Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing (Cold)

Easy pasta salad with Italian dressing in a bowl ready to serve cold.

Easy pasta salad with Italian dressing is so flavorful and quick and easy to prepare. It is a cold pasta salad that is easy to make ahead and pull out to serve at the last minute.

You can make it with the vegetables you like and with or without meat. It travels well so it is perfect for picnics or cookouts, parties and celebrations.

Easy pasta salad is a great side dish and it keeps getting better day after day.  It is perfect for packing in your lunch or taking to a tailgate party. 

This easy recipe is full of delicious vegetables that you can tailor to your tastes and use whatever you have on hand.  

You can use gluten-free, wheat pasta or veggie pasta to fit your diet.

It is economical and keeps for several days in the refrigerator.  Make it for a special side dish tonight or plan to take it to the game celebration this weekend!

Easy Pasta Salad – Homemade and Fresh

Nothing beats the freshness of homemade easy pasta salad. You could buy a boxed pasta salad mix, but you have to boil water and cook the pasta for that.

Why not just boil pasta and add a few fresh vegetables like broccoli, carrots, radishes, tomatoes or whatever you have in the refrigerator?

It tastes so much better homemade and doesn’t take any longer to prepare than boxed pasta salad. Plus you get to put what you like in it!

Easy Pasta Salad – Ingredients

Ingredients are simple and versatile. You will need water and a little salt and your choice of raw vegetables. You can cut the raw vegetables or can by them pre-cut to make it even easier!

Rotini Pasta

Raw Broccoli (washed and cut into small pieces)

Raw Carrots (washed and cut into small pieces)

Raw Radishes (washed and cut into small pieces)

Olive Garden Signature Italian Dressing or other Italian Dressing – Olive Garden Dressing is thick and sticks to the pasta so well!

How to Make Easy Pasta Salad

Prepare Pasta

Begin by boiling 4 cups of water with a teaspoon of salt added.  When water begins to boil rapidly, add 2 cups of dried rotini pasta.  Let water begin to boil again and stir frequently.  Do not cover.

Turn down heat slightly to get a gentle rolling boil, one where it does not boil over the pot.  You can add a teaspoon of olive oil to help keep pasta from boiling over. 

Cook at a gentle rolling boil for 8 minutes or until pasta is done.  Do not let it overcook or it will be too soft.  I like to test it by piercing a piece of pasta with a fork to see how firm it is.

Be sure to taste it before draining and add more salt of needed. This will be sure that your pasta is flavorful and not bland.

Drain pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. This will help be sure your pasta salad is not runny.

Add Veggies and Other Fillings

Add your choice of fresh vegetables that have been washed and chopped into bite size pieces.  I like to use carrots, radishes, and broccoli.  It will take about a cup of each vegetable to get a nice result.

Combine with Italian Dressing

Stir all ingredients gently to mix.  Top with about 3/4 to 1 cup of Olive Garden Italian Dressing.  You want it covered lightly but do not want to drown it in dressing.  Stir gently to mix in dressing. 

Refrigerate several hours before serving.  This recipe will keep well in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.  It gets more flavorful each day!

Easy Pasta Salad – Variations and Substitutions

Vegetable Variations

Other vegetables that work well are tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, squash, and zucchini. Any raw vegetable will work so whatever leftover veggies you have in the refrigerator are perfect for this easy pasta salad.

Pasta Variations

Different types of pasta such as macaroni or bow-tie pasta work well. Any small shaped pasta such as wagon wheel or other fun shapes work fine.

Choose pasta that meets your dietary requirements: whole wheat, gluten-free, or veggie pasta.

Cheese Suggestions

Cheese can be added before serving. Varieties include parmesan, shredded cheddar, Mexican cheese blend, or mozzarella.

Relish Variations

Other relish items can be added to the mixture. Olives, Greek peppers, jalapeno peppers, or pickles that are drained and patted dry can be added before refrigerating or before serving as a topping.

Meat Substitutions

Meats can be added to make it a complete one-dish meal. Rotisserie chicken, ham, turkey and pork work well. Both leftover cooked meats and deli meats are tasty.

For Vegetarian substitutions use black beans or cannellini beans. Drain and rinse thoroughly beans before adding.

Easy Pasta Salad – Serving Suggestions

Whether you serve it in a humble Rubbermaid or Tupperware dish, a beautiful casserole dish or a crystal glass bowl pasta salad will be a star at the table. It can be casual or formal whatever the occasion!

At Home – Dinner Ideas

Side Salad – Add to your dinner idea to make it complete.

Main Salad – Add meat to make it a meal unless you want a Vegetarian version. For Vegetarian add black beans or cannellini beans. You can top with a sliced hard boiled egg.

Family Gatherings – Sunday dinner, birthdays or other celebrations are the perfect setting for this easy pasta salad!

Holiday Side Dish – Perfect for summer holidays because it is a cold dish. Perfect or winter holidays because it can be made ahead and goes with almost everything being served.

Make and Take Dishes

Picnics – Whether you are grilling or taking everything prepared in advance this salad goes great.

Tailgating – Goes great with potato salads, chips, burgers, and hot dogs.

Barbeque Side Dish – Goes well with burgers, bbq pork, hot dogs, chicken, fish, and steak.

Office Parties – Easy to refrigerate and pull out to serve.

Showers – Bridal or Baby Shower food ideas.

Comfort Food – New mom, recovering from an illness or funeral food all need a little comfort food.

Easy Pasta Salad – Storage

Refrigerator

Pasta salad should be refrigerated. It will keep up to a week in the refrigerator in a sealed container or storage bag.

Freezer

Do not freeze pasta salad. The pasta will be mushy.

Easy Pasta Salad -FAQ’s

What are the five mistakes to avoid pasta salad?

The five mistakes to avoid when making pasta salad are:
1. Not using small pasta shapes like rotini, macaroni or bow tie.
2. Overcooking or undercooking pasta so it is mushy or hard.
3. Not adding salt to the pasta water before cooking.
4. Not adding Italian Dressing immediately after draining hot pasta. Pasta absorbs flavors better when hot.
5. Making pasta too far in advance. A day or two ahead is the perfect timing.

What is the best pasta for pasta salad?

The best pasta for pasta salad are small shapes like rotini, macaroni or bow-tie. The curvy pasta shapes let the Italian dressing stick to it better.

Why is my pasta salad so bland?

To keep from having pasta salad taste bland always salt the water that you are boiling to prepare the pasta. Taste the pasta to be sure it has flavor before adding vegetables and other ingredients to mix together. Stir a flavorful dressing like Olive Garden Italian Dressing or other Italian dressing right after draining the pasta to be sure it sticks to the pasta well.

Easy Pasta Salad – Related Recipes

Need another take along dish? Try our Easy Corn Casserole {Jiffy Cornbread Creamed Corn}. It’s easy to mix a few ingredients together, stir, bake and take!

Need ideas for a main dish? Try our pork tenderloin recipe. It is made in the Instant Pot and is as easy as it gets!

Easy pasta salad with Italian dressing in a bowl ready to serve cold.
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5 from 1 vote

Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing (Cold)

The best pasta salad made with rotini pasta, radishes, broccoli, carrots and Olive Garden Italian dressing. Marinate in refrigerator and serve cold. Perfect Vegetarian pasta salad. Great to serve as a side dish, lunch or dinner idea, make ahead meals, tailgates, cookouts and picnics.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 300kcal
Cost: $10

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups Rotini Pasta
  • 1 cup raw broccoli (washed and cut into small pieces)
  • 1 cup raw carrots (washed and cut into small pieces)
  • 1 cup raw radishes (washed and cut into small pieces)
  • 1 cup Olive Garden Signature Italian Dressing

Instructions

  • Bring 4 cups of water with 1 teaspoon salt added to a rolling boil. Add dried pasta.
  • Allow water to return to rapid boil. Turn down slightly to get a gentle rolling boil.
  • Stir pasta frequently for 8 minutes or until pasta is done. Do not overcook or it will be too soft.
  • Pour pasta into a colander in the sink to drain.
  • Rinse with cold water to stop the pasta from cooking and to cool it down before adding the vegetables.
  • Pour pasta into a large bowl.
  • Add raw vegetables: radishes, carrots, and broccoli and stir gently to combine.
  • Add 1 cup of Olive Garden Signature Italian Dressing and stir gently to mix all ingredients.
  • Pour into a storage container, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight before serving. Enjoy!

Notes

Nutritional information is an estimate and will vary according to ingredients used and serving size.
Recipe can be increased or decreased to suit your serving size.
A variety of raw vegetables can be used. Great for using leftover vegetables. Can add cooked, chopped ham or chicken for a main dish.
Always refrigerate promptly.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 705mg | Potassium: 203mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1175IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 84mg | Iron: 1mg

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