Whether you need a killer side dish for a backyard BBQ or you’re looking for something zesty and delicious for dinner tonight, look no further than this homemade pasta salad recipe! Loaded with antipasto ingredient favorites like salami, mozzarella, and olives, my husband and kids make short work of my biggest batches. It’s perfect for summer, indoors or out, so come see how to make it!
Best Pasta Salad Recipe
In college, I used to buy that boxed kit for pasta salad. Remember those things? But now that I know better, they’re loaded with preservatives and other junk. Besides, pasta salad tastes best when you make it fresh. If you can make spaghetti, you can easily make this cold pasta salad recipe!
Pasta Salad Ingredients
- Tricolor rotini – Yes, you can use another 16-ounce box of pasta shape but the rotini get all the flavors trapped in those spirals. You don’t need tricolor either but I find it looks prettier!
- Salami – A must for a traditional Italian pasta salad recipe. Tip: Get the cubes.
- Mozzarella cheese pearls – You can also get the fresh mozzarella and chunk it up yourself but the pearls are easier and look nice too.
- Black olives – Buy them sliced and make life easier!
- Bell peppers – You’ll need green, orange, and red which all add a more festive presentation.
- Red onion – Perfect for a pungent undertone without being too sharp.
- Italian vinaigrette – The pasta salad dressing that ties it all together. Pasta salad with Italian dressing is amazing!
- Parmesan cheese – Grab a bag of the shredded stuff.
- Pasta salad seasoning – You’ll need Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
- Fresh parsley – Chop this for a fresh finish!
Easy Pasta Salad Recipe
Homemade pasta salad is one of the easiest things you’ll ever make! You only cook the pasta and combine the ingredients. There’s really nothing to it!
A salad is not a meal. Its a style.
How do you Make Pasta Salad from Scratch?
Cold pasta salad is super simple to make. Boil the pasta according to the package instructions, making sure you get it al dente. Then rinse it with cold water and drain well. Add the pasta along with all the other ingredients into a large salad bowl. Toss it all together and then refrigerate it for 2.5 hours minimum before serving.
Expert Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Pasta Salad Every Time
- Season the pasta water well. The water should be salty to impart flavor on the pasta plus keep it from sticking together.
- Pasta shape matters! Making summer pasta salad with spaghetti just doesn’t have the same feel. If you don’t have rotini, choose another short pasta shape like macaroni, farfalle, or orecchiette.
- Don’t overcook the pasta! Set a timer so you cook it to al dente. Then since it’s a cold dish, rinse it with cold water right away so that it stops cooking and doesn’t get mushy.
- Make it colorful. If you can’t find certain vegetables, replace them with other colorful options. Zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes can also work if you can’t find any fresh bell peppers.
Which pasta is best for salad?
While this summer pasta salad recipe uses rotini, any short pasta shape that has little crevices and folds will work. Penne, macaroni, and farfalle are great options!
What is the fastest way to cool pasta for pasta salad?
After draining cooked pasta, move the colander into a bigger bowl that is partially filled with ice water to chill it. Drain again and it’s ready!
Should you rinse pasta for pasta salad?
Yes, you must rinse it for pasta salad. This cools it down and also keeps it from losing that al dente texture.
How do you make pasta salad not stick?
First, make sure your water is salty enough when boiling the pasta. Don’t overcook past al dente and quickly drain it followed by a cold water rinse. These tips along with adding enough dressing will ensure perfect pasta salad.
What is the best store bought dressing for pasta salad?
The best pasta salad dressing is the Italian vinaigrette your family loves best. Newman’s Own Italian Dressing is one of the most popular by far!
Can pasta salad be made the day before?
Absolutely! That’s why pasta salad is the perfect dish for a backyard BBQ, whether you’re hosting or bringing it with you. You can make it several days before but as far as prep and flavor go, the sweet spot is 24 hours before.
Should you put dressing on pasta salad the night before?
Yes, the pasta and other ingredients will soak in the flavors. If you worry about it being dry, get extra dressing so you can top it off before serving.
How long can pasta salad with Italian dressing sit out?
Generally, it will be safe sitting out up to 2 hours. You should consider putting out portions of it in a smaller serving bowl and refilling as needed from a larger bowl in the fridge.
How do you keep pasta salad moist?
The secret is in the dressing. I like to reserve some extra dressing so that if it seems too dry, I can add more to get it to the proper balance.
What goes with Pasta Salad?
Generally when I serve pasta salad, I’ve got the whole BBQ thing going on. We love it with burgers and hotdogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, fried okra, fried chicken, and sandwiches. Sometimes for dinner, I’ll serve it as a main with a soup like tomato bisque or chicken noodle.
How to Store Pasta Salad
Just put your pasta salad in the fridge. Make sure to either wrap the top of the serving bowl with plastic wrap or put it in an airtight container.
How Long Does Pasta Salad Last?
In your fridge, pasta salad keeps pretty well. You should finish it off before 5 to 7 days though.
Can You Freeze Pasta Salad?
Yes, though it is best when it’s fresh. Freezing it with the vegetables will definitely change the texture but it’s better than wasting it. If you can keep it separated, that would be ideal. Regardless, it will last for roughly 3 months when frozen.
How to Reheat Pasta Salad?
Just let it thaw out overnight in the fridge. You can also warm it up and serve it as a hot dish if you like. Use a skillet and gently warm it together on the stove. The cheese will get melty and it will be delicious!
Watch How To Make Pasta Salad (Video)
Classic Pasta Salad Recipe
- 16 oz tricolor rotini
- 10 oz cubed salami
- 3/4 cup Italian vinaigrette
- 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese pearls
- 1 pint grape tomatoes (halved)
- 1/4 cup black olives (sliced)
- 1/2 green bell pepper (seeded and diced)
- 1/2 orange bell pepper (seeded and diced)
- 1/2 red bell pepper (seeded and diced)
- 1/2 cup red onion (diced)
- 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 4 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- First, cook the tricolor rotini until al dente. Once cooked, rinse with cold water. Combine all of the ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 1/2 hours before serving.
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