A classic crowd-pleaser, our pasta salad recipe is perfect for mixing up when you’re serving a group or hosting a cookout. Mix cooked pasta with a zesty, Italian salad dressing, fresh vegetables, and delicious seasonings for a simple pasta salad recipe you’ll return to time and time again.
Both our Potato Salad and Broccoli Cauliflower Salad are perfect for serving up potluck style and taste amazing, so we encourage you to try both! We have a lot of pasta salads to make for your summer parties, try our Dill Pickle Pasta Salad, Greek Pasta Salad and Macaroni Salad.
pasta salad ingredients
You will need:
FOR THE PASTA
- 6 quarts of water
- 8-ounce box of rotini (about 2 1/2 cups pasta)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups Pepper Jack cheese, cubed into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup firm, small cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes (peeled or unpeeled), cut in half
- 1 cup English cucumber, chopped into 1-inch slices
- 1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
- 4 ounces sliced salami or pepperoni, optional
- 18-ounce bottle of zesty Italian dressing, 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons spice blend, or recipe below
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional garnish
FOR THE SPICE BLEND, OPTIONAL
- 3 tablespoons Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Substitutions and Additions
CHEESE: If you’d like to substitute the pepper jack cheese, both mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese make for great replacements.
CUCUMBER: Any type of cucumber will work in this recipe.
ONION: The sweet onion can be easily substituted with red onion if you prefer. You could also use a little bit of green onion for a milder onion flavor.
MEATS: Pepperoni, salami, and bacon are completely optional but make for a delicious addition, and add a lovely new layer of flavor.
PASTA: Any short pasta shape can be substituted for the rotini, such as small shells, small elbow macaroni and small penne pasta. If you prefer using whole wheat pasta, you can substitute it for plain pasta as well. If you want an added pop of color, if you can find it at the grocery store, you can use tri-color rotini.
How to Make this Pasta Salad recipe
STEP ONE: Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pot. When it comes to a boil, add the tablespoon of salt and the rotini.
PRO TIP: To prevent pasta pieces from sticking together, use a good quality pasta and a big enough pot in which to cook it.
STEP TWO: Cook pasta according to the al dente directions on the box.
PRO TIP: If you don’t have instructions after the pasta has been cooked for about 6 to 7 minutes, taste a piece of pasta and see if it’s crunchy. If crunchy, keep boiling at 30-second intervals until it is firm but not crunchy.
STEP THREE: Drain and then rinse hot pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process.
STEP FOUR: While waiting, cut the vegetables and cheese into bite-sized pieces and put them in a large bowl.
PRO TIP: If you’re adding any optional meats, add them to the salad as well.
STEP FIVE: When the pasta is done and has been cooled, add it to the salad bowl.
STEP SIX: Make the spice blend if you’re using it. Shake or pour the spice blend over the contents of the bowl.
STEP SEVEN: Pour the zesty Italian dressing on top of the salad, and stir everything together.
STEP EIGHT: Allow the salad to chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
PRO TIP: Leaving the pasta salad in the fridge overnight gives the veggies a chance to soak up some of the extra dressing, and lets the flavors intensify.
How to serve
This easy Italian pasta salad is the perfect side dish to take to summer barbecues. It is also perfect to serve alongside burgers, grilled chicken, grilled tilapia or pork chops. Add a green salad for your veggies and you have a delicious meal. Add a refreshing iced tea, raspberry iced tea, sweet peach iced tea, or our southern strawberry sweet tea on the side to wash it down.
IN THE FRIDGE: Place the pasta salad in an airtight container, and move it to the refrigerator. This will allow the pasta salad to last 4 to 5 days.
IN THE FREEZER: We don’t recommend freezing this cold pasta salad recipe.
A great potluck dish, this fresh take on a classic pasta salad recipe has plenty of tasty seasonings! Even though it’s complete with a homemade seasoning mix and Italian dressing, it doesn’t take long to make, and is perfect for a family dinner or a cookout.
This easy pasta salad recipe can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 to 5 days.
This great pasta salad is best made the day before. The next day, it will have had time to soak up some of the extra dressing and the salad will be extra flavorful.
If you have a favorite recipe for homemade Italian dressing, you are more than welcome to use that instead.
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- 6 quarts water
- 8 ounces rotini about 2 ½ cups pasta
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 ½ cup pepper jack cheese cubed in to 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup firm small cherry tomatoes (peeled or unpeeled), cut in half
- 1 cup english cucumber chopped into 1-inch slices
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper chopped
- ¼ cup sweet onion chopped
- 4 ounces sliced salami or pepperoni optional
- 8 ounces zesty italian dressing 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons blend or recipe below
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley optional garnish
Spice Blend (optional)
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon poppy seeds
- ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Bring water to a rolling boil. When it comes to a boil, add the tablespoon of salt and the rotini.
- Cook the rotini according to the al dente directions on the box. TIP: If no directions: After the pasta has been cooked for 6 to 7 minutes, taste a piece of pasta and see if it's crunchy. If crunchy, keep boiling at 30-second intervals until it is firm but not crunchy.
- Drain then rinse pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- In the meantime, cut the vegetables and cheese into bite-size pieces and put in a salad bowl.
- Add the pepperoni, optional.
- When the pasta is done and has been cooled, add it to the bowl.
- Make the spice blend if using. Shake or pour the spice blend over the contents of the bowl.
- Pour the zesty Italian dressing on top and stir everything together.
- Chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.