Flavorful and fresh, this is a totally effortless pasta salad recipe, perfect for picnics!

This perfect pasta salad has lots of tender pasta tossed with crunchy fresh veggies, cheese, and a simple vibrant, tangy dressing.

It fits seamlessly into any menu, serve it as a side for any gathering potluck or serve it as a refreshing make-ahead meal on a warm day.

an an easy pasta salad in a white serving bowl with parsley

Easy Pasta Salad

  • Quick and easy, this recipe is the perfect way to showcase fresh seasonal veggies.
  • It’s a great canvas for leftovers – toss in chopped chicken, leftover roasted veggies or cheeses you have on hand.
  • Potluck perfect, this vibrant, flavorful salad is best made ahead of time.
  • Prepare a double batch and voila! Serve it as a side at a summer cookout and keep a bowl for yourself as a light dinner or for workday lunches all week long.

Basic Pasta Salad Ingredients

The best pasta salad starts with the basics but can easily be customized.

Pasta – Any medium pasta shape works. Favorites include rotini pasta (or tri-color rotini), bow ties, or penne. Pasta with holes, ridges, or curls hold the dressing better.

Vegetables Cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers are a great combo for color and crunch but really, any veggie goes. Try spring peas, corn kernels, sliced radishes, chopped spinach, or sundried tomatoes!

Flavors Boost the flavor with red onion, a sprinkle of olives, or feta cheese.

Dressing – A light vinaigrette brings all the flavors together in any pasta salad recipe. Use the DIY dressing recipe below or use a bottled vinaigrette, Italian or Greek dressing.

Ingredients for an easy pasta salad on a cutting board

Variations

Change it up, add in new textures and flavors. Almost anything goes in a cold pasta salad!

  • Add a scoop of pesto, kalamata olives, or tapenade for a bold flavor.
  • Add chicken, shrimp, or bacon bits for some extra protein.
  • Swap out the feta for other cheeses like cubed mozzarella cheese or cheddar.
  • Boost the flavor with marinated artichokes, or a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Fresh herbs like basil, dill, or parsley add freshness and look pretty as a garnish. Fresh basil is best added before serving but dill or parsley can be added when preparing.

Pasta Salad Ratio

Once you know how much dressing to add to pasta salad, it’s easy to swap up the noodles or add-ins to your liking. This is the basic ratio for a pasta salad.

  • 1 pound of pasta
  • 5-6 cups of add-ins (veggies, meat, cheese)
  • 1 cup of dressing

How to Make Pasta Salad

  1. Cook pasta to al dente, drain, and rinse in cold water.
  2. Chop vegetables and place them in a large bowl.
  3. Toss vegetables and pasta with dressing (per recipe below).
  4. Chill for 2 hours before serving.
Ingredients for an easy pasta salad in a white serving bowl

Tips for Perfect Pasta Salad

  • Cooking the pasta to al dente will keep it firmer as it soaks up the dressing.
  • Dress very generously, as the pasta will soak up the dressing. For the best results, be generous with the dressing so the pasta can soak it up.
  • Allow time for the pasta salad to chill in the fridge, the flavor will be so much better!
  • Cut the add-ins fairly small so you get a bit of everything in every bite.
an an easy pasta salad in a white serving bowl with a serving spoon

Storing Pasta Salad

  • Make this simple summer salad a day ahead and keep it chilled until ready to serve!
  • Keep leftover pasta salad in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Pasta doesn’t thaw well, so freezing pasta salad isn’t advised. But since it’s so easy to make, simply start a fresh batch!

Pasta Salads for Summer

Did you make this Pasta Salad Recipe? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! 

close up of an easy pasta salad in a white serving bowl with a serving spoon
5 from 133 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Easy Pasta Salad Recipe

Pasta Salad with fresh veggies and a tangy Italian dressing is perfect for a potluck or backyard BBQ!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings 12 servings

Ingredients  

  • 1 pound rotini or any medium pasta shape
  • cup feta cheese crumbled, more or less to taste
  • 1 ½ cups English cucumber chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup bell pepper any color, chopped
  • ¼ cup sliced black olives optional
  • ¼ cup red onions finely diced, or sliced green onions
  • 1 cup Italian dressing or homemade dressing in the notes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • In a large pot, boil pasta in salted water until al dente (firm) according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool.
  • Meanwhile, chop the cucumber, grape tomatoes, bell pepper, and red onions.
  • In a large bowl, combine your cooked and cooled pasta, prepared vegetables, Italian dressing, and fresh parsley. Toss well to coat.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and gently stir in feta cheese.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend and the pasta to soak in the dressing.

Notes

Any medium pasta can be used. Be sure to cook al dente (firm) as the dressing will soften the pasta further. Rinse under cold water once cooked to stop it from cooking.
Dress the salad generously as the pasta will soak up the dressing.
You can use any vegetables in this recipe (including leftover cooked/roasted vegetables). Additional favorites include zucchini, peas, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Optional but delicious additions include ham, bacon, salami, sundried tomatoes, pesto, artichokes, or finely diced broccoli.
To make a quick homemade pasta salad dressing, whisk the following:
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 teaspoon each honey and Dijon mustard
  • While whisking, very slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil until incorporated. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
5 from 133 votes

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 233 | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 303mg | Potassium: 258mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 896IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Pasta, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Easy Pasta Salad with tomatoes and a title
ingredients to make Easy Pasta Salad in a bowl with writing
Easy Pasta Salad in a bowl with a title
ingredients to make Easy Pasta Salad in a bowl and plated dish with a title

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Comments

  1. just made with the basics, tomato, cucumber and sweet pepper; for a covered dish at church yesterday. It was a hit. Then I fixed a bowl for my husband last night and added cut Buffalo chicken strip and two generous spoonfuls of pesto and he loved it.5 stars

  2. This is the third challenge recipe I’ve made, and so far, my favorite. I loved the flexibility of different ingredients and variations you can make.(I didn’t have feta cheese, so I used mozzarella, and it was terrific!) I’ll definitely be making this one again.

    1. I am so glad you are enjoying the challenges Roger and that you loved this pasta salad!

  3. Fresh and light and just delicious! Perfect summer lunch. I love a versatile recipe that can use anything on hand, especially the odds and ends I have leftover at the end of the week. This fits the bill and comes together so quickly and easily. Yum!5 stars

  4. This was a delicious, very filling salad for summer. I used Tri-Color Rotini pasta from this recipe then added Shrimp and Crab meat plus the Dill dressing from the Shrimp Pasta Salad recipe
    I will define be making this recipe again.5 stars

  5. This is the new family fave! I used garden fresh green onions and added yellow plum tomatoes, snap peas, radishes, plus Mediterranean Cheese Blend Shreds. I made homemade Italian dressing with fresh garlic and herbs from the garden that really bounced up the flavour. You mentioned storing leftovers… not necessary 5 of us managed to eat it all in one seating!5 stars

  6. Made this for the July challenge. It was super easy and super yummy!! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. We are having this with grilled steaks tonight and I will take the rest for a family boating get together tomorrow. It is very good and easy to prepare! I love how colorful it is!5 stars

  8. Last Fall, I was doing what I do a lot – looking for dinner inspiration. I happened onto Holly’s Pinterest page & began a wonderful new journey when I found Spend With Pennies and Holly. Holly is my go-to Cooking Goddess when I need inspiration. I’m currently trying to find heart-healthy recipes after my husband had a serious & very unexpected heart attack. Last night we had the pasta salad to which we added celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, green peas, garlic, basil, and parsley. It was unbelievably delicious!! We felt so confident about the healthy food we were eating. I grew a large portion of the vegetables this year so I felt very confident that I was giving healthy food to my husband. Dinner definitely doesn’t always have to be HOT especially on days when you’re cooking and it’s 90 degrees outside. Thank you for such a wonderful change in direction Holly! You rock!5 stars

    1. Thank you for your kind words Scarlett, I’m so glad you found me and that you’ve enjoyed the recipes! I love pasta salad as a quick meal on a hot day, and adding some fresh produce from your own garden is amazing!I am thrilled to be a helpful resource for you!

  9. The ratio for pasta salad is helpful. I’d love to know a recommendation for a ratio for a lettuce based salad. Thanks.5 stars

    1. The pasta is smaller so you may need extra dressing, but will be just as delicious! If you try it I would love to hear how it turns out Rena!

  10. I was so excited to see this receipe . We used to make it every summer when we vacationed at Lake Tahoe. Such a great lunch meal and crowd pleaser! Thanks for reminding me and summer weather is still here! Time to make it again!5 stars

  11. Oh my goodness Holly you’re the best !
    I love all of your recipes that I’ve tried so far!
    Absolutely delicious!
    I look forward to trying more of your recipes !
    Thank you very much Holly !!
    I’m very blessed to have signed up to receive recipes from your website!!
    I will continue to try more and more of them ! Yum yum yummy!5 stars