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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!

ingredients for pasta salad in bowl

Tips for the perfect pasta salad

  • 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 taste great too.
  • 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!

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.

close up of pasta salad with wooden spoon

More potluck salads you’ll love:

cold pasta salad

Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

5 from 8 votes
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
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 16

Ingredients 

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

Optional add ins: chickpeas, snap peas, shredded parmesan cheese, chopped salami or pepperoni

    Instructions

    • Cook noodles according to package. Drain and rinse under cold water.
      pasta cooking in pot
    • Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
      how to make pasta salad
    • Pour Italian dressing over the top and sprinkle with fresh parsley or basil. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with parmesan cheese if desired.
      easy pasta salad recipe

    Notes

    Dressing: Here is my favorite homemade Italian dressing recipe: https://www.iheartnaptime.net/italian-dressing/
    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. 
     

    Calories: 196kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 291mg | Potassium: 153mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 390IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 0.6mg
    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: Italian
    Author: Jamielyn Nye

    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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