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Full of simple and fresh ingredients, this ham pasta salad is the perfect side dish for your next cookout, an easy option for a light weeknight dinner, or a refreshing make-ahead lunch. You’ll love the flavorful combination of peas, lemon, dill, and a creamy mayo dressing. Serve the cold ham and cheese pasta salad with grilled chicken, steak, pulled pork, cornbread, biscuits, or blueberry muffins.

Overhead shot of wooden serving spoons in a bowl of ham pasta salad on a table

Ham and Cheese Pasta Salad

This creamy ham pasta salad with mayo is one of my go-to spring and summer recipes when I want something comforting, delicious, and easy to throw together. It’s incredibly simple, yet it always wins rave reviews. Plus, if you can boil pasta, you can make this dish! There’s no need to turn on the oven, and you don’t even have to cook the ham. It’s ideal for potlucks, luncheons, picnics, and busy summer weeknight meals.

Pasta Salad Dressing

While some recipes call for bottled dressing (such as ranch dressing or Italian dressing), this creamy dressing is made from scratch, and it’s ready in just minutes! When you make your own dressing at home, you can control the amount of herbs and seasoning that you use, so your dish comes out exactly how you like it…every single time.

This dressing is smooth and creamy, thanks to the mayo! It’s flavored with lemon juice and fresh dill, then it sits and marinates with the pasta, ham, and veggies to bring the whole salad together.

Square overhead shot of a bowl of ham and cheese pasta salad.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need to make a big bowl of ham and cheese pasta salad. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Ham: use leftover ham from a previous meal, ham steaks that you cut into cubes at home, or purchase a package of diced ham from the meat department at your local grocery store. I love a shortcut that doesn’t require any cooking!
  • Pasta: small shells are a classic addition to this pasta salad, but you can substitute with any similar small pasta shape, such as rotini, elbow macaroni, farfalle (bowties), or penne.
  • Cheese: ham and cheese is always a delicious combination! We like diced cheddar cheese or diced Colby-Jack cheese in this dish, but just about any variety will work.
  • Green onion: provides a mild onion flavor. Substitute with fresh chives, or with red onion (for a zestier bite).
  • Green bell pepper and celery: bulk up the salad with crisp, fresh, crunchy texture.
  • Peas: thawed frozen peas add a sweet touch and bright green color.
  • Mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, fresh dill, salt, and pepper: simple ingredients that come together for a flavorful, creamy salad dressing.
Cooked drained small shells pasta in a colander

Which pasta is best for salad?

As I mentioned above, you can use just about any short pasta shape that you like. I’ve shown small shells here, but other good options include ditalini, elbows, rotini, and penne. You want something that has holes, ridges, or curls so that the dressing really clings to each bite!

Adding diced ham to a large bowl

Should you rinse pasta for pasta salad?

Yes, I recommend rinsing the pasta for this cold pasta salad. The rinsing accomplishes two things:

  1. Stops the cooking process and cools down the pasta right away so that you can toss it with the ham, cheese, veggies, and dressing; and
  2. Removes some of the starches so that the noodles don’t stick together in a big clump as they cool.
Adding mayonnaise dressing to a large bowl

How to Make Pasta Salad with Ham

This creamy ham pasta salad is not fancy, but it disappears fast when you put it on the table. I especially love the variety of flavors and textures, from the creamy dressing to the crunchy vegetables, smoky ham, and tender pasta. Add in lemon juice and herbs for refreshing zest!

  1. Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain, and run under cold water.
  2. Combine the ham, cooked pasta, cheese, green onion, bell pepper, celery, and peas in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, dill, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl.
  4. Pour the salad dressing over the pasta mixture. Stir gently to coat.
  5. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Overhead shot of hands serving ham pasta salad with two wooden spoons

What to Serve with Ham and Pea Pasta Salad

Thanks to the pasta, meat, and veggies, this cold salad works well as an easy, make-ahead entree for lunch or dinner — especially during the warm weather months. That said, it’s also a great side dish when paired with seafood or meat-based entrees. Here are some ideas to serve with the ham and pasta salad:

Make Ahead

For convenience, you can make this cold pasta salad the night before you plan to enjoy it. I recommend chilling the pasta salad for at least 30 minutes before serving to give the flavors a chance to “come together,” but overnight is fine as well. You might need to add a little bit more mayonnaise to the salad the next day if you find that the pasta has absorbed too much of the dressing.

Storage

Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. I do not recommend freezing the pasta salad. The creamy dressing may “break” or separate when thawed, and the pasta and vegetables will be mushy.

Side shot of ham pasta salad in a white bowl on a wooden table.

Recipe Variations

  • Any small pasta shape will work, so feel free to substitute rotini, elbows, farfalle (bowties), or penne for the shells.
  • For a stronger lemon flavor, add grated lemon zest to the dressing.
  • Use any fresh herbs that you enjoy. I love the combination of fresh dill with the lemon and ham, but you can substitute with chopped fresh parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, or chives.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut all of the ingredients in half.
  • Substitute jumbo lump crab meat, imitation crab, cooked shrimp, or cooked, diced chicken for the ham.
  • Just about any vegetables will work, so feel free to mix up what goes in your salad. For instance, add corn instead of peas, or swap out the bell pepper for halved cherry tomatoes.
  • Sliced black olives and hardboiled eggs are also classic additions. Toss them into this dish, if you like.
Hands holding a bowl of the best ham pasta salad recipe

Tips for the Best Ham Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Use a high-quality mayonnaise for the dressing, since it adds so much flavor to the dish. I prefer Duke’s brand mayo.
  • Cook the pasta just until al dente, so that it’s not too mushy in the salad.
  • Liberally salt the pasta cooking water, since this is your chance to season the pasta.
  • Rinse the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process. This also removes some of the starches from the noodles so that they don’t stick together in the salad.
  • Use a package of diced ham to eliminate prep work. You can also use leftover ham from a previous meal, or purchase ham steaks that you dice at home.
  • Thaw the peas quickly by placing the frozen peas in a colander. When you drain the pasta, pour the hot pasta and water over the peas in the colander. They will thaw almost instantly when the hot pasta hits them!
Overhead shot of ham and pasta salad recipe on a wooden table.

More Pasta Salad Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of wooden serving spoons in a bowl of ham pasta salad on a table

Ham Pasta Salad

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Chilling Time 30 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings 8 – 10 people
Calories 493 kcal
Full of simple and fresh ingredients, this ham pasta salad is the perfect side dish for your next cookout, an easy option for a light weeknight dinner, or a refreshing make-ahead lunch.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. diced ham (about 2 ½ – 3 cups total)
  • 8 ounces uncooked small shells pasta (or substitute with elbow macaroni or other small pasta shape)
  • 8 ounces Colby-Jack or cheddar cheese, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced dill
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package instructions. Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse under cold water. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • In a large bowl, combine ham, pasta, cheese, green onion, bell pepper, celery, and peas.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, dill, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour dressing over pasta mixture and toss until completely coated. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Any small pasta shape will work, so feel free to substitute rotini, elbows, farfalle (bowties), or penne for the shells.
  • For a stronger lemon flavor, add grated lemon zest to the dressing.
  • Use any fresh herbs that you enjoy. I love the combination of fresh dill with the lemon and ham, but you can substitute with chopped fresh parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, or chives.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut all of the ingredients in half.
  • Substitute jumbo lump crab meat, imitation crab, cooked shrimp, or cooked, diced chicken for the ham.
  • Just about any vegetables will work, so feel free to mix up what goes in your salad. For instance, add corn instead of peas, or swap out the bell pepper for halved cherry tomatoes.
  • Sliced black olives and hardboiled eggs are also classic additions. Toss them into this dish, if you like.
  • Use a high-quality mayonnaise for the dressing, since it adds so much flavor to the dish. I prefer Duke’s brand mayo.
  • Cook the pasta just until al dente, so that it’s not too mushy in the salad.
  • Liberally salt the pasta cooking water, since this is your chance to season the pasta.
  • Rinse the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process. This also removes some of the starches from the noodles so that they don’t stick together in the salad.
  • Use a package of diced ham to eliminate prep work. You can also use leftover ham from a previous meal, or purchase ham steaks that you dice at home.
  • Thaw the peas quickly by placing the frozen peas in a colander. When you drain the pasta, pour the hot pasta and water over the peas in the colander. They will thaw almost instantly when the hot pasta hits them!

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the saladCalories: 493kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 22gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 13gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 1252mgPotassium: 204mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 553IUVitamin C: 20mgCalcium: 224mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: ham and cheese pasta salad, ham and pea pasta salad, ham pasta salad, pasta salad with ham
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This looks delicious… I’ll let you know how we like it when I make it! Thanks for all your recipes! 🙂