Best homemade pasta salad recipe! This easy recipe takes simple ingredients like vegetables, cheese, and pepperoni, and a homemade Italian dressing and turns them into the perfect side dish!
Pasta salad is a classic summer side dish! It’s commonly found a barbecues, potlucks, and picnics. This easy pasta salad recipe is so simple to make, and it’s super easy to customize.
This traditional cold pasta salad recipe can be made ahead of time and chilled until served. It goes well with just about any main dish like turkey burgers, ribs, or barbecue beef.
- Rotini pasta: Rotini pasta is great because the pasta shape is perfect for holding onto the salad dressing. Feel free to use gluten-free pasta if you prefer.
- Grape tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes could also be used.
- Green peppers: Another color of bell pepper, like red peppers, could be used.
- Cubed cheese: Feel free to use whatever type of cheese you like. Cheddar cheese, Colby cheese, fresh mozzarella, or even mini mozzarella balls could be used.
- Pepperoni: Half of the pepperoni could be substituted with salami.
- Granulated sugar: Adjust the sugar according to taste.
How to make pasta salad
Step 1: Add the tomatoes, green peppers, cheese cubes, pepperoni, and black olives to a large bowl. Set aside.
Step 2: Cook pasta in a large pot according to package directions for al dente pasta.
Step 3: Drain and then rinse cooked noodles under cold water until pasta has cooled.
Step 4: Toss pasta with remaining pasta salad items, and set aside.
Step 5: Whisk together dressing ingredients.
Step 6: Pour dressing over pasta salad, and toss to combine.
Step 7: Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The flavors improve as the pasta salad sits.
- The basic formula for a great pasta salad is cooked pasta + meat/veggies + dressing.
- This is more of an Italian pasta salad recipe. It could easily be adjusted with simple additions – i.e. adding thinly sliced red onion, using half pepperoni, half salami.
- Also, there isn’t a lot of dressing for the salad. If you prefer a heavily dressed salad, double the dressing portion.
How to make vegetarian pasta salad
To make this recipe vegetarian, simply substitute additional vegetables for the sliced pepperoni. There are any number of fresh veggies or marinated vegetables that could work well in this recipe such as:
- marinated artichokes
- yellow, red, or orange bell peppers
- broccoli florets
You could also try substituting zucchini noodles for part of the pasta.
You can! The salad tastes better once it has had a chance to chill, so feel free to make it ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The dressing does soak into the pasta as it sits, so if you plan to make it ahead of time, make double the dressing and reserve half until just before serving.
This salad makes an easy side dish for burgers, grilled chicken, sandwiches, and other many other main dishes.
Any leftover pasta salad should be stored in an airtight container the refrigerator. The pasta salad will keep for 3-4 days when properly stored in the fridge.
More side salad recipes!
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- 12 ounce box dry rotini pasta tri-color or regular
- 10 ounces grape tomatoes halved
- 2 cups chopped green bell peppers
- 8 ounces cubed cheese*
- 4 ounces sliced pepperoni sliced in half
- 1/4 cup sliced black olives
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Cook pasta according to box directions for al dente pasta.
- Rinse cooked pasta under cold water until pasta has cooled.
- Toss pasta with remaining pasta salad items in a large mixing bowl, and set aside.
- Whisk together dressing.
- Pour dressing over pasta salad, and toss to combine.
- Chill well until ready to serve. The flavors improve as the pasta salad sits.
- I like to use cheddar or marble cheddar. Feel free to use a cheese that you like.
- There isn’t a lot of dressing for the salad. If you prefer a heavily dressed salad, double the dressing portion.
- Nutrition values are estimates.
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Originally published 5/7/18.
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Comments & Reviews
Great salad! I added rotisserie chicken because that’s what I had and I threw in some fresh herbs because I had them. Love the flavors and it really is easy to add what you like and turn out a great salad.
Thank you! Those sound like great additions! Thanks for commenting! =)
I’m concerned about the sugar in the dressing. Is it okay to leave it out?
The sugar is just there to balance out the dressing. If you prefer it without the sugar, you can leave it out.
Joanne bachman says
I add zucchini and olives
Great idea! Thank you for sharing. =)
This recipe is wonderful! I just made it for a family get together for Labor Day weekend. The dressing is delicious – I might use it for other dishes as well. Instead of using all green pepper, I used a medley of green, yellow, orange, and red. I used salami instead of pepperoni and used a marbled Colby jack for the cheese. I also used multi colored gourmet grape tomatoes for lots of color and flavor. Thanks for a great recipe!
Thank you! Glad you liked it! Sounds like you ended up with a pasta salad that was tasty and pretty. Thank you for coming back to comment! =)
I’ve made this pasta salad twice and it’s brilliant. I’m making again tonight for a picnic tomorrow. I used chunks of provolone cheese in my version. Thanks for the recipe.
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you like it! Thanks for commenting! =)
I made this for a family event and my whole family loved this recipe. It’s a winner! Thank you!
Fantastic! This was really good pasta salad. Thanks for the recipe!