Creamy Bow Tie Pasta Salad

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

This Creamy Bow Tie Pasta Salad recipe is everything you want in a summer side dish! Tender pasta is tossed with a creamy homemade dressing, then mixed with ham, cheese, peas, onions, and bell peppers. The pops of color – and flavor – are hard to resist! Perfect for potlucks, BBQs and family picnics.

Looking for more potluck ideas? Try: Loaded Broccoli Salad | White Cheddar Mac and Cheese | Dill Pickle Pasta Salad

close up of the Bowtie Pasta Salad Recipe

An Easy Pasta Salad Recipe

Pasta salad is always on the menu for any summer gathering. It’s such a perfect side dish to add to a meal of grilled chicken, burgers, brats, fried chicken, and more. This Bow Tie Pasta Salad Recipe is so good, you’ll be finding every reason to make it all year long! The bow ties look so pretty and hold up well with the dressing and other ingredients. This is one of those recipes everyone will be asking you to send to them.

ingredients to make Bowtie Pasta Salad Recipe

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make the Bow Tie Pasta Salad Recipe (the exact measurements and full recipe instructions are below in the printable recipe card):

For the pasta:

  • Bow tie pasta
  • Cheddar cheese – I used a block of cheddar and cut it into small cubes.
  • Ham – leftover ham would work very well, or you can use thick sliced deli ham. I used ham steaks from the meat section of the grocery store and they were great for this recipe.
  • Onion – you can use a white onion or a sweet onion, whichever you prefer.
  • Frozen peas
  • Red bell pepper


  • Mayonnaise
  • Relish – you can choose to use either sweet relish or dill pickle relish, depending on your taste and what you have on hand.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Yellow mustard
  • Vinegar – either white vinegar or apple cider will be perfect.
  • Salt
  • Pepper

What is bow tie pasta really called?

Bow tie pasta is really called “farfalle” pasta, which means “butterflies” in Italian. In the states, it is called “bow-tie” pasta because it also looks like a bow tie! This pasta is made by cutting fresh pasta into rectangles with ruffle edges, then pinching the centers together.

Bowtie Pasta Salad Recipe

How to Make Bow Tie Pasta Salad

First, boil the pasta according to the package directions, just until al dente. Be sure you don’t over-cook the pasta or it will fall apart and not hold up well to the other ingredients in the salad.

Rinse the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in the colander and then rinse well with cold water. This stops the cooking, chills the pasta fast, and prevents it from sticking together.

Make the dressing. While the pasta is cooking, you can whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dressing until you’re ready to add it to the salad.

Mix everything together. In a large mixing bowl, toss together all of the ingredients for the salad with the dressing.

Chill. Cover the bowl and chill the salad in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

Variation Ideas

Here are some variations on this salad that you might enjoy:

  • Purple onion – Purple onion would be delicious in this salad.
  • Bacon – Instead of ham, use crumbled crisp bacon.
  • Different pasta shapes – There are other types of pasta that would work well in this salad if you don’t have bow tie pasta on hand. Farfalle, rotini, and penne would all be good options.

Also, many of the ingredients in the salad can be left out or changed to suit your tastes. Don’t like peas? Just leave them out. Prefer sweet relish over dill pickle relish? That’s fine! Use what you like.

Tips for Success

Pasta salad is super easy to make, but there are a few simple tricks I recommend:

  • Mix-ins should be about the same size. When you are cutting up the ham, cheese, peppers or whatever else you are adding to the salad, try to cut them to about the same size. I prefer smaller sized mix-ins because then it’s easier to get a bite of everything together in one go!
  • Don’t skip rinsing the pasta. The noodles need to cool a bit before being tossed with the dressing and other mix-ins. If you wait around for it to cool on its own the pasta can stick together, so running it under cold water after it has finished cooking is a good workaround.
  • Let it chill. Let the pasta salad rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge before serving it. This gives the flavors time to really mesh together and allows the noodles to absorb some of the flavors from the dressing.
scooping out a serving of Bowtie Pasta Salad Recipe

How to Store Leftovers

Keep the leftover pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Be sure to give it a good stir before serving as the dressing tends to settle at the bottom of the bowl.

More Recipes to Try

4.95 from 77 votes

Bow Tie Pasta Salad Recipe

This Creamy Bow Tie Pasta Salad recipe is everything you want in a summer side dish! Tender pasta is tossed with a creamy homemade dressing, then mixed with ham, cheese, peas, onions, and bell peppers. The pops of color – and flavor – are hard to resist!
Servings: 8
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes




  • 1 pound bow tie pasta
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese diced
  • 1 cup fully-cooked ham diced
  • 1/2 small white or sweet onion peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper seeded and finely diced


  • In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Cover and refrigerate while you move on to the next steps.
  • Boil the pasta according to the package directions, just until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss together all of the ingredients with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Last Step:

Please leave a rating and comment letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business to thrive and continue providing free, high-quality recipes for you.


Calories: 414kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 541mg | Potassium: 207mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 666IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 222mg | Iron: 1mg


Leave a Review!

We LOVE hearing from you! Submit your question or comment here.

Your email address will not be published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating:

I accept the Privacy Policy

21 comments on “Creamy Bow Tie Pasta Salad”

  1. Make double the dressing. The noodles will soak up all the dressing, if left over night. Use half of the dressing right away, and save half for the next day.

  2. 5 stars
    Delicious. I use half Mayo, half Miracle whip..everything else the same, we like the tang of MW..for those who don’t “get” the vinegar/sugar..i have worked in restaurants for years..any creamy dressings for salads, from pasta, to broccoli and slaw, include both. You will notice a difference in taste, try a half batch with, and one without’ll taste better with..

  3. 5 stars
    VERY tasty! We have made this many times, made it today for our family xmas get together. Always a big hit. We did find that there was just a touch to many noodles which made it slightly dry so depending on how many people I’m making it for I either slightly increase the sauce ingredients or just use 75-80% of the noodles than is called for. I will add about 2 or 3 tablespoons of Olive Garden Italian dressing and mix in for a slight tang, puts this over the top delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    Everyone loves this. I would love to make this for a big 4th party. What is the best way to double this recipe and keep the great flavor

    1. Thanks Shirley. If you click on the “2x” in the recipe card it will give you the correct amounts to double the recipe. You should have no trouble maintaining the flavor.

  5. 5 stars
    This was great!!! Love me a creamy pasta salad! I made it twice in two weeks for dinner because it was nice and cold in this hot weather we are having in Norway. My husband loved it.

    The second time I made it I added about 3 Tbs Sriracha mayo (for a double recipe) just to give it a kick since I was using chunks of jalapano chicken instead of ham. I recommend doing this too!

  6. 5 stars
    Always a winner at potlucks & BBQ’s. I added some diced Roma tomato (seed part removed) just because I had them lying around.

  7. I’ve been looking at recipes all day for macaroni salad. I just don’t get adding sugar and vinegar. I sometimes make mine with tuna, green onion, celery, mayo and mustard. Sometimes I add ham and cheese and other things, depending on what the main course will be. Grilled burgers or steaks and ribs. I don’t ever add sugar to anything! I save the sweets at desert time.