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This easy pasta salad recipe takes minutes to make. It’s a classic side dish, perfect for BBQs, picnics, or any night of the week!
An Easy Side
Summer is all about being lazy, and enjoying time with family! We love to BBQ and gather for dinner with friends. One of our go-to salad recipes is this pasta salad recipe.
Our family has been making this cold pasta salad for at least 10 years! It’s always a hit when we bring it to events.
Depending on the crowd you’re feeding, or what your family likes, you can customize the ingredients to your choosing. Regardless of what you decide to include, this pasta salad is easy, and simply the best!
An Easy Classic!
We love that this Italian pasta salad recipe can be made in a jiffy. You can make a homemade Italian salad dressing to go with it or use a bottle of store-bought Italian dressing.
PASTA. Cook pasta as directed on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.
COMBINE. In a large bowl, combine cool pasta, olives, cheese, and pepperoni.
DRESS. Pour at least half of the Italian dressing into the pasta salad and mix well.
Add any desired mix-ins to the pasta salad and mix well.
CHILL. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Stir in additional dressing to taste before serving.
Use these tips to perfect this best pasta salad with Italian dressing.
The best pasta for pasta salad. Choose a pasta that has nooks and crannies, for little pockets of dressing and herbs to settle. Use short pasta shapes like fusilli, farfalle, rotini, and penne. Their small size makes them perfectly easy to serve and eat in small bites.
Bite-size. To make sure you get a fork full of different flavors, chop your vegetables into bite-size pieces.
Keep it from drying out. Keep the pasta from absorbing all of the dressing, only add ½ of the dressing when tossing it together so that all the flavors can meld together, then add the remaining dressing right before serving.
You can also toss the pasta in a light coating of olive oil to create a barrier so the noodles can’t absorb all the dressing.
This Italian pasta salad usually includes chunks of cheese, olives, mini pepperoni, and parmesan cheese in our pasta salad with Italian dressing.
You could easily take out, or add in any of these pasta salad ingredients:
- Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red bell peppers, green onions, artichokes, or red onions
- Meat: ham cubes, grilled chicken, crab, bacon, salami, or pepperoncini
- Fresh herbs: basil, oregano, or parsley
- Cheese: fresh mozzarella cheese or feta cheese
Make it ahead of time. Easy pasta salad is best when eaten right after adding the dressing. To make it ahead of time, store the dressing in a separate container, and toss it with the pasta salad before you serve/eat it.
STORE. Keep this pasta salad in an airtight container. Leftovers will last in the fridge for 5 to 7 days. You can have pasta salad for lunches and dinners all week!
FREEZE. While I do not recommend freezing this pasta salad, you can freeze some of the ingredients separately. Avoid freezing any of the fresh produce, because they’ll become mushy once they thaw. You can freeze the cheese cubes, pepperoni, and pasta.
Plain cooked pasta can be frozen:
- Boil the pasta to al dente. Drain.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the pasta in a light coating of olive oil, spread it out on the baking sheet, and place it in the freezer.
- Once solid, transfer the noodles to a freezer Ziploc.
- To thaw, spread the pasta out on a baking sheet. When ready, proceed with the recipe.
To serve the pasta quickly, rinse the pasta with cold water to cool it off faster. If you have time for the pasta to cool in the fridge, then toss the warm pasta in half of the dressing. The pasta will absorb the flavors as it cools.
Cook the pasta and toss it in half of the dressing. Store the other ingredients in separate containers. Before serving, add the remaining dressing and toss it with the rest of the toppings.
For more Pasta salad recipes, check out:
- Asian Pasta Salad
- Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Layered Pasta Salad
- Chicken Pasta Salad
Pasta Salad Recipe
- 16 ounces (4 cups) colored rotini pasta (fusilli, farfalle, and penne work too) cooked
- ½ cup diced black olives
- ½ cup cubed Colby Jack cheese
- ½ cup mini pepperoni slices
- ¾-1 cup Italian dressing
- chopped cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped peppers, ham cubes, pepperoncini, artichoke hearts
- Cook pasta as directed on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- In a large bowl, combine cool pasta, olives, cheese, and pepperoni.
- Pour at least half of the Italian dressing into the pasta salad and mix well.
- Add any desired mix-ins to the pasta salad and mix well.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Stir in additional dressing to taste before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.