The Underrated Noodle You Should Try Mixing Into Your Pasta Salad

If you're looking for the perfect dish to toss together and bring to your next dinner party or backyard picnic, look no further than pasta salad. Equally important as the crisp veggies and flavorful sauces you mix into your bowl are the noodles you choose. Short shapes with lots of crevices like elbow macaroni, shells, or rotini traditionally work well in pasta salad recipes for their dressing-cling capacity and bite-sized nature. But there's an underrated noodle you should add to your next pasta salad, and it won't fall short by any means: bucatini.

Bucatini, at first glance, appears to be just a thicker form of spaghetti. But really, it's so much more than that. Its center is hollow, which makes for visual interest and a hearty bite. Plus, its tube-like qualities make it the perfect noodle to soak up and hold onto dressing. Though short cut pastas are usually the go-to in pasta salads, bucatini offers a much-needed twist on your standard pasta salad. 

The longer, twirl-able noodles will definitely draw attention for being different from typical elbow mac inclusions, and will transform any tried-and-true recipe from a side dish into more of a main attraction. The long noodles not only are a nice textural contrast to smaller chunks of juicy cherry tomatoes and refreshing bits of cucumber, they're also an elegant addition. When tossed into pasta salad, or in hearty Italian classics like bucatini ricci di mare, this long-form noodle is known to make heads turn.

How to pair bucatini with your salad mix-ins

When crafting a bucatini pasta salad that defies the norm, choose creamy or zesty dressings that are not overly thick. Unlike with potato salad, where it helps to coat the spuds into a thickened conglomerate, with this salad it's all about distributing the dressing evenly among your pasta and veggies. The consistency should be pourable, yet viscous enough to cling to and within the eye-catching bucatini strands. If you're a creamy pasta salad fan, be sure to thin out your mayo-based sauces by adding lemon juice or white vinegar.

For a lighter take on this pasta salad upgrade with a bit of tang, swap the mayo for greek yogurt or labneh. Or whisk up an easy Italian dressing by combining olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. For some extra umami goodness that stands up to bucatini's pleasant bite, do like Giada De Laurentiis and add in some miso paste as your secret ingredient. Then, be sure to add some citrus to brighten up the dish. 

Finally, mix your prepared bucatini along with a generous helping of dressing and veggies like red bell peppers, grilled corn, and other secret ingredients you should be using in your pasta salad. Fold in fresh herbs like mint and your favorite cheeses like mozzarella balls or crumbled feta. Throw in some chopped pickles or pickled jalapeños for a fun briny flavor. Trust us, the taste and texture will deliver — especially thanks to an underrated yet powerhouse noodle.