Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing takes minutes to make. It’s a classic side dish, perfect for BBQs, picnics, or any night of the week!
We love having a go-to side dish to bring to summer parties – and this Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing is it! Other favorites include our Famous Potato Salad, Corn Salad and Tortellini Salad. They’re all simple, and great to enjoy all summer long.
Easy pasta salad
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!
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 small bites.
We usually include chunks of cheese, olives, mini pepperonis and parmesan cheese in our Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing. You could easily take out, or add in any of these ingredients:
- Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red bell peppers, green onions 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
HOW TO MAKE pasta salad
We love that this recipe can be made in a jiffy. You can make a homemade Italian salad dressing to go with it, but we love that a bottle of store bought Italian dressing works perfectly in this pasta salad.
PASTA. Boil the pasta noodles according to package directions. When they’re cooked, drain and rinse pasta with cold water. (For added flavor, add 1-1½ tablespoons of salt for every pound of pasta you are boiling.)
MIX INS. Add in your desired amount of other ingredients (we always use olives, cheese, and pepperonis – sometimes tomatoes and cucumbers). Pour at least half of the Italian dressing on the salad, and mix well.
CHILL + SERVE. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, pour the remaining dressing on right before serving!
Bite size. To make sure you get a fork full of different flavors, be sure to chop your vegetables to bite size.
Keep it creamy. There are a couple of things you can do to help keep the pasta from absorbing all of the dressing. I only add ½ of the dressing when I toss 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.
Make ahead of time. Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing is best when eaten right after you put on the dressing. If you want to make it ahead of time, store the dressing in a separate container, and toss it with the pasta salad before you want to 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.
For more salad recipes, check out:
Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing 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 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.