December 12, 2023Review Recipe
Table of Contents
A classic crowd-pleaser, our pasta salad recipe is perfect for mixing up when you’re serving a group or hosting a cookout. Combine 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.
Pasta Salad Ingredients
This colorful rotini pasta salad balances al dente rotini with sweet cherry tomatoes, crisp cucumber, colorful bell peppers, salami, and creamy Pepper Jack cheese.
The dressing unites the flavors, creating a refreshing and indulgent dish perfect for summer.
For The Pasta:
- 6 quarts of water
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 8-ounce box of rotini (about 2½ cups of pasta)
- 1 cup of firm, small cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes (peeled or unpeeled), cut in half
- 1 cup of English cucumber, chopped into 1-inch slices
- 1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ cup of sweet onion, chopped
- 1½ cups of Pepper Jack cheese, cubed into 1-inch pieces
- 4 ounces of sliced salami or pepperoni, optional
- 2 tablespoons of spice blend, recipe below
- 8-ounce bottle of zesty Italian dressing, 1 cup
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley, optional garnish
For The Spice Blend (optional):
- 3 tablespoons of Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1½ teaspoons of salt
- 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds
- 1½ teaspoons of paprika
- ¾ teaspoon of garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon of poppy seeds
- ¼ teaspoon of celery seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon of 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
Once you make the pasta, you’ll mix up all the ingredients so that this salad is ready in no time.
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.
OUR RECIPE DEVELOPER SAYS
To prevent the 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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have any leftover pasta salad, here’s how to store it until you are ready to enjoy the rest.
IN THE FRIDGE: Place the pasta salad in an airtight container, and keep it in the refrigerator. This will allow the pasta salad to last four to five 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8 ounces rotini, about 2 ½ cups pasta
- 1 cup firm small cherry tomatoes, cut in half (peeled or unpeeled)
- 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
- 1½ cups pepper jack cheese, cubed in to 1-inch pieces
- 4 ounces sliced salami or pepperoni, optional
- 2 tablespoons spice blend, or recipe below
- 8 ounces zesty Italian dressing (1 cup)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Chopped parsley, optional garnish
Spice Blend (optional)
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, or Romano cheese
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1½ teaspoons 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.
- 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.
- To prevent pasta pieces from sticking together, use a good quality pasta and a big enough pot in which to cook it.
- 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.
- If you’re adding any optional meats, add them to the salad along with the veggies and cheese.
- 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.