Quick Easy Pasta Salad

I’ve made this fresh, easy pasta salad recipe so many times I’ve lost count. It’s so flavorful thanks to fresh veggies, olives, herbs, mozzarella, and a peppy homemade dressing. You’ll love it!

Watch the Video

Easy Pasta Salad Recipe Video

You can make this easy pasta salad in under 20 minutes! In the time it takes for you to cook your pasta, you can prep everything you need for this salad.

The vinaigrette-style dressing is peppy, zesty, and simple! I bet you already have what you need to make it sitting in your kitchen. If you’d prefer a creamy pasta salad, see this macaroni salad.

The Best Pasta Salad with fresh veggies, olives, and a homemade dressing.

Key Ingredients

This pasta salad recipe is our ultimate potluck salad with all the add-ins we love. If something doesn’t spark your interest, leave it out. It’s your pasta salad, after all.

  • Pasta: The best pasta for pasta salad are hearty pasta shapes like penne, fusilli, rotini, and farfalle (bow tie). These have the advantage of lots of nooks and crannies, which trap the dressing and bits of cheese. I also love orzo, which we use for this lemon orzo pasta salad.
  • Veggies add color, flavor, and crunch to the pasta salad. I love cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, zucchini (trust me), and green onions (not as strong as regular onion).
  • Cheese: I love fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Since the parmesan is shredded, it almost melts into the dressing — just like when we make homemade Italian dressing. For a vegan pasta salad, leave the cheese out.
  • Olives: I love the briny bite from olives. Use Kalamata or green olives.
  • Pepperoncini peppers: I love them in this salad! I also add a little brine from the jar to my dressing.
  • Fresh Herbs: I love basil and parsley. Experiment for yourself to see what you love.
Pasta salad ingredients in a bowl (pasta, tomatoes, olives, cheese, red bell pepper)

How to Make the Best Pasta Salad

To make the pasta salad, you’ll start by cooking your pasta. When it’s cooked, drain it, and then rinse the cooked pasta under cold water. Rinsing is very important since it removes any starches left on the outside of the pasta. We do the same when making creamy pasta salad.

You’ll make the salad in a big bowl. Start by making your dressing, then toss in the pasta, veggies, and any other add-ins you love. For me that’s mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, olives, pepperoncini peppers, and herbs. Toss everything really well, and then place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so all the flavors can meld together (the salad tastes so much better this way).

Homemade Pasta Salad with veggies, mozzarella and parmesan.

The Best Pasta Salad Dressing

This pasta salad dressing is simple, only has a few ingredients, and tastes so good. We use a similar dressing to make our easy bean salad. To make it, whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil, and dried oregano. If you’re adding pepperoncini peppers to your salad, I highly recommend adding a splash of brine from the jar to your dressing. I love it!

How Long Does Pasta Salad Last?

Pasta salad gets better over time. Letting the pasta and veggies sit in the dressing for a while makes a huge difference in flavor. We take the same approach when making potato salad. You can make pasta salad and keep it in the fridge for up to five days, which makes this the perfect side dish to prepare in advance.

What to Serve with Pasta Salad

Just about anything goes with pasta salad. Some of my favorites are juicy baked chicken breasts, grilled steak, fresh cooked salmon, and grilled shrimp. It’s fantastic with pulled pork and ribs.

I also love it on the side of sandwiches. A few of my favorites are smashed chickpea, this herby chicken salad, and our easy egg salad.

You can combine side dishes, too. Serve pasta salad beside potato salad, coleslaw, potato chips, grilled veggies, and this amazing feta and watermelon salad.

More Easy Pasta Salads

Quick Easy Pasta Salad

Quick Easy Pasta Salad

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

This easy pasta salad is flexible based on the ingredients you have in your kitchen or the season. Start with a hearty pasta shape that has nooks and crannies to hold onto the dressing like rotini or penne. Then toss with our simple dressing and lots of colorful vegetables. We also love adding parmesan cheese, which melts into the dressing as well as a handful of fresh mozzarella balls. For more suggestions for what to add, read through our recommendations in the article above.

Makes about 10 servings

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

Pasta Salad

1 pound dried pasta like fusilli, penne, rotini or farfalle

1 cup sliced bell pepper, 1 medium

1 cup thinly sliced zucchini , 1/2 medium

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions, 5 to 6

1/4 cup sliced pepperoncini or banana peppers, optional

1 cup (4 ounces) halved mixed olives

1 cup (2 ounces) grated parmesan cheese or other hard cheese

1 cup (6 ounces) fresh mozzarella balls, chopped

1/3 cup fresh parsley or basil, optional

Homemade Dressing

1/3 cup red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 to 3 tablespoons juice from pepperoncini jar, optional

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

    1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, 6 to 10 minutes (check the package for recommended cook time). Drain and rinse well under cold water.

    2While the pasta cooks, make the dressing in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk the red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, pepperoncini juice (if using), and olive oil until blended. Add the drained and rinsed pasta to the dressing and mix well.

    3Stir in the bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, scallions, pepperoncini (if using), olives, parmesan, mozzarella, and herbs (if using). Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Serve, or for the best results, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 5 days.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • This gets better and better over time so making it a day in advance is a great idea!
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/10 of the salad / Calories 363 / Total Fat 19.1g / Saturated Fat 5.1g / Cholesterol 18.3mg / Sodium 507.1mg / Carbohydrate 36.6g / Dietary Fiber 2.3g / Total Sugars 2g / Protein 11.7g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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116 comments… Leave a Review
  • Olivia C. February 5, 2024, 5:40 pm

    This is delicious. I used GF cheese tortellini and sundried tomatoes instead of cherry and it turned out great! So simple and fast. Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
    • Joanne February 27, 2024, 3:20 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it! Tortellini sounds amazing.

      Reply
  • Kelly November 23, 2023, 6:18 pm

    Made this delicious pasta salad today and I love it! So flavorful and pretty too! I followed the recipe as written with one exception – I chopped the pepperoncini peppers finely so that the flavor and heat (medium heat) would be more distributed. Just my preference because I’m sensitive to heat. Thanks for sharing this recipe ~ definitely a keeper!

    Reply
  • M F October 14, 2023, 4:05 pm

    Okay this is the best pasta salad I’ve ever had. I only subbed bell peppers for more tomatoes because it’s what I had on hand, everything else I left the same.

    Reply
    • Adam October 14, 2023, 8:43 pm

      Love the bell pepper sub! That would be delicious. So glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂

      Reply
    • Perfect for a bbq! Love love love it! April 16, 2024, 6:17 am

      Perfect recipe! Great for bbq and brilliant snack on an evening 😊

      Reply
      • Joanne April 16, 2024, 11:38 am

        Wonderful! Thank you so much for coming back!

        Reply

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