Italian Pasta Salad

This Classic Italian Pasta Salad is summer picnic comfort food at its best. Tri-color pasta, veggies, cheese and pepperoni fill this zesty Italian salad.

You know what my favorite part of a summer picnic is? The side dishes! Classic potato salad, creamy broccoli salad and sweet Snickers salad are ALWAYS a hit.

A plate full of food, with Pasta Salad

If there’s a picnic that I have to bring a side dish to? You can bet it I’m going to bring this pasta salad.  It gets requested often. And it gets most requested by Braden. He loves it. Braden’s birthday is in January and although that’s the dead of the winter, he always requests pasta salad and pumpkin pie!

Easy Italian Pasta Salad

I love pasta salad because it is easy. No peeling potatoes or slicing too many veggies. We’ll talk below about how to prepare parts of this salad in advance to make this a quick and easy side dish recipe for all of your grilling nights.

Best Pasta for Pasta Salad

The base of our pasta salad is tri-color pasta. Could you use regular pasta? Yes. But tri-color is so much prettier. And maybe, just maybe, it is a teeny bit healthier for you since it has a bit of spinach and tomatoes inside to give it that pretty color.

Cook the pasta until is al dente. I don’t like mushy pasta salad, and I’m doubting that you will either.

How do you make cold pasta not stick?

Here are a few hints:

  • Don’t add the pasta to the water until the water is at a full boil.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta. Cook to al dente.
  • Rinse the pasta with cold water after cooking since you won’t be serving it right away.
  • Because you’re adding an oil-based dressing to the pasta, you can toss the cold pasta noodles with just a teaspoon or two of olive oil to prevent them from sticking. Don’t do this if you are serving with tomato sauce or the sauce won’t stick.

pasta in a bowl

Pasta Salad Ingredients

  • tri color pasta
  • olives
  • cheddar cheese
  • pepperoni
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • onion
  • pasta salad seasoning
  • dressing
  • green pepper and red pepper is optional!

cut cheese on a cutting board

Pasta Salad Dressing

We find it easiest to use store-bought zesty Italian dressing for our pasta salad. Sometimes we splurge and buy Olive Garden dressing….it’s so good!

If you’d like to try making your own, you can take the dressing from any of these recipes and add it to the salad:

How to Make Pasta Salad

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions and allow it to cool. Use our hints above for keeping the pasta from sticking.
  • Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the olives, pepperoni, onion, cheese, cucumber and tomato. You can of course add other veggies or leave some out if you don’t like them. Mix well.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle the salad seasoning on top of the salad, then pour the dressing over the top.
  • Mix well. Add more dressing, if desired.

bowl of pasta, peppers and pepperoni

How do I make pasta salad taste better?

Have you ever added seasoning to your pasta salad? Our pasta salad seasoning recipe makes pasta salad stand out! If you have your own favorite pasta salad recipe, you’ll use three tablespoons of this seasoning per one pound of pasta.

Can you make pasta salad the day before?

If you’re making pasta salad the day before, we recommend keeping the pasta, pepperoni and cheese in one bowl and the veggies in another bowl. Right before serving, mix it all together with the dressing. This will help your pasta salad stay fresh.

pasta salad in a bowl

How long can you keep pasta salad with Italian dressing?

This pasta salad will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If the pasta salad has dried out, toss it with a few extra tablespoons of Italian dressing. This will freshen it right up!

Can you freeze pasta salad?

No. Just don’t. This pasta salad doesn’t freeze well. Gobble it up while you’ve got it!

What main dish goes with pasta salad?

Pasta salad goes with just about any grilled dinner.

overhead view of pasta salad in a bowl

What other side dishes go with pasta salad?

You may also love our Low Carb Italian Sub Salad!

Pasta Salad
Pasta Salad

Italian Pasta Salad

5 from 2 votes
This Classic Italian Pasta Salad is summer picnic comfort food at its best. Tri-color pasta, veggies, cheese and pepperoni fill this zesty Italian salad.
Servings 10 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients
 

  • 1 pound tri-color rotini pasta
  • 1 can sliced olives (2.25 ounce)
  • 5 ounces sliced pepperoni
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup cubed cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 3 tablespoons pasta salad seasoning
  • 1/2 cup zesty Italian dressing

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions and allow it to cool.
  • Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the olives, pepperoni, onion, cheese, cucumber and tomato. Stir well.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle the salad seasoning on top of the salad, then pour the dressing over the top. Mix well. Add more dressing, if desired.

Nutrition

Calories: 374kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 1080mg | Potassium: 241mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 305IU | Vitamin C: 2.7mg | Calcium: 125mg | Iron: 1.4mg
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 374
Keyword easy pasta salad, easy summer dinner recipe, picnic salad, summer picnic

closeup of pasta salad

About Lizzy T

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Linda Warren
8 years ago

My son-in-law adores any sort of pasta salad and, being Italian, he will love this one. It’s nice and simple and perfect for picnics. Thanks for sharing on Showcase Your Talent Thursday.