Every home cook needs an easy Pasta Salad recipe! This dish is so fast to make, goes with almost everything, and can be made with whatever is in your fridge!

A simple mixture of fresh veggies and rotini (or any pasta shape) are tossed with a zesty dressing for a fast and fresh side or main dish.

It is a great way to create a meal out of leftovers, the perfect make-ahead recipe, and can be served as a side or a meal on its own!

Easy Pasta Salad prepared in a serving dish

Why You’ll Love This Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Prep is quick, chop the veggies while the pasta cooks and stir it all together.
  • Use anything you have in the fridge, leftover meats or roasted veggies, rotisserie chicken; anything goes!
  • This simple pasta salad recipe goes from season to season using whatever is fresh and local.
  • Dressing can be any bottled dressing (from a vinaigrette to ranch) or the homemade version listed below.
  • Make ahead and refrigerate which makes it perfect for parties, potlucks, and picnics
  • It will keep well for lunches all week.
ingredients to make Easy Pasta Salad Recipe with labels

Ingredients for Pasta Salad

  • Pasta – Pick your pasta! Medium pasta shapes work well for this recipe. In place of rotini pasta use penne or bowties.
  • Vegetables – Go for a combination of colors and textures for some crunch. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, and red or green onions are favorites.
  • Cheese/Meat – Add some salami, pepperoni, diced ham, or other cured meats. Bocconcini can be swapped for cubed mozzarella.
  • Bold Flavors – You’ll want to add something with some bold flavor to the salad. Olives, pickles, bacon bits, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, bold cheeses, or a scoop of pesto or tapenade all work well.


This cold pasta salad can be changed up based on what’s in your fridge.

  • add any kind of vegetables including finely chopped broccoli florets or zucchini
  • change the fresh mozzarella for a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or feta cheese
  • black olives can be changed for another brined favorite like kalamata olives, some capers or even marinated artichokes
  • sprinkle with fresh herbs like dill, parsley, or fresh basil. add a small squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

Pasta Salad Ratio

Swap up the pasta, dressing, or add-ins to your liking using this ratio as a guide:

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 5-6 cups add-ins (veggies, meat, cheese)
  • 1 cup dressing
easy pasta salad ingredients in a bowl to be mixed

Pasta Salad Dressing

For this recipe, we keep it light and fresh tasting. I love a pasta salad with Italian dressing but use any tangy vinaigrette you love from Greek to balsamic to even a fresh lemon vinagrette.

To make a quick homemade pasta salad dressing, whisk the following:

  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 teaspoon each honey and Dijon mustard
  • While whisking, very slowly drizzle in ½ cup olive oil until incorporated.

Bottled dressings work well for pasta salads too, be sure to dress generously as the pasta soaks in some of the dressing as they sit. The flavors will blend as the pasta salad rests, so be sure to prepare it a bit early.

How to Make Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a quick and filling meal.

  1. Cook Pasta: Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Drain well and rinse under cold water (per the recipe below).
  2. Chop Ingredients: While the pasta is cooking, chop the remaining ingredients and place in a large bowl.
  3. Combine: Toss the pasta and veggies with the dressing. Chill up to 2 hours before serving.
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Short on Time?

If you’re short on time, buy a pre-made Greek salad at the grocery store.

It has all of the chopped veggies you’ll need including cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and onions. Toss it with cooked pasta and your favorite dressing!

Tips for a Perfect Pasta Salad

Pair it with BBQ Chicken Sliders, Hamburgers, or Grilled Chicken Thighs.

  • Cook pasta just until al dente, it will soften a little bit more as it soaks up dressing.
  • Dress very generously as the pasta will soak up the dressing.
  • 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.
A serving dish of easy pasta salad


Pasta salad tastes best when it’s cold so keep it in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Cooked pasta doesn’t freeze well, so it’s best to make a new batch each time, but it’s so easy anyway, and fresh is best!

Our Best Pasta Salad Recipes for Summer

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

easy pasta salad prepared in a serving dish
5 from 48 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


  • 1 pound tri-color rotini or medium pasta rotini or penne
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, cubed or bocconcini cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 ½ cups English cucumber chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup bell pepper, any color cut into ½-inch strips
  • ¼ cup black olives sliced, or to taste
  • ¼ cup red onions, ¼-inch chopped or sliced green onions
  • 1 cup Italian dressing or homemade dressing in the notes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente according to package directions. Drain well and rinse under cold water.
  • While pasta is cooking, chop all vegetables.
  • Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and mix well.
  • Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.


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 48 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

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About the author

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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Recipe Rating


  1. 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

  2. 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