If there’s a picnic that I have to bring a side dish to? You can bet it I’m going to bring this Italian pasta salad. It gets requested often by family and friends for picnics and potlucks.
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 perfect side dish recipe for all of your summer cookouts.
About this Easy Italian Pasta Salad Recipe:
Flavor: This easy pasta salad recipe is packed with flavor thanks to the pepperoni, cheddar and zesty Italian dressing. We also add our homemade pasta salad seasoning which is our secret to an unforgettable pasta salad that everyone will be asking about.
Texture: Pasta salads have a lot of texture in every bite. The vegetables give a crunch while the cheese gives a creaminess to the salad.
Method: Boil the pasta noodles on the stovetop, then drain and let it cool. The rest is simply mixing ingredients together.
Best Pasta Salad Noodles
The base of our pasta salad is tricolor pasta noodles. I choose this because it gives such a pretty pop of color to the salad.
If you can’t find tri-color rotini pasta use anything from farfalle to fusilli or penne pasta. Anything will work and sometimes a fun pasta shape is necessary for smiles.
Pasta Salad Ingredients
Pasta salad can have many different ingredients, but this classic Italian pasta salad has cucumber, tomato, onion, olives, cheese and pepperoni.
You’ll also need a zesty Italian dressing and our pasta salad seasoning. More on that below!
Pasta Salad Dressing
We find it easiest to use store-bought zesty Italian dressing for our pasta salad.
If you’d like to try making your own pasta salad dressing, you can take the dressing from any of these recipes and add it to the salad:
Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions and allow it to cool. Use our hints below the recipe card for keeping the pasta from sticking together.
Add the other ingredients. 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.
Season the salad.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.
Cook pasta according to package instructions in a large pot. Drain the pasta in a colander and allow it to cool. 12 ounces tri-color rotini pasta
Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, place the pasta in a large bowl. Add the drained olives, pepperoni, onion, cheese, cucumber and tomato. Mix well. 1 can sliced black olives, 5 ounces sliced pepperoni, ½ cup chopped red onion, 1 cup cubed cheddar cheese, 1 cup diced cucumber, 1 pint grape tomatoes
Refrigerate the salad to chill it for at least an hour.
Just before serving, sprinkle the salad seasoning on top of the salad, then pour the dressing over the top. Mix well. 3 tablespoons pasta salad seasoning, 1 cup zesty Italian dressing
Add more dressing, to taste. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up 48 hours. It may need more dressing to freshen it up as it sits. This is best served the day you make it.
Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.The calories shown are based on the recipe serving 10, with 1 serving being 1/10 of the salad. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do you keep cold pasta from sticking together?
Don’t add the pasta to the water until the water is at a full boil. Don’t overcook the pasta, but just cook to al dente. Rinse the pasta with cold water after cooking since you won’t be serving it right away.
Also, 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 extra virgin olive oil to prevent them from sticking. Don’t do this if you are serving with tomato sauce or the sauce won’t stick.
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.
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. Pasta salad doesn’t freeze well. Gobble it up while you’ve got it.
Other Favorite Salad Recipes
Salads are some of our favorite recipes to make! Whether they are loaded with meat, potatoes, veggies or a combination of all three, you’re sure to find a new one to love.
About Julie Clark
I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.