Gluten-Free Pasta Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette

Here in Chicago we’re getting teased with summer-like weather.  There’s many things I crave in summer – pasta salad being one of them.    It just screams backyard barbecue!  And while this sunny, flip-flop weather probably won’t last long, let’s think like it will and therefore eat like it will.

In my just-published Cooking for Your Gluten-Free Teen, there is a dynamite recipe for pasta salad with a creamy dressing.  The salad serves as a main dish or side dish, keeps well refrigerated and travels well.  The success of that salad led me to develop a second pasta salad, this time with a vinaigrette dressing.  The Parmesan Vinaigrette Dressing, like a Caesar salad dressing, is a versatile, stand-alone recipe that works as a marinade and a salad dressing.

The secret to a good gluten-free pasta salad is to make sure all ingredients are well-drained and dry. The secret to this salad is convenience: frozen vegetables that are pre-blanced, purchased shredded cheese, cooked ham (feel free to use leftover ham), and canned black beans.

pasta salad

The Parmesan Vinaigrette reminds me of Caesar salad dressing and I often use it on Romaine lettuce with shaved Parmesan and gluten-free croutons.  The blender makes it easy to prepare and creamy.  Refrigerate any unused dressing and be sure to whisk well to emulsify before serving.

Pasta Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette

Yield: 8 servings

Pasta Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette


  • 1 pound brown rice pasta shells (preferably Tinyaka)
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen peas and carrots, defrosted in package
  • 1 (9-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, defrosted in package
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (7 to 8-ounce) cooked ham steak, diced ¼-inch
  • 2 green onions, sliced crosswise paper thin
  • ¾ cup Parmesan Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package (2 cups) coarsely shredded sharp cheddar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste, optional


  1. Cook pasta in 6 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again. Spread pasta out on a tray lined with several thicknesses of paper toweling. Reserve for 20 minutes.
  2. Spread defrosted corn and peas and carrots on a tray lined with several thicknesses of paper toweling. Reserve for 20 minutes.
  3. Spread black beans on a large plate lined with several thicknesses of paper toweling. Reserve for 20 minutes.
  4. In a 4-quart bowl combine pasta, corn, peas and carrots, black beans, ham and green onions. Add Parmesan vinaigrette. Using silicone spatulas toss well. Add 1 cup of the cheese and toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
  5. To serve, toss well to distribute dressing. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste . Toss again and serve. Accompany with a bowl of remaining cheese for garnishing, and extra dressing.

Parmesan Vinaigrette

Yield: About 1 2/3 cup


  • ¾ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup canola or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups finely grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. If dressing settles when chilled, whisk to emulsify before serving.



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