Homemade Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Homemade Zesty Italian Pasta Salad is a must-have at summer potlucks and BBQsor for a light, flavorful lunch. Its easy to make and ready in just about 15 minutes with a homemade zesty Italian dressing, lots of veggies, and extra cheese. A classic favorite!
If you are a pasta lover no matter the season, then you are exactly in the right place. Around here, there is no shortage of vegetarian pasta recipes, and we wholeheartedly live with the understanding that there must be carbs at every meal.
And this pasta salad checks all the boxes. Its the perfect side dish with its carbs and veggies and cheese, yet it also makes a fantastic light lunch or dinner .
Its easy to make in just about 15 minutes and bursts with flavor and is easy to make ahead, too, so its even more perfect for bringing to your friends cookout or the next family gathering. Because you know pasta salad is a must-have side dish at BBQs, right?!
Reasons To Love This Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- Endless variations. Switch up the salad with your favorite pasta shape, swap in different vegetables and other ingredients, and use a different gluten free salad dressing for more salad options.
- Easy to make. This easy pasta salad recipe comes together in less than 20 minutes using simple ingredients.
- Great for potlucks. Everybody loves a cold pasta salad alongside grilled chicken, burgers, and hot dogs! Its the perfect summer side dish.
- Make-ahead. Save time by making this popular summer salad a day in advance.
Favorite Pasta Salad Ingredients
This recipe is based on a formula that you can easily adapt to your favorite mix-ins. Dont like olives? Add sun-dried tomatoes. Try using a different cheese, like feta, instead of mozzarella.
Pasta salads are a great way to clean out both the pantry and the fridge. And while there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to which pasta is best or which mix-ins to add, I do have some favorites and a few preferences.
- Pasta: Steer clear of noodles and go for shorter shapes like orecchiette, rotelle, orzo, fusilli, farfalle, rotini, or penne.
- Vegetables: Here I used tomatoes and cucumbers, but you could really add anything. Your goal is to add texture and color. Toss in some thinly sliced bell peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, arugula, or sliced scallions. If you want to add a little heat, add pepperoncini.
- Cheese: Fresh mozzarella is easy to find, but you could swap it for marinated mozzarella, feta, or cubed provolone. Even the salty bite of shaved Parmesan would work.
- Protein: Bacon is always a hit, but you could also add shredded chicken or cubed ham. If youre looking for a vegetarian option, rinse and add a can of chickpeas.
- Flavorful extras: Sun-dried tomatoes add both color and flavor. Mix up your olive options. Add in pickled garlic. Toss in a handful of fresh herbs, like torn basil, oregano, or dill.
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Taco Pasta Salad Is The Ultimate Crowd Pleaser Bursting With Bold Satisfying Tex
This Taco Pasta Saladis swoon worthy for lunch, easy dinners, potlucks, barbecues or parties and will have everyone clamoring for more! Its flavor-texture fireworks of the best taco fixings such as chili spiced ground beef or turkey, juicy tomatoes, hearty black beans, creamy avocados, spicy jalapenos, zesty cilantro and the best part crushed Nacho Cheese Doritos all doused in creamy Baja Catalina Dressing. This Taco Pasta Salad is easy to customize with your favorite ingredients, is make ahead friendly and can be enjoyed cold, room temperature or warmed. No matter how you serve it, this pasta salad recipe is destined to become a treasured family favorite!
Meal Prep And Storage
- To Prep-Ahead: Make a big batch of this salad but keep the spinach and ¼ cup of dressing separate. Mix in just before serving. Please note, some gluten-free pasta will get harder after being refrigerated for 48 hours.
- To Store: Keep this cold pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
- To Freeze: It is not recommended to freeze leftovers as the pasta will become quite soggy and lose its texture.
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Ingredients For Caprese Pasta Salad
- Tomatoes Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes are flavorful and hold up well but any ripe fresh tomatoes will be great in this recipe. Sundried tomatoes add a bit of tang and lots of flavor.
- Mozzarella Bocconcini, fresh mozzarella cheese, or mozzarella balls are a great addition to this caprese pasta salad recipe. Its a soft and mild cheese . We cut them in half but you can find the smaller mozzarella pearls, no cutting is required. If you dont have bocconcini, cut your favorite mozzarella into cubes.
- Basil Fresh basil really adds the best flavor to this pasta salad.
- Pasta Any medium or short pasta shape works, choose one with crevices, curves, or tubes so it can hold the dressing! Try penne, rotini pasta, or even elbow macaroni.
The Perfect Addition!
Fresh basil makes the salad!
Instead of buying a little bunch or packet of basil at the grocery, check if they sell basil plants. They cost a tiny bit more but will last a long time!
Fresh basil is the perfect addition to pastas, salads and of course bruschetta!
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.
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Making Pasta Salad In Advance
Heres the great news. Pasta salad gets better over time. Letting the pasta and veggies sit in the dressing for a while makes a huge difference in flavor. We take the same approach when making potato salad.
You can make pasta salad and keep it in the fridge for up to five days, which makes this the perfect side dish to prepare in advance.
Lets recap, for the best homemade pasta salad, keep the following in mind:
- A simple combination of red wine vinegar, oregano, olive oil, salt, and pepper makes the perfect tangy dressing.
- Pasta salad tastes better over time so making it ahead of time isnt just possible, its recommended.
- Use a variety of colors and textures. Vegetables add crunch and color, olives add brininess, and fresh mozzarella makes the salad extra special.
- Add even more flavor with fresh herbs, pickled veggies or spicy peppers like sliced pepperoncini peppers.
The Ultimate Easy Pasta Salad
There are a lot of cold pasta salads out there, but heres why you should memorize this one.
- The dressing is easily made from things already in your pantry.
- It totally tastes like your favorite bottled Italian dressing.
- Theres no mayo to worry about sitting out at a picnic or potluck.
My favorite thing, though? From start to finish, this whole recipe only takes 30 minutes to pull together. Its perfect for last-minute get-togethers or for a quick lunch to eat throughout the week.
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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.
How To Make Gluten Free Pasta Salad With Italian Dressing
- Start by making the Italian salad dressing. Place the olive oil, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and melted honey into a mason jar. Give it a few good shakes to mix and Set aside. You can also whisk all of the ingredients in a bowl.
- Cook the gluten free pasta thoroughly. Drain and rinse under cold water and set aside to cool.
- Add the cooled pasta, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, Pepperoncini, chickpeas, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and onion in a large mixing bowl. Give the ingredients a gentle stir to mix.
- Pour the salad dressing and grated parmesan cheese over the ingredients and stir gently until everything is coated. Give it a taste for salt and pepper.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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Why You Would Love This Recipe
This zesty pasta salad gets time to absorb the dressing and take on additional flavor from all the fresh ingredients. This Italian pasta salad recipe is meat-free, dairy-free. Here are more reasons why you would love it:
- Its so tasty, mixed with different textures.
- So colorful and eye appealing.
- Its zesty and entices your taste buds.
- It is cheap to put together with pantry staples.
- Quick and easy, so convenient to make.
- It is so versatile and highly customizable .
- Make-ahead friendly, suitable for meal preps and lunch boxes.
- Its a crowd pleasing dish, perfect for parties and gatherings.
I have another vegan pasta recipe with parsley relish, feel free to check out. I think you would like it too.
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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Easy Pasta Salad Recipe
Every year, it just doesnt feel like summer until Ive made this easy peasy Italian Pasta Salad recipe. Its packed full of perfectly cooked rotini pasta, fresh veggies and Italian ingredients like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, parsley, salami and mozzarella cheese. Everything is doused in our homemade Italian dressing and left to chill in the fridge while the flavors mingle.
This easy side dish is perfect for bringing to any summer party, BBQ or potluck because its quick, easy, can be made the night before and everyone always loves it. If youre looking to add even more ingredients, pepperoncini and diced bell peppers would taste great. Otherwise, feel free to omit or swap out any of the ingredients that youd like.
Still craving cold pasta salad? Give this Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad a try.
What Kind Of Tortellini To Buy
I use store-bought fresh tortellini, but you could absolutely make the pasta from scratch should the inspiration strike.
Youll find fresh tortellini in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Dried ones are in the boxed pasta aisle and frozen tortellini is in the freezer section. You can use any variety, but I prefer fresh tortellini because it cooks very quicklyabout 3 minutes compared to 10 minutes or more for dried.
As for the filling, youll never go wrong with your favorite! I opted for spinach and cheese, but three-cheese or pesto would also be delicious.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel
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Italian Pasta Salad Dressing
To make this recipe quick and easy, I use a bottled Italian dressing but of course, homemade Italian Dressing is amazing if you have the ingredients on hand.
Make aheadThe best thing about this pasta salad recipe is that it gets better as it sits and the flavors blend! Its the perfect make ahead side dish, it takes 20 only about minutes to prepare. What could be better than that?
As this Italian pasta salad sits in the fridge, the acids in the dressing actually work to help break down the starches in the pasta and the proteins in the veggies, resulting in a more flavorful and tender pasta salad !
Make Homemade Italian Dressing combine the following:
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
Best Pasta Salad Ever
For this pasta salad, all you do is combine a few ingredients in a bowl, along with some of your favorite penne.
Something about the combination of flavors and textures well, it was so good I had to make a batch for us to have for dinner and leftover/lunches this week.
Mix a few ingredients into a bowl,
After you cook the pasta and run cold water over it -I did 12oz of brown rice penne-
add to the bowl with the rest of the party. Toss to combine.
Heres the video how-to for ya, too SO easy and so good!
Insanely easy, and so delicious. Let me know if you give it a try! I especially love it cold out of the fridge
- One jar of sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
- One jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
- One container of feta cheese
- Two fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- Two large handfuls of fresh arugula
- 1/4 C chopped fresh basil, two heaping tablespoons of basil from a tube, or pesto
- Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
- 8 servings of your favorite penne pasta, cooked al dente in salted, boiling water
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How To Make Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Everything comes together quickly and easily .
First, prepare the pot of water for the pasta. Get the salted water on the stovetop first so it has time to come to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook to al dente, according to package directions.
Al dente is when the pasta is still firm to the bite its the perfect texture for pasta hot or cold. Be sure to test the pasta several minutes before the box cook time to ensure its cooked to al dente.
While the pasta cooks, whisk together the dressing ingredients and prepare the veggies. The dressing can be mixed in the bowl youll toss the pasta salad in, or it can be shaken in a jar.
Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and rinse it in cold water. Do not toss the pasta in oil it wont be able to soak in that delicious dressing if its coated in oil.
Toss the cooked pasta in the dressing. Its ok if its still a bit warm that will help it absorb the dressing, too. Toss the rest of the ingredients in and youre ready to serve it or store it in the fridge for later. If you prefer it served cold , you will want to stick it in the fridge right away to chillbefore serving.
Variations Of This Recipe
- PROTEIN to make this pasta salad recipe non-vegetarian, try adding some mini slices of pepperoni, or salami!
- DIFFERENT CHEESES instead of Feta, try using some shredded Parmesan, tiny cubes of cheddar, etc.
- DIFFERENT VEGGIES zucchini, olives, bell peppers, etc are great additions to this pasta salad. Use whats looking fresh and amazing at the store!
- CREAMY whisk a few tablespoons of mayonnaise into your homemade dressing to make this a creamier pasta salad.
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How To Make Your Pasta Salad Dreams Come True
Okay, its summer, so you know were not spending all day in the kitchen. Were bringing this beauty to share with friends, family, neighbors, post office workers, daycare providers, pretty much whoever can get their hands on a fork stat. Lets make pasta salad!
May I offer one last tidbit of advice? You do not need to wait to be invited to a picnic or potluck to get some pasta salad magic in your life.
This is a weeknights dream meal.
Stop at the store on the way home and pick up some good salami and cheese, some olives, and a few fresh herbs. Cook up some pasta, toss it all together, and voila. Cold pasta salad + a glass of rose for dinner, and colder pasta salad as leftovers for lunch all week.
I will be over in a flash.
The Type Of Pasta For Cold Pasta Salad
The shape of the pasta you use is flexible in pasta salads, but you dont want to use just any pasta in pasta salads. Youll want to use a smaller shape that will hold the dressing well.
Ideal shapes includefusilli, bowtie , penne, or rotini, as shown here.
These pasta shapes all have nooks and crannies for holding in the dressing making them the perfect options.
You will also want to stick with dry pasta, as opposed to fresh pasta when making pasta salad. While fresh homemade pasta is incredible in hot dishes, it wont hold up in cold pasta salads.
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