This gorgeous Seafood Pasta Salad is as special as it gets. It’s chock full of crab, shrimp, or lobster meat, whatever you crave—plus tender vegetables and a light vinaigrette that’s perfect for summer barbecues.
In case you haven’t noticed, this classic summer pasta salad recipe definitely takes it up a notch or two at parties. But if you’re looking for other fun salads that are perfect for grilling out and picnics, look no further: the Best Macaroni Salad is a click away, as is Baby Bok Choy Salad made with ramen noodles or a Seven Layer Salad to end all other layered salads.
Making Seafood Pasta Salad for an elegant luncheon for 50? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Seafood Pasta Salad Ingredients:
Feel free to switch it up, but this classic Southern recipe calls for:
Elbow macaroni. You can use any type of small pasta you prefer: rotini, fusilli, farfalle, bow-tie, penne. Have fun!
Parmesan cheese. Grated parmesan cheese adds earthiness to the pasta salad. Do it yourself or buy it already grated at the store. No one will be the wiser.
Seafood. Cold poached shrimp, surimi (imitation) crab chunks, lump crabmeat, or (gasp!) poached lobster, cut into chunks. This is your party; make it fabulous!
Italian salad dressing. Your favorite bottle of vinaigrette at the grocery store, or my favorite homemade recipe.
Mayonnaise. Hellman’s or Best Foods are excellent choices.
Grape tomatoes. They get cut in half lengthwise.
Broccoli. Blanched vibrant broccoli adds color and taste.
Red pepper. Any bell pepper you have works, but I love red for contrast and a little sweetness.
Scallions. Whites, greens, and all.
How to blanch broccoli florets:
Broccoli is delicious in any salad, but it’s even more so when it’s just barely cooked and beautifully bright green. Here’s how to do it.
By the way, the technique works well on asparagus, green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas, and even carrots.
- Heat 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Keep this bowl nearby while the broccoli cooks.
- Place the broccoli in to the boiling water (sometimes dropping the florets in using a mesh sieve works great, for easy removal) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until broccoli is bright green and just tender but still crisp.
- Drain (or lift out with the sieve) and immediately plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well so the broccoli doesn’t get soggy.
How to make Seafood Pasta Salad:
- Magically easy! First things first, pick your pasta. Elbow macaroni, bow tie, rotini, small shells, whatever favorite shape you have. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil and dump the pasta in.
- Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 12 minutes depending on the shape of the pasta.
- Next, you have to blanch the broccoli florets and prep the vegetables: tomatoes, bell peppers, and scallions.
- All that is left is the dressing. Whisk together your favorite Italian vinaigrette, good mayo, and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Toss the pasta, vegetables, and about 3/4 of the salad dressing together in a large bowl. Finally, gently fold in the seafood. Add more dressing if you think it needs it, and toss until everything is evenly coated. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until time to serve.
Can you make Seafood Pasta Salad in advance?
This salad is at its finest when it is freshly dressed and insanely juicy. The pasta can absorb the dressing and make the salad less juicy over time, so I really recommend making it the moment you’re planning to serve it.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t get all the ingredients prepped, the pasta cooked, and the salad dressing made and ready to go, however! Tote everything to the party separately and dress it on site.
Use the extra dressing to freshen up the salad halfway through dinner.
How do you store Seafood Pasta Salad?
This salad loves to be served chilled, in a bowl over ice, or on pretty chilled plates.
Because this recipe uses mayonnaise, it needs to be refrigerated. Seafood salad will hold up for 4 days in the refrigerator, if need be. Store it in an airtight, covered container, or wrap the bowl with plastic wrap.
- 1 pound uncooked small pasta macaroni, rotini, small shells, etc.
- 1 cup fresh broccoli florets chopped
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Italian salad dressing
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 (8 or 10 ounce) package grape tomatoes halved lengthwise
- ½ cup red bell pepper diced
- ½ cup scallions sliced
- 1 ½ cups chopped crab, shrimp, and/or lobster
- Bring 4 quarts water and 1 T. salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions for firm pasta (1 minute pasta al dente, usually 8 to 12 minutes depending on the exact noodle). Drain well and rinse with cold water.
- Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with cold water and ice. Blanch the broccoli quickly until bright green and tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
- In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, salad dressing, and Parmesan cheese. Stir in pasta, tomatoes, bell pepper, and scallions. Carefully fold in crab and stir until evenly coated. Chill until serving and refrigerate any leftovers.