Potluck Perfect Pasta Salad
Whenever summer rolls around, we always seem to be headed to barbecues, potlucks, and patio parties. Of course, Im always asked to bring a big pitcher of Classic Mojitos but I almost always bring a cold pasta salad recipe along too! This Italian Pasta Salad recipe is a really fun twist on a classic pasta salad because its loaded with so many goodies. It travels well and goes with pretty much anything.
Italian Dressing Pasta Salad
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Italian Dressing Pasta Salad is the perfect recipe when you need a quick and easy summer side. Rotini pasta, bell peppers, onion, spinach, and parmesan cheese are deliciously tossed with zesty Italian dressing to create the best cold pasta salad. This healthy, vegetarian dish will be your new go-to for picnics, BBQs, and potlucks!
For just about every potluck, summer party, or church function, I always knew what my mom was making this Italian dressing pasta salad.
Before I ever liked vegetables, I remember sneaking bites of itfrom the refrigerator.
My mom would chop the bell peppers and onion very small, and somehow my taste buds did not seem to mind, and actually even enjoyed the crunchy bites.
This cold pasta salad was always one of the first dishes to be devoured and the recipe requested by tons of family and friends.
Now as an adult, every July 4th barbecue or Labor Day picnic would not be complete without this simple salad recipe.
Not only is it easy to toss together, but it actually tastes even BETTER when it is prepped ahead of time.
Why Are Some Ingredients Optional
Some of the ingredients are listed as optional. If you left these things out, youll still have a great tasting side dish.
However, everyone loves a dish that really WOWS. So these ingredients are ones I feel really add to the next level of flavor.
McCormick Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme Seasoning. Its specially made for pasta salads so the spices dont need to cook to activate like other dry herbs do. The flavor complements Italian dressing really well even though there are some overlaps like both have Romano cheese, but is there really such things as too much cheese? You decide.
My personal favorite part about this topping is the little sesame seeds in this mix. They just add a subtle crunchy texture to this pasta salad thats so good.
Again, this is totally optional but usually gets people talking about how yummy the pasta salad is so its a bit of a secret ingredient if youre looking for amazing flavor.
Parmesan cheese. You have some choices here. You can go with the dry shelf-stable Parmesan cheese thats a popular pizza topping. You can grate or even shave your own from a block. Or you can buy a tub of shredded Parmesan.
I recommend going with whatever you liked best or whats most convenient. The flavor is very similar, the texture is just a bit different with each.
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Why This Pasta Salad Recipe Works
+Easy pasta salad recipe! Growing up and to this day my mother always makes this cold pasta salad with Italian dressing for lunches for the week. Really, you can use any vegetables you have on-hand, but we like to add our favorites such as broccoli, tomatoes, and a punch of goat cheese flavor. The flavors tenderize and become even better, almost like soup does when eaten the next day.
+ Healthy gluten-free and vegetarian meal the whole family enjoys anytime! Pasta recipes are one of my favorite meals to make when I need something quick and healthy for my family. And guess what? A well balanced salad doesnt always have to be served with lettuce and fresh greens. Afterall, that can get boring day after day. Pasta salads are a wonderful way to enjoy a balanced meal of carbs, protein, and vegetables in a one-bowl meal!
+Best served cold! Many warm pasta salad recipes include Italian marinara sauce or pesto sauce tossed with pasta noodles and sauteed peppers, zucchini, garlic and onion. Not to be confused with a cold pasta salad recipe such tortellini pasta salad or this favorite bowtie pasta salad. The best thing about a cold pasta salad is that you can take it anywhere as it does not need to be heated.
+ Perfect for parties! It is a wonderful dish to take to picnics, parties, and bbqs and is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
Storing + Freezing + Make
- How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge? This tangy full-bodied salad will stay good in the fridge for 3-4 days if stored properly but good luck trying to keep it that long. People just love this pasta salad because its tasty and satisfying enough to be eaten alone but it also makes a fantastic side dish!
- For best results keep it at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and observe the FDA recommended 2-hour serving rule.
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Can I Use Store Bought Dressing Instead
We always recommend making homemade dressing when you can. Its such an easy yet meaningful addition to any salad recipe. But, we also know that you may not always have time to make it or are perhaps missing a few key ingredients. In that case, opt for your favorite bottled Italian dressing. Youll find several varieties at the grocery store.
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How To Make This Pasta Salad
Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Make the Italian style salad dressing by mixing together all of the dressing ingredients in a jug or jar until combined.
Drizzle over half of the dressing and toss everything together, then serve the pasta salad with the remaining dressing.
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What Do We Need
- Pasta – Use large-ish pasta shapes. I like to use fusilli as the salad dressing clings to those little spirals beautifully
- Veggies – We’ve got crunch with the cucumber and red onion, juicy tang with the tomatoes and freshness with the pea shoots and parsley. You can swap out the pea shoots with spinach, lambs lettuce, watercress or rocket if you like.
- Cheese – I’ve added some mini mozzarella balls to give a creamy bite that compliments the crunchy veggies. You can leave out if you want it dairy-free, or you could replace with feta, goats cheese or even cubes of cheddar.
What Goes Into Bow Tie Pasta Salad
This Bow Tie Pasta Salad is packed with fresh and flavorful ingredients. Heres what youll need:
- Pasta just pick your favorite pasta shape. I like bigger pieces of pasta, so I opt for bowtie or penne, but other smaller pasta shapes will work too.
- Cherry Tomatoes you can use raw cherry tomatoes or roast them
- Red Bell Pepper or any type of pepper you prefer
- Black Olives
- Cheese a good quality sharp or medium cheddar or Monterey jack are my favorites. Mozzarella works great too! Dice the cheese into small cubes so it incorporates well into the pasta salad.
- Shaved Parmesan Cheese
- Green Onion optional for garnish.
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Serving And Storage Instructions
This recipe does better with a little patience. Let it chill about two hours before serving, or you can make it the day before to really let the flavors meld.
Store the Hawaiian macaroni salad in an airtight container to ensure freshness. It should last for four days. I dont recommend freezing it, though you can do so for a week or two. Freezing changes the texture of the pasta and typically turns raw veggies into mush.
Pro Tip: Once refrigerated, the Hawaiian mac salad tends to dry out. Just add a little more mayo and a splash of milk to moisten it back up.
Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
I was inspired to make this because I went on a Salami Bender* after the Salami Cream Cheese Roll I shared a couple of weeks ago.
I could never be a food magazine editor or similar. Because a proper editor would ensure that a variety of recipes and ingredients are used. Whereas I find or am reminded of something that I love that I havent used enough of lately and I go on a Bender*.
And my dear readers get sent two salami recipes within a fortnight, the first and only two in the history of RecipeTin Eats!
* Is it just Aussies that use the term bender to describe a wild drinking spree??? Appropriate to apply to the current salami spree Im on!
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What Goes Well With Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is a great side dish for burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, kebabs, really anything grilled! I also find its great with dishes that are low-carb or protein heavy.
Here are some main dish recipes that pair well with this pasta salad as a side dish:
Browse all my main course recipes for more ideas!
Often our family makes this Italian pasta salad to bring to a potluck where there are a number of different dishes. We also make it frequently when were hosting our own backyard barbecue or having people over for dinner.
My mom almost always had a batch of pasta salad in the fridge. Its great for a quick lunch or even dinner. You can add meat or cubed cheese to make it hearty for more of a meal in itself.
Theres no heating necessary so its an ideal dish for busy summer months.
Pasta Salad With Italian Dressing
This easy pasta salad recipe is perfect for a homemade weeknight meal thats light and just in time for summer.
It is made with no meat but instead with extra veggies, cheese, and herby Italian dressing, which you can make in less than five minutes! Fresh herbs make this pasta salad so appetizing and fresh too.
It can be served as a quick and easy side or main dish. Your whole family will love this simple pasta salad.
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Easy Italian Pasta Salad With Italian Dressing
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.
This EasyItalian Pasta Salad is the perfect accompaniment to your barbecue. This classic pasta salad recipe uses fresh ingredients and store-bought Italian dressing. It makes a lot, which is perfect for any summer occasion.
Find this recipe and more on my blog HERE:
Is it even a summer barbecue without pasta salad? This Italian bow tie pasta salad tastes like summer thanks to crisp vegetables and zesty premade dressing. It is perfect for any summer occasion. This quick and easy recipe makes a lot, enough to feed a crowd.
Why is this Italian pasta salad so good? First, it is loaded with chopped vegetables, salami, and cheese. Second, it uses store-bought Italian dressing. This means less time and fewer dishes without compensating for flavor. That is a win-win in my book!
Like my Healthier BLT Pasta Salad, it uses pantry and refrigerator staples. It is easily adaptable, so you can use what you have on hand. If you love this pasta, then you will also love my Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad too!
- Farfalle Pasta – See below for other pasta reccomendations.
- Cheddar Cheese
- Grape Tomatoes
- Bell Pepper – Use any color .
- Italian Dressing – Store-bought or homemade.
- Parmesan Cheese
See the recipe card for quantities.
1 – In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain. Rinse with cold water, and drain again.
Pasta Salad Recipe Variations
I enjoy this salad literally all summer long. I love making a big batch of it at the beginning of the week and then eat it all week long. It gets more and more flavorful as it sits in the refrigerator. Below are some of my favorite add-ins or variations to this Tri-Color Pasta Salad recipe.
- Pasta: While I love using tricolor rotini, some other good pasta choices are bow ties, macaroni, medium or small shells, orzo, and Radiatore pasta.
- Meat: rotisserie chicken or shredded chicken, mini pepperoni, salami, ham, and crispy bacon. Note that bacon is best added right before serving and when you know all of the salad will be eaten in one sitting, like at pot lucks. This will ensure that the bacon doesnt get soft or gummy.
- Vegetables: cucumbers , blanched or roasted broccoli, green onions, artichoke hearts, frozen and thawed corn, sliced zucchini, sliced yellow squash, or red onions.
- Beans: garbanzo beans , red kidney beans, white beans, and black beans.
- Herbs: chopped fresh basil, parsley, dill, chives, and cilantro.
- Cheese: cubbed cheddar cheese, Havarti, or Monterey Jack cheese. Also, shredded cheese like Parmesan, crumbled feta cheese, or mini mozzarella cheese balls work well, too.
Read Also: How To Make Pasta Salad Dressing
How To Make The Best Pasta Salad
This pasta salad recipe is easy to make. Made with simple ingredients, this salad is flexible, so you can make this when you are inundated by summer produce or adapt to what is in season. Plus, you are looking at under 20 minutes from start to finish. Not too bad, especially when you can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days! This recipe uses a vinaigrette-based dressing. If you wanted a creamy salad, take a look at our creamy pasta salad recipe.
Our Easy Dressing For Pasta Salad
Once youve decided on the ingredients youre adding to the salad you need to make the dressing. We make an easy five-ingredient pasta salad dressing.
To make it, whisk red wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Its simple, but when mixed with the pasta, veggies and other ingredients, it tastes amazing.
To upgrade the dressing, try champagne vinegar. Its a bit more pricey, but it tastes incredible.
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How To Make The Pasta Salad:
Expert Tips And Tricks
- Rinse it cold. This gets rid of the extra starchy coating. It also stops the cooking process so the pasta stays firm and doesnt get mushy.
- Use fusilli or rotini. These pastas have more area to soak up the delicious dressing.
- Make it homemade. Whip up your own Italian dressing at home for the most flavor and the healthiest option.
- Cut into bite-sized pieces. Dice the bell peppers and onion small so you get flavor in every bite.
- Chill for 2 hours. This is long enough so the flavors meld, but not so long that the pasta loses its texture.
- Up the nutritional value! Black olives, cucumbers, asparagus, zucchini, and squash would all taste great in here. Cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs like parsley and basil add great flavor, too.
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How Do You Keep Gluten Free Pasta From Getting Hard
Short answer: you cant. Sorry! Cooked gluten free pasta typically does NOT keep well in the refrigerator for more than 2-3 hours before it hardens and becomes crumbly. I find cooked brown rice pasta holds up a little longer and better than a corn/rice blend pasta, but this recipe is definitely best when made then served immediately, or you can refrigerate it for up to 2 hours before serving. You might need to add a touch more dressing before serving if you refrigerate it first.
Okay, okay!! Are you ready to dive into this bowl of deliciousness?!
How To Make Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
Make the Salad Dressing
- Cook the Macaroni according to package instructions.
- Drain and place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the apple cider vinegar while the macaroni is hot. Mix it gently and set it aside.
- Combine In a separate bowl, combine the dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, milk , sugar, salt, and pepper. Mix until everything is well incorporated. Set aside.
Mixing the Salad
- Add the Veggies Put the onion, carrot, celery, and green onion in the bowl of macaroni.
- Dress It Pour the salad dressing over it and mix until everything is evenly coated.
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
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