I’m thinking that I’m just going to start my entries with the following…

Nance’s excuse as to why her entry is late this time:  My friend, Regan, came over for a visit on Saturday.  I hadn’t seen her in a while so we had some serious catching up to do (translation: yapyapyapyapyap!).  I probably crawled into bed around 3:45 am.  Yup.  AM.  I don’t know about yunz, but my almost 48-year-old body was fucked come Sunday.  Just fucked.  I tried to sleep-in, but my body is an idiot that likes to wake up as if I have The Milking to do.  I tried to take a nap and my body only allowed for one hour (Boo me!).  I finally got on a roll with this pasta salad, but my brain let me down when something changed on my computer and I lost my freaking photos.  They were lost and I was tired and fuck me…time to write an email to Robyn.  Again.  

So I think we can safely say that this time it is all Regan’s fault.  Hee!

Pasta Salad

Rick found the freaking pictures.  I am stupid.  This is pasta cooking. I’m pretty sure that everyone knows how to cook pasta and this is not the way that it’s done. Too small of a pan, too much pasta. Please feel free to snark about my mother.  Shirley was all up in this recipe and she picked out the pan.  Note:  It is not her special stainless steel pan.  God forbid that something should happen to it.


I love pasta salad. I really, really do! Meats, cheese and pasta. Yum! But man, you start throwing a bunch of vegetables in there and I start thinking it’s a trick diet food.  If you ask me, I will tell you that I like broccoli.  What I won’t tell you is that I only like broccoli when it’s smothered in cheese.  Fresh broccoli?  This is the first time in my life I have ever made anything with it.  NO LIE.  My uncle Chuck called my mother on Friday morning and asked her if we needed any broccoli because he had too much of it.  My mother asked me if we wanted it and I was all, “OHHELLNO!”  And then I remembered that I had to make this recipe so I made her call him back.  Heh.

I had to use The Google to figure out what to do with this fresh broccoli business.  After learning way too much about the different ways to cook broccoli I decided to blanche it.

Pasta Salad

Blanche (from Wikipedia): Blanching is a cooking process wherein the food substance, usually a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocked) to halt the cooking process.

Pasta Salad

I put them in for 1½ minutes.  That thing I’m using is called a wok strainer (amazon affiliate link).  Do we have a wok?  Nope.  I’m assuming I saw it in a store somewhere and decided I needed it.  It gets used often even without a wok and it worked great here.


I was really excited about how pretty the color got, but was also afraid that they were going to really taste like vegetables with all that freaking green!   Please note:  I am using my mother’s special stainless steel pot here (entry about it over here).  Hell may have frozen over on Sunday.


Me, drying the pasta off with a paper towel, while wondering why I thought doing a cooking blog would be fun. And seriously, DRYING OFF MY PASTA? WTF?


Cheese! I used cheddar and monterey jack.  I have no cheese sticks in my house.  I also did not buy special pepperoni.  I took what I had in the freezer (slices) and quartered that shit.  Truth:  Shirley chunked the cheese and quartered the pepperoni.  I just stood around looking fabulous while drying off that goddamned pasta.

Pasta Salad


Pasta Salad

I had Ranch with Bacon so I used that instead of regular ranch dressing. No, I did not make homemade. Like I had time to do that with all the blanching I was doing? The blanching didn’t take that long and I think it made a world of difference. On the original recipe web site, a commenter wrote that she added 1/2 Ranch and 1/2 Italian dressing because it added a little zip. I decided to try that out.

Pasta Salad

My mom doesn’t like Italian dressing (I told you she was INSANE). It’s the main reason why she won’t eat pasta salads. I mixed the two dressings together and gently mixed the whole shebang up.  Yes, Robyn.  There are peas in there even if I hate them.  I used to like them, but I had an incident involving a homemade pot pie and a heavy hand with peas and it was game over after that.  I picked them out when I ate it.  LIKE A BOSS.

Pasta Salad
My mother was going to my uncle Chuck’s house for dinner. She took this and they all loved it. Every single person in this house loved it, too! It wasn’t until later that I remembered that I completely forgot the carrots! But it was still great and, to be honest, it was just one less vegetable I would have picked out while I was eating it.  But I would like to note that I ate the shit out of that broccoli though!

It’s a winner in this house, but I definitely noted the differences (the Italian dressing, Bacon Ranch and no carrots) before it went into the cookbook.

Felina/Pasta Salad

Felina wants everyone to know that she does not approve of these cat-loving shenanigans.  And please excuse Nance’s photos because she was fighting hardcore with the copyright thingie and it blows.  Send treats!

Creamy Pasta Salad - Nance and Robyn make the same recipe
Prep time
Total time
: Side Dish
Cuisine: Norwegian
Serves: 12
  • ½ of a 16-ounce box of shell pasta (I used medium shells and would recommend those)
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped OR half a 12-ounce bag of broccoli florets (you might want to cut the broccoli florets even smaller than they are)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ of a 5-ounce pack mini pepperonis (regular pepperoni will work, too)
8 Monterey Jack (or any kind, really. Whatever you have on hand works.) cheese sticks cut into chunks
3 medium carrots, chopped
Ranch dressing - make your own or use the prepared stuff from a bottle
  1. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box; drain it. Let it cool, and then dump it onto a paper towel to drain further.
  2. Put all the ingredients except Ranch dressing into a big bowl.
  3. Add the Ranch dressing. Go with your own personal preferences as far as how much dressing to use. I used the whole batch (which I mixed up from the envelope) and it worked out pretty well.
  4. Mix together well and serve (or chill until dinner time!)



Creamy Pasta Salad – Nance and Robyn make the same recipe — 65 Comments

  1. Honey Mustard Dressing is pretty good and would stick to everything just like the Ranch would.

    I am forced to eat way too much salad these days and I put a bit of the hot buffalo pepper sauce (for covering wings) on along side the wimpy dressings. I would say ‘drizzle’ like a foodie if I were one.

    I actually like raw broccoli because I can pretend I am eating tiny trees. A bit bitter, though. Blanching cuts that down, if you can’t handle the reality of broccoli.

    • I’m going to have to try this with honey mustard dressing and the hot buffalo sauce! And I can’t help but chuckle at my own visual of you clearing the forest! 😉

      • My mom used to tell me the same thing about the “little trees,” and I loved my broccoli until the day that I almost bit into a green worm that had hitched a ride on a head from our garden into the kitchen. I was probably 5 or 6 and I STILL remember the moment 30 years later. It was horrifying and I don’t think I ate broccoli for years after that, much to my mother’s disappointment, I’m sure. (I’m still a little OCD about examining my vegetables for bugs/rot/mold.)

    • I am thrilled to hear that I’m not the only one that doesn’t think Ranch dressing is that great. Rick thinks I’m an idiot for not loving it. Creamy Italian sounds damn good, too! I’m going to be lining up this pasta salad for different events (ha!) and I’ll be able to try new flavors each time. Yay!

      Amanda does not respect a mini-processor when everybody knows they should be using a respectable 20 piece food processor, purchased from a gourmet restaurant supply store and blessed by no less than 3 culinary chefs shipped over directly from France. Get your shit right, Lisa!

      • Nance, Nance, Nance. My dear girl, how I pity your little delusions. Amanda would never, ever use a food processor. She would use her specially crafted chef’s knife. Crafted by ancient dwarves in a special underground forge deep in the bowels of a mountain in a land far, far away. Food processors, hah!

      • Ancient dwarves? You’re probably right. I wonder what their names were? Robyn will probably want to name a batch of kittens after them. 😉

      • Pretenshous, Ambishous and Showoffous.

        The three ancient druid/dwarves that worked steel instead of wood. I hear from Amanda that their chef knives are the only ones worth having.

      • Heh. I would definitely be thrown out of Amanda’s kitchen, that’s for sure.

        This creamy Italian dressing goes really well in pasta salad. I’ve made it with cooked rotini, cut-up cooked chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (I used the California Blend from the freezer section, thawed), and some diced onion. Makes a great summertime meal. (But is probably way too simplistic for Amanda, thus the banning from her kitchen.)

  2. Robyn, don’t be hating on wagon wheels — they’re so jolly! True story, once I was walking around a lofty New York neighborhood and was stopped by a boy who was doing a survey for a school project (don’t worry, his proud father was supervising). I don’t know what sort of game-changing, philosophically challenging question I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t “What’s your favorite pasta shape?” Back to the real world, though: I would replace the ranch dressing with a creamy balsamic, but perhaps you’ll find that overly Amandine. . .

      • That’s private! I have several: rotellei (yup, wagon wheels), bucatini, capellini, and pappardelle). It all depends on the sauce — or, er, what’s in the cupboard. But hush now, I’m immersed in Amanda’s self-published screed, “My Great Big Universe and How I Invented It.”

      • Oh Jesus. You guys have got to stop. I still have work to do and I cannot be sitting here reading this! And also, some of us (not me) have incredible imaginations and great wit. I didn’t realize how much joy Amanda could bring to this site. Even if I’m sure she invented The Joy (not the dishwashing detergent, that’s beneath her).

  3. I’m thinking I might make a batch of it, then divide it before I add dressings, and add a different dressing to each kind so I can determine which one I like.

    (That might be too much work, though!)

    Lisa, Amanda invented Italian dressing. And she speaks Italian fluently.

  4. Okay, 1. Why do they have to be cheese sticks? Why can’t you just buy cheese and then cut it into sticks and then cut the sticks into cubes?
    2. When I used to actually make pasta salad instead of buying it in a box or from the deli, I used to used the powder from the Ranch envelope mixed with Italian Dressing. It was good, as I remember it, so that’s another option.
    3. That looks delicious.

    • I think the original recipe poster used cheese sticks because she’s got small kids and always has them around. I think you could use cheese in any form you want. I mean, Amanda might have a fit, but we won’t tell her.

      The Italian/Ranch combo sounds like it could be good!

  5. Oh, Robyn, I tried really hard not to laugh at your attempt to dice carrots. Do you know that you can quarter (or sixth or eighth) them the long way and then chop them up? Much easier than trying to cut coins into quarters.

    But, you can laugh at me because I was 40-something before I realized the reason I hated dicing onions was because I was doing it “backwards.”

  6. Thanks Robyn and Nance for the inspiration for my lunch today !! I had most of the ingredients in my fridge. Even the pasta was already cooked !!!! BONUS !!! I was going to let my friends dogs out in the sun and snow (grrr there isn’t supposed to be snow right now) so I stopped at the store to pick up the missing ingredients. I opted to try the dressing suggested by Lisa. I will do that one again. I even have leftovers so I don’t have to make lunch tomorrow. Now I will go and have a brownie with “coconut icing” (or two) for dessert !!

    Have a great day !!!

    Any kittens yet ????

  7. Nance, how is it that no one has commented on the sheer brilliance of your “Black sheep of the family” photo? Ingrates! Luckily I was at home since I laughed, as they used to say, like a drain. Speaking of ingrates, I’m off to Live and Hisses to see if Khaleesi has contemplated having any of her kindle yet.

    • It’s unfortunate, but I’m used to my genius going unnoticed. The folks in this house are the same way. But plop a kitten down and it’s all…Yay kittens! Meanwhile, my brilliance is pushed aside as if I were Tina Turner and Ike was in a mood.

  8. Even though I can’t eat most of the recipes you make, I love coming here to read the comments – both the original recipe comments and reader’s. Today I snorted out loud which made my dogs wonder. And I love broccoli – I probably eat it at least 5x a week – naked (without cheese) . No peas for me though (unless they are hidden in something). I have no ideas for the substitute for ranch – I like blue cheese or balsamic, but don’t think either would go well with pasta. Yeah, really I got nothing, just a bunch of words strung together here.

    • Oh, I love blue cheese dressing. I don’t think it would work here, either, but now I’m craving a big salad with blue cheese dressing. 🙂

  9. I am deeply disappointed that the reason Fred didn’t care for this was – wait for it – he likes cheese, just not in a salad.

    Don’t feel bad about forgetting you don’t care for ranch dressing. I shit you not, after YEARS of trying different recipes that incorporate Lipton onion soup mix, and hating them ALL, I finally, FINALLY realized what all those recipes had in common. That shit smells horrible and tastes worse. 😛

  10. This has always been my favorite macaroni salad recipe — usually I customize what I put into it depending on what I’m in the mood for. Anyway, it has a homemade dressing versus the ranch dressing… might be worth experimenting with if ranch isn’t your thing?

    I don’t like ranch dressing, either — back in the dark ages when I went to college briefly and lived at the dorm, I hated everything in the cafeteria except for cottage cheese and salad with ranch dressing. Guess what I can’t stand to eat anymore? I’ve SORT OF gotten over my hatred of cottage cheese, at least mixed into things — I still can’t eat it straight up, but I love stirring it into my oatmeal. Funnily enough, I like ranch *dip* — the kind you get at grocery store delis to dip your chicken strips into, which I’m pretty sure is probably just ranch dressing packaged in a dip container. I’ve never claimed to be sane.

    • OK, Traci…I need you to clarify. Did I read that right? You put cottage cheese in your oatmeal? I…I…do not know what to say. I thought I’d heard of just about every odd food combination out there (even if I haven’t tried them), but that is a new one.

      • Imagine how I felt when 2 coworkers said they put apple butter on Cottage cheese. ew.

      • Oops, I’m a bit late replying – sorry! Yes, I put cottage cheese in my oatmeal… it’s an old habit from an old diet I used to follow — 40-30-30. I managed to gain back all the weight lost on that particular one because I got SO sick of eating the same things over and over, but I loved the breakfast routine of putting cottage cheese in my oatmeal. It supposedly “balanced” it to the right level of carbs, fat, and protein. My favorite way to have it is a serving of steel cut oats with about 1/4 C cottage cheese (anything more kind of overwhelms it), some almonds, sometimes raisins or bananas, and then topped off with a little salt, Truvia, and sugar free maple syrup. I only eat oatmeal maybe once or twice a year because I’m too lazy to make it most of the time, but that’s how I like it :). The cottage cheese makes it SO creamy. And if I happen to be out of cottage cheese, I do the same thing with plain, fat free Greek yogurt (Fage brand, because I’m a yogurt snob).

  11. Robyn, when you figure out what the hell to do with your wagon wheel pasta, please post a recipe. My husband bought a box of those damn things a couple of weeks ago and I have no clue. He thought they were “cute.” It would be great if the Girl were several months older — I’m sure she’d scarf them down — but as it is, nobody’s eating them.

    • Oh, I should probably add that this recipe looks tasty and I plan on making it this summer when it’s hot as shit and I need not to be standing over the oven for too long. I may have to figure out a dressing substitute as well, though, since ranch isn’t my fave.

  12. For a really good and simple dressing, I use 3 tbs. olive oil, 2 tbs. red wine vinegar, and 1 tbs. Dijon mustard. Whisk and then salt and pepper to taste, plus a little pinch of sugar. I hate Dijon, but love this dressing.

  13. Wagon Wheel Pizza Casserole:
    4 cups uncooked wagon wheel pasta (8 ounces)
    1 jar (28 ounces) pasta sauce
    1 can (4 ounces) mushroom pieces and stems, drained
    1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
    1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage
    1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
    Heat oven to 350ºF.
    Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.
    While pasta is cooking; cook sausage in 10-inch skillet over medium-heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink; drain.
    Mix pasta, sausage and remaining ingredients except cheese in ungreased 2 1/2-quart casserole.
    Cover and bake about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

    And – there’s “Over 43 wagon wheel pasta recipes” here. Would that mean 44? or 48? or what? 🙂

    As far as pastas go – I have most of them on my shelf. I love playing with different pasta shapes and textures! I do traditional stuff also – but come on – pasta is pretty much pasta and in a pasta salad? Use whatever shape is on the shelf and make it look fun!

    • I just realized this morning that I bought bowtie pasta instead of wagon wheel. HOWEVER, I’m still going to use it to make this recipe. It sounds very much like stuff we’ve made before!

      • Sheesh, Robyn, talk about bait-and-switch-orama! But bowties are an excellent (and oh-so-debonair) shape — in Italy they’re called farfalle (butterflies). And the good news is that when you’re cooking them, you don’t have to sing the theme from “Rawhide.” These babies are excellent in a pasta salad* but also really good hot, with a nice tomato sauce or just with butter, pepper, and Parm. Although I do revere you like mad, Robyn, in this instance you need to move beyond the stuff in the green container. *They hold their shape like good little troopers.

  14. I love Robyn and Nance, and I also love the commenters on this blog! So funny, had me in stitches this morning. I especially loved the “Amanda invented Italy” comment. Amanda…the gift that keeps giving.

    Others have already mentioned this, but I do enjoy the Italian dressing on a cold pasta salad. I make a very similar one but add cherry tomatoes and olives.

    I love all the shaped pastas, I think they are fun to eat. I pick up any different ones I see, and just use them with the regular meat sauce.

    • Do ya’ll ever take recipes from readers and make them? I have quite a few that I think you both would like and am sure others do as well

  15. Do ya’ll ever take recipes from readers and make them? I have quite a few that I think you both would like and am sure others do as well

  16. On backward onions (I don’t see a “reply” button):

    Instead of cutting them first stem to root, I was slicing the other way which makes them impossible to keep together when you try to cut them into dice.

    So, Robyn was right but I love OldCat’s answer best!

  17. Ladies, wanted to let you know that I made this for a huge family event yesterday, and it was a huge hit! It was so simple and easy to do, but the way everyone complimented on, you would have thought it was gourmet. (Hello, Amanda!) I had to at least triple it (Tupperware Mega Bowl-full!!!) and used the buttermilk ranch envelopes. It was so,so good! 5 Stars and 2 thumbs-up!
    Oh, and Nance! I found the ‘possum at our Sam’s when I was shopping for pasta salad stuff! She loves the super creepy thing! LoL. Kudoes for sharing that, too! Y’all keep on keeping on and providing us with stuff we can use! 🙂

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