A copycat recipe for Ruby Tuesday Pasta Salad just like they serve on their salad bar! Easy to make with just a few ingredients.
This is one of my most requested recipes whenever we have get-togethers. Doesn’t matter if it’s a summer BBQ, tailgate, or game day in the man cave, this creamy ranch pasta salad is the first empty dish.
Using pre-diced ham purchased from the store shaves a bit of time off of the preparation.
Diced and cubed ham are available at most major grocery stores and I find that it is actually cheaper than other types of ham.
In addition, the pieces of meat are pretty darn even.
We use this ham for omelets, pasta salads, and recipes that call for leftover ham.
Dry Ranch Mix Substitute
Ranch dressing out of a bottle can be used as a substitute for the buttermilk, the dry ranch dressing, and all but 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise.
I prefer the flavor of ranch dressing when I have made it myself with Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix. I suspect most restaurants are doing the same. It’s cheaper this way.
Gather up your ingredients.
Place the peas in a bowl and allow them to start to thaw while the pasta is cooking.
Cook the pasta until al dente.
Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse under cold water until the pasta cooled. Photo 1
While the pasta is cooling, drain your diced ham on paper towels or a low lint kitchen towel. Photo 2
Allow pasta to drain for about 30 minutes.
Add everything except cooked pasta to a bowl. Photo 3
Stir until well combined and the peas have mostly thawed. Photo 4
Add the cooled pasta and dressing into a large bowl. Photo 5
Stir until all the pasta is completely coated with dressing. Photo 6
Make sure to test your pasta before draining off your hot water. Sometimes the opinion at a macaroni factory is different from mine.
Rotini, penne, and bowties all seem to need more than an extra minute, so test at every minute until it’s done.
Rinse the pasta in cold water once it has been drained. Rinse until it is completely cooled.
Rinsing pasta serves 2 purposes. It stops the cooking process and it rinses away the extra starch.
I know you are not supposed to rinse pasta.
Starch has its place in pasta dishes, just not macaroni and pasta salad.
The key to moist and creamy pasta salad is to get rid of all that starch.
The next key is to make sure the pasta is completely cooled. Hot and warm pasta will absorb the liquid.
While the pasta is cooling, drain the diced ham on paper towels to remove some of the salty liquid that the ham was packaged in.
All that extra liquid will make it sloppy and salty.
Even with removing all of the extra starch, you might find that your macaroni salad goes dry after sitting for some time.
It tastes great since all of that flavor got absorbed into the pasta, but it won’t be quite as creamy.
You can add a bit more buttermilk or mayonnaise to the salad. Or you can set some of the dressing aside and mix it in just before serving.
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Ranch Pasta Salad Recipe
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook rotini until it is just past al dente.
- Drain into a colander and rinse with cold water until pasta is cool.
- Set pasta aside and allow to dry for about 30 minutes.
- While pasta is cooking, combine mayonnaise, buttermilk, ranch dressing mix, and season salt in a large bowl and mix until combined.
- Add in frozen peas and stir. The peas will thaw a bit during mixing and will finish thawing while pasta cools.
- Add ham and cool, dry rotini and mix until well blended.
- Can be eaten immediately, but flavors will improve by placing into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
- 1/2 cup diced green peppers and/or 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese can be added.
- 1 1/2 cups of Ranch dressing from a bottle, along with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise can be used as a replacement for the mayonnaise, buttermilk, and dry ranch dressing mix. The flavor will be a bit altered.
- Flavors improve with refrigeration.