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Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

Filled with tender pasta, crisp veggies and a zesty Italian dressing, this delicious and easy pasta salad is a potluck must-have!

Pasta salad in glass bowl.
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Crowd Favorite Pasta Salad

When it comes to potluck side dishes, cold pasta salad is a must! It’s always a hit with the crowd and is so simple to throw together. Plus the leftovers taste delicious all week long (that is, if there are any!).

I got this easy recipe from my mother in law and changed a few things up to make it my own. It’s made with just noodles, veggies and a tangy Italian dressing. I mean, does it get more simple than that?!

Simply throw in your favorite extras to make it your own and dig in! Trust me, this is a dish that your whole family will love. It really is a favorite around our house!

Recipe Ingredients

Ingredients for pasta salad in bowl.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Rotini pasta: This is my favorite pasta to use, as the dressing adheres it to so nicely and the tri-color is pretty.
  • Bell peppers: Red and green add a nice bit of spice to the salad.
  • Red onion: Italian dressing and red onions are a match made in heaven.
  • Cherry tomatoes: These add such a nice burst of sweetness to the salad.
  • Black olives: These are a great way to punch up the flavor.
  • Mozzarella: The small mozzarella balls are a perfect size for the pasta.
  • Italian dressing: I love to use this recipe, but store-bought works as well.
  • Fresh herbs: Parsley or basil are my picks to go with the rest of the ingredients.

Tips for the Perfect Pasta Salad

  • Salt the water. A trick when boiling the pasta is to salt the water first. It helps improve the flavor of the noodles, as well as helps the water boil slightly faster.
  • Cook al dente. The goal is to cook the noodles al dente, so that they’re tender to bite but will still remain sturdy enough to hold up in the salad. If you over cook the noodles, they can get mushy and fall apart easily when tossing.
  • Extras. There are plenty of delicious extras that you can add to this recipe. Mix in some pepperoni or chopped salami, sliced cucumbers, chickpeas or add a sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese. You can even swap feta for mozzarella, or leave the cheese out entirely to make this a vegan dish.
  • Let marinate. Whenever I make this dish, I like to let it chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving. This gives the dressing some time to marinate together with the pasta and veggies, so that it’s extra flavorful and delicious. Plus you can’t beat a cold pasta salad in the summer!

How to Make Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

Close up of pasta salad with wooden spoon.
  • Cook. Make sure the rotini pasta is cooked and cooled.
  • Combine. Stir together the rotini, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, olives, and mozzarella in a large bowl.
  • Chill. Drizzle with Italian dressing and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Recipe FAQs

Can I double the recipe for East Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing?

Absolutely! Just be sure to use a big enough bowl when stirring everything together.

Do I have to use rotini pasta?

Traditionally this dish is made with rotini noodles. They have the perfect shape and ridges to really soak in the flavor from the Italian dressing. That doesn’t mean you can’t use other varieties of noodles though. Penne, fusilli or bow-tie pasta would all work great, too.

Make Ahead + Storing

You can definitely make this recipe the night beforehand if you prefer. The longer it marinates in the fridge, the more flavor it will have. I love to make it ahead of time and then when ready to serve, I’ll add fresh chopped parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Delicious!

If you have leftovers, they will stay fresh in the fridge for about 5 days. They are perfect to enjoy throughout the week and make an amazing side dish for so many lunches or dinners.

More Potluck Salads You’ll Love

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cold pasta salad

Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

5 from 13 votes
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Filled with tender pasta, crisp veggies and a zesty Italian dressing, this delicious and easy pasta salad is a potluck must-have!
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Chill Time: 2 hrs
Total Time: 2 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 16

Ingredients 

  • 1 (1-pound) box tri-color rotini pasta
  • 1 red bell pepper , chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper , chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes , sliced in half
  • 1/2 sliced red onion
  • 1 cup sliced olives
  • 8 ounces small mozzarella balls
  • 1 cup Italian dressing or vinaigrette , more if desired
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley or basil)
  • Shredded parmesan cheese , optional

Optional add-ins: Chickpeas, Snap peas, Chopped salami or pepperoni

    Instructions

    • Cook rotini according to package. Drain and rinse under cold water.
    • In a large bowl, stir together rotini, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and mozzarella balls.
    • Pour Italian dressing over the top and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired, before serving.

    Notes

    Dressing: Here is my favorite homemade Italian dressing recipe.
    Substitutions: You may substitute mozzarella for feta cheese, or omit the cheese all together to make vegan. Other types of noodles will also work, such as penne or fusilli. 
    Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 291mg | Potassium: 105mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 432IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: Italian

    Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

    Pasta salad in bowl with wooden spoons.

    Fresh cherry tomatoes are my favorite. Topped with Italian dressing…mmm. Don’t you just want to take a bite?!

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