Pasta Salad

// This classic pasta salad recipe is a medley of fresh veggies and pasta. This easy salad makes a versatile lunch or dinner.



This classic pasta salad recipe is a medley of fresh ingredients that combines the richness of pasta with fresh vegetables. Prepared with simple ingredients, this easy to make salad makes a versatile lunch or dinner for any day when you are looking for a satisfying meal option.  

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closeup photo of a bowl of pasta salad with a wooden spoon and a bowl of salad

Made from scratch, this flexible pasta salad takes only 20 minutes from start to finish. Plus, this salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days, so it is also a wonderful option for meal prep. 

In this article, you will get a step-by-step picture and video recipe on how to make a perfect salad recipe. 

About Pasta Salad  

Pasta salad is an aesthetically gratifying and pleasing side dish that is also visually appealing. It is made using simple handfuls of ingredients. This salad recipe focuses on simplicity of ingredients and delicious taste. It is a simple, refreshing, and light pasta that is also a time-saving dish as it can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. 

With this easy recipe, you can now enjoy a filling and delicious ready-to-go meal whenever you want it. 

Made with light ingredients, it is best served cold, which makes it an indulgent and healthier meal option, especially during sizzling summer months. But it can also be served warm. 

there are two bowls of pasta salad with wooden spoons on a table

Plus, it is a customizable and versatile recipe that can be prepared using any salad ingredients you have on hand. So, whether you are a vegetarian, following a diet (gluten-free, vegan, or keto), or just looking for a flavorsome and refreshing salad, it is suitable for any occasion.  

With its basic ingredients and flavorful dressing, you can create a delightful, tangy, and refreshing pasta salad to satisfy any palate. I have used a simple olive oil vinaigrette dressing, but you can also make this salad using a creamy dressing.

Whether you are a fan of traditional salad recipes or prefer to explore new flavor profiles, this salad has endless possibilities.  

It can be enjoyed at a picnic, potlucks, casual lunches, summer barbecues, or elegant dinners – this classic pasta salad is appropriate for all. 

You can make it when you have an abundance of summer produce, or any time you are craving pasta and salad. 

Hence, with this pasta, you can never get bored with salad. Get ready, gather your favorite ingredients, and enjoy the best pasta salad ever. 

This Pasta Salad  

✓ is a versatile option for any occasion 

✓ is a lovely combination of pasta, fresh vegetables 

✓ is loaded with proteins and fiber 

✓ is and easy to make recipe 

✓ is crowd-pleasing & visually appealing 

✓ has endless variations  

✓ is loaded with texture and colors  

✓ requires minimal cooking skills 

✓ can also be made in advance  

✓ is ideal for meal prep 

✓ is perfect for parties and gatherings 

✓ can also be made vegan and gluten-free 

✓ can be served warm or cold 

✓ is colorful and family-friendly 

someone pouring dressing over a bowl of pasta salad with tomatoes

Ingredients 

This pasta salad is a delicious dish that combines the flavors of cooked colorful pasta with a range of fresh ingredients. _Following are the ingredients you will be needing for making a colorful and flavorful pasta salad: _

  • Fusilli: For making this salad, I have used colorful vegetable fusilli which is a spiral-shaped pasta. It makes this salad more nutritious and visually appealing. The curled texture of fusilli also helps in holding the dressing and other ingredients. You can also use regular fusilli, macaroni, rotini, cavatappi, farfalle, tortellini, or orzo pasta shapes for making this pasta salad.

  • Spring Onion Greens: I have added a handful of spring onion greens, also known as scallions or green onions to this salad recipe. It adds a vibrant green color, freshness, crunch, crisp and mild leafy onion flavor to this salad. 

  • Red Onion: Purple or red onions are added for a slightly sweet and pungent taste, pleasant crunch, and a hint of tanginess. They also add gorgeous purple color and brightness to this rainbow pasta salad. 

  • Tomatoes: You can add Roma or cherry tomatoes for the bursts of juicy flavor to this pasta salad. Cherry and Roma both types of tomatoes come in assorted colors such as red, yellow, and orange. To make it vibrant, you can use a combination of different tomatoes. So, feel free to use any color of tomatoes you like.

  • Olives: For this pasta recipe, I have used black olives. The dark color of black olives adds a contrast, briny in flavor, and a touch of saltiness to this pasta salad. You can also use Kalamata or green olives in this salad. 

  • Pickled peppers: I have added them for tangy, little sweet flavors, and mild heat. Adding pickled peppers in this recipe is optional though.

  • Bell Peppers: I have used red bell peppers for a sweet, and slightly tangy taste. They add a crunchy texture and vibrant red color to this salad. You can also use orange or yellow bell peppers in this recipe. 

  • Zucchini: I added diced zucchini for crunch, freshness, and slightly sweet flavor. You can also thinly slice or chop the zucchini. Alternatively, zucchini spirals can also be used here. If you do not like raw zucchini, then you can also lightly sauté or roast. 

  • Mozzarella Cheese: I have used chopped mozzarella cheese to this salad for added protein, extra burst of creaminess, and mild cheesy flavor that compliments other ingredients. You can also use small balls or pearls in this recipe. 

  • Olive Oil: I have used extra virgin olive oil for making this salad dressing. It not only adds the richness and savory flavor to this salad, but also enhances the overall taste of this pasta. 

  • Vinegar: It is added for acidity and brightness to the salad. I have used white vinegar in this recipe because I wanted neutral tang. But you can also use apple cider vinegar in this salad if you prefer a slightly sweeter and fruitier flavor profile.

Both types of vinegar work simply fine in this recipe, so the choice of vinegar depends on personal preference. 

  • Red Pepper Flakes: It is added for spiciness and a hint of heat. You can adjust the amount of pepper flakes according to individual spice tolerance. Adding red pepper flakes is completely optional though. 

  • Dried Oregano: It is added for aromatic flavor that compliments the other ingredients and adds depth to the overall salad flavors. I have used dried oregano which is a staple herb in Italian cuisine. But you can also swap dried oregano with dried parsley or Italian herbs.

 

  • Salt: In this salad recipe, I have used pink or rock salt, also known as Himalayan salt. This natural and mineral-rich salt is an alternative to the regular table salt. 

  • It not only enhances the flavors of the other salad ingredients, but it also adds a delicate earthiness to the salad. 

  • Ground Black Pepper: I have used freshly ground black pepper for mild heat and a hint of floral and citrusy flavors which helps balance the sweetness and acidity in the salad. In this recipe, you can use either freshly ground black pepper or black pepper powder. 

  • Sweetener: To balance the tangy and spicy flavor and to enhance the overall flavor harmony of the dressing you will need to add some sweetener. Here you can either use honey or maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. 

photo of a bowl of pasta salad with a wooden spoon and a bowl of vegetables

Variations 

Pasta salad is a versatile dish that lends itself to numerous variations, allowing you to get creative and customize it to your liking. _Here are some popular salad variations to inspire your culinary adventures: _

Basil Pasta Salad

To make this refreshing and flavorful pasta recipe, combine boiled penne pasta with cherry tomatoes, sliced onions black olives, mozzarella cheese, and some fresh basil leaves. Then dress it with extra olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and Italian herbs. 

Artichoke Pasta Salad

To make this vibrant variation, you need to mix cooked pasta with marinated artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, green olives, fresh spinach, and crumbled goat cheese.

Then finally drizzle it with a tangy vinaigrette prepared using freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, and fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro. Your delectable artichoke pasta salad is ready. 

Greek Pasta Salad

To make a Greek style salad, you can swap mozzarella cheese with crumbled feta cheese. Also, replace zucchini with cucumber slices. You can use the same dressing for this salad. 

Caprese Pasta Salad

In this salad variation, you can mix cooked pasta with roma or cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. To enjoy the classic Italian flavors, use balsamic vinaigrette dressing for this salad. 

Bacon Pasta Salad

This type of pasta is a delight for bacon lovers. If you also enjoy eating bacon then you can add some crispy bacon to this recipe. Also, swap mozzarella with cheddar cheese and use ranch dressing for this salad to a creamy indulgence.  

Caesar Pasta Salad

It is a lovely twist on the traditional Caesar salad. Here, you mix the boiled pasta with grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and some shaved Parmesan cheese. Finally toss it in a creamy Caesar dressing to get a satisfying meal. 

Fruit and Nut Pasta Salad

Love using fruit salad, or using fruits and nuts in your salads? Then this salad variation is for you. To make a sweet and savory salad, you can mix cooked pasta with fresh or dried fruits such as apples, mangoes, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, oranges, dried apricots, or dried cranberries. You can also add nuts such as toasted walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or almonds. Orange vinaigrette or honey mustard dressing goes so well with this type of salad.  

photo of a person holding a plate of pasta with a bowl of salad in the background

Serving Suggestions 

You can serve this pasta salad for lunch or dinner as a satisfying main course along with some garlic bread for a well-rounded meal. During summer you can pair this cool and refreshing salad with grilled chicken, grilled seafood or even with chilled or warm soups

This travel friendly salad is easy to carry which makes it a wonderful go-to-meal for lunch box, picnics, beach outings, and outdoor gatherings. It is also a lovely crowd-pleasing dish to serve at potlucks or parties. 

It also goes perfectly well with smoky flavors so you can accompany this pasta salad with grilled fruits, Avocado Salad, Laccha Onion, grilled meats, burgers, and kebabs. So, you can also serve it at a barbecue.  

Storage Suggestions 

Pasta salad stays fresh for up to 3-4 days when pasta, veggies and dressing are stored separately. So, it can be prepared in advance, just combine them at the time of serving just before serving to maintain their freshness.

Simply store all the ingredients in airtight containers in the refrigerator and consume within 3-4 days. 

Pro Tips & Tricks to make Best Pasta salad  

Making a delicious pasta salad is amazingly simple. With these easy helpful tips and tricks, you can make a flavorful and satisfying pasta salad each time: 

  1. Cook Pasta Al Dente: When making pasta salad, it is important to follow the package instructions or cook till al dente. Al dente means you only need to cook pasta until it is firm to the bite. So always check pasta while boiling too. Get the perfect texture. Over boiling pasta can make them mushy, and the mushy pasta does not taste well in a salad.  

  2. Rinsing: Once boiled, drain and rinse the pasta under cold water to remove excess starch and to stop the cooking process.  

  3. Add oil: Once rinsed, drizzle the pasta with a few drops of oil and toss, this step helps the pasta from clumping together and ensures it stays firm and separate.   

  4. Salted water: While boiling the pasta, make sure to use the salted water for boiling. The salted water ensures that pasta is well-seasoned. It also helps to enhance the overall flavor of the salad. 

  5. Make-ahead pasta: If you are planning to make pasta salad in advance, make sure that you store all the ingredients separately in the refrigerator. 

  6. Balance the Ingredients: To make a colorful salad that has a perfect balance of flavors, textures, and nutrients, use a variety of ingredients. So, make sure that you use a lot of colorful fresh veggies, protein, and fresh herbs to create a harmonious combination. 

  7. Seasoning: Taste the salad before serving and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. So, feel free to add more salt, pepper, or a splash of vinegar to brighten the flavors if needed. 

  8. Add dressing gradually: Do not overdo the dressing, because overdressing the pasta salad can make it overly heavy or soggy. So always start with a moderate amount of dressing and gradually add more if needed. 

  9. Chill and marinate the dressing: You can also marinate the dressing for about 1 hour in the refrigerator. The marination allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, resulting in a tastier salad.

  10. Vegetables: I added spring onions, red bell pepper, zucchini, onion, Roma tomatoes to this recipe. To boost nutritional value, you can also add other vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, boiled peas, spinach, edamame, or corn to this salad.

  11. Choose the right pasta: For this pasta salad you can use fusilli or pasta such as bow tie, rotini, penne, or farfalle — they all work well in this recipe. 

  12. Dressing: I have used a simple olive oil dressing for this recipe. You can use other dressings such as creamy ranch dressing, mayo dressing, caesar dressing, or balsamic vinaigrette dressing. 

  13. Other ingredients: I have only added veggies to this salad. You can also add meat for more protein. Chicken, tuna, bacon, shrimp all work wonderfully. 

closeup photo of a bowl of pasta salad with tomatoes and other vegetables

FAQ 

Can you freeze pasta salad? 

Freezing pasta salad is not a clever idea as freezing can affect the texture and quality of ingredients, especially the freshness of veggies and dressings. Also, the pasta will become mushy after thawing, so it is not recommended to freeze pasta salad. 

Can pasta salad be made ahead of time? 

Yes, this salad can be made in advance which makes it an excellent make-ahead dish. Just chop all the veggies, boil the pasta, make the dressing, and store them separately in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

To maintain their texture and freshness, mix them at the time of serving. When you want to serve, mix all the ingredients, and enjoy!  

How can I prevent my pasta salad from drying out? 

When you are serving salad immediately it will be moist and fresh. But sometimes when it is refrigerated, pasta absorbs dressing and becomes dry. In that case, you can revive it by adding a bit more salad dressing.

Alternatively, you can also increase moisture by adding a drizzle of olive oil. 

How long does pasta salad last in the fridge? 

This pasta salad keeps well for up to 3-4 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To ensure its freshness, make sure that you store it in an airtight container.

Can pasta salad be served warm? 

Pasta salad is traditionally served cold or at room temperature, but you can surely serve it warm. To make warm salad, mix the warm pasta with the dressing, add veggies, toss, and serve immediately.  

How can I make pasta salad healthier? 

This is a healthy pasta salad recipe because it uses whole grain vegetable pasta. So, make sure you use whole wheat, oats, or gluten-free pasta to make this salad healthier. 

Can pasta salad be made gluten-free or vegan? 

Yes, this pasta salad can easily be made vegan or gluten-free. To make it gluten-free make sure you use gluten-free pasta such as pasta made from rice, corn, or quinoa. For making vegan pasta salad, simply swap the animal-based proteins with the plant-based alternatives.   

Can I use any type of pasta for pasta salad? 

You cannot use all pasta shapes for making this salad recipe, but there are many options for you to choose depending on your preference. Other than fusilli, pasta shapes like rotini, penne, or bowtie can be used in this recipe. 


Pasta Salad (Step-by-step photo instructions)

Make Dressing:

  1. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, pink or rock salt, ground black pepper, dried oregano, minced garlic, and honey or maple syrup (if using). Add chopped cilantro and adjust the seasoning to your taste.
  2. Image of the recipe cooking step-1-1 for Pasta Salad

Make Pasta Salad:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, spring onion greens, red onion, pickled peppers, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, black kalamata olives, red bell pepper, and zucchini. Gradually pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss well to coat all the ingredients evenly. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.
  2. Image of the recipe cooking step-2-1 for Pasta Salad
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve the pasta salad chilled or at room temperature as a refreshing side dish or a light main course. Enjoy your colorful and flavorful pasta salad!
  4. Image of the recipe cooking step-2-2 for Pasta Salad

Recipe Card


Pasta Salad [Recipe]

Recipe Image
This classic pasta salad recipe is a medley of fresh veggies and pasta. This easy salad makes a versatile lunch or dinner.
★★★★★
(Rating: 5 from 7 reviews)

Prep time 🕐 Cook time 🕐 Total time 🕐
8 mins
Category ☶ Cuisine ♨ Serves ☺
Salads Italian 3
Nutrition Info ⊛ Serving size ⊚
312 calories 1

INGREDIENTS

For Pasta Salad
  • 3 cups cooked colorful fusilli pasta, penne, rotini, or farfalle
  • 1 small-sized red onion, chopped or sliced
  • 1 cup spring onion greens, chopped
  • 1.5 cups Roma/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup pickled peppers, sliced (optional)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced zucchini
  • 400 grams mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup black or kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Olive Oil Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink or rock salt, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Make Dressing:
  1. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, pink or rock salt, ground black pepper, dried oregano, minced garlic, and honey or maple syrup (if using). Add chopped cilantro and adjust the seasoning to your taste.
Make Pasta Salad:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta, spring onion greens, red onion, pickled peppers, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, black kalamata olives, red bell pepper, and zucchini. Gradually pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss well to coat all the ingredients evenly. Adjust the seasoning to your taste.
  2. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve the pasta salad chilled or at room temperature as a refreshing side dish or a light main course. Enjoy your colorful and flavorful pasta salad!

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NOTES:

  1. When making pasta salad, it is important to follow the package instructions or cook till al dente. Al dente means you only need to cook pasta until it is firm to the bite. So always check pasta while boiling too. Get the perfect texture. Over boiling pasta can make them mushy, and the mushy pasta does not taste well in a salad.
  2. Once boiled, drain and rinse the pasta under cold water to remove excess starch and to stop the cooking process.
  3. Once rinsed, drizzle the pasta with a few drops of oil and toss, this step helps the pasta from clumping together and ensures it stays firm and separate.
  4. While boiling the pasta, make sure to use the salted water for boiling. The salted water ensures that pasta is well-seasoned. It also helps to enhance the overall flavor of the salad.


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