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Try our Easy Pasta Salad Recipe with a homemade Zesty Italian Dressing ~ it’s our favorite summer potluck classic!
This delicious salad is packed with flavor and crisp fresh broccoli marinated in our zesty Italian dressing. This is perfect picnic fare and leftovers are the best!
Do you have one of those go-to recipes that’s easy to make, packed with flavor, and a favorite every time it hits the table?
This Easy Pasta Salad Recipe with Zesty Italian Dressing has been my mayonnaise-free, summer side for the past 30 (+-) years. It’s easily adapted to include your favorite pasta, vegetables, cheese and cooked meats. This is my version of a cook-out, picnic or potluck classic!
We use Tri-Color Rotini pasta to add a little color, and because the cute spirals hold on to the dressing ensuring plenty of flavor in every bite.
You can use whatever pasta you have on hand, but something with texture is best. Cook your pasta al dente, according to package directions, then rinse with cold water. Drain the pasta and toss with tomatoes, assorted olives, diced onion, seasoned salt, broccoli florets and our zesty homemade Italian dressing. That’s it! Let it marinate as time allows, and toss in the cheese just before serving.
Crisp tender broccoli is a must in this pasta salad!
In my family raw broccoli is not always a favorite vegetable on the crudités platter. But no worries, we have a quick and easy trick for prepping this chewy vegetable. The broccoli is cleaned and cut into bite sized florets then placed in a colander in the sink. Very hot, almost boiling water from a kettle is poured over the broccoli to brighten the color and take the edge off the crunchiness. The broccoli is still crisp tender without tasting raw. This easy step makes all the difference in this salad.
This easy pasta salad stays fresh for days and just gets better with time.
Have a little extra dressing on hand to freshen it up and serve again! We love this zesty homemade dressing with plenty of fresh herbs, but feel free to use your favorite bottled Italian dressing in a pinch. You can also transform this salad by adding grilled chicken, pepperoni, or any other cooked meat for a hearty lunch or dinner. Don’t be afraid to add some lettuce too – you can’t mess this up!
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Easy Pasta Salad Recipe
For the zesty Italian dressing:
- ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon fresh basil leaves hopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
For the pasta salad:
- 12 ounce package of Tri-Color Rotini Pasta
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- ½ a large onion diced (red or sweet onion are best)
- 1 cup assorted olives pitted and sliced
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's brand)
- 8-12 ounces cheddar cheese or Colby cheese, sliced in match stick pieces
- Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a glass jar or container with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously until well blended. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the dressing on the warm noodles and toss to prevent them from sticking together.
- Place the broccoli florets in a large colander. Pour hot water (almost boiling) over the florets then rinse with cold water. Drain. The hot water will give the broccoli a lovely bright green color and take the raw edge off the vegetable. Add the broccoli to the bowl with the pasta.
- Add the tomatoes, onion, olives and seasoned salt. Pour the prepared dressing over the top of the pasta salad and toss gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Add the cheese just before serving.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
- In a pinch use your favorite bottled Zesty Italian Dressing.
- Make it your own with these optional add-ins: pepperoni, bacon, diced grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini peppers, lettuce or spinach
Originally published May 2015 – updated June 2019
Here are a few more pasta salad recipes you might enjoy!
- Sun Dried Tomatoes with Mezzi Rigatoni and Feta
- Marinated Tomato & Tortellini Salad
- Classic Italian Pasta Salad ~ from Wishes and Dishes
- Greek Yogurt Ranch Pasta Salad ~ from Big Bear’s Wife
- Italian Artichoke and Tomato Pasta Salad ~ from Barefeet in the Kitchen
Thanks so much for stopping by! Tricia