Easy Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a refreshing, easy-to-make dish that is great to serve at any BBQ or family gathering. Whether you are serving hot dogs and hamburgers or brisket, this easy pasta salad makes a great side.


Bowl of pasta salad

There was always a large bowl of macaroni salad on the table at family gatherings alongside potato salad and coleslaw. What was served at our family gatherings was made with macaroni, mayo, ham and pickles.

This recipe was created because I wanted a twist on the pasta salad I grew up with, adding vegetables to make it a little healthier and for colour.

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This Pasta Salad is Easy To Make

Don’t let the number of ingredients scare you away. There are 18 ingredients but many are probably already in your cupboard or fridge. The longest part of making this recipe is cooking the pasta. I dice and chop the vegetables and basil while waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to cook. To save time I also buy the cheese already shredded.

Ingredients For Easy Pasta Salad

The list of ingredients may be long but they are all easily found and many may already be in your pantry.

  • Rotini. This pasta has a shape that holds the dressing. Tri-colour rotini adds to this salad if it’s available.
  • Olive oil. This keeps the pasta from sticking while cooling and also helps the herbs to stick to the pasta.
  • Italian Seasoning. This is the main seasoning blend in the salad.
  • Dried basil and dried parsley. These herbs add flavour.
  • Sweet Bell Peppers. The recipe uses 1 red, 1 yellow and 1 orange pepper. Any combination will work. We like to add three different colours for contrast.
  • Celery. Adding celery adds crunch to the salad.
  • Red onion. Diced finely, red onion adds colour and flavour.
  • Spinach. Finely sliced, the spinach is another layer of flavour and colour.
  • Basil Leaves. Picked fresh usually from our garden, fresh basil adds a different flavour than the dried variety. Both are used in this recipe.
  • Cherry Tomatoes. Cut in half and add to the pasta salad, these add freshness to the dish.
  • Parmesan. Shred parmesan for a stronger flavour that compliments the Italian flavours of the pasta.
  • Olives. Black or Green olives can be added. Green will add a touch of saltiness. Sometimes we add both.
  • Zesty Italian Salad Dressing. This dressing has a lot of flavour.
  • Mayonnaise. Full-fat or low-fat mayonnaise can be used. It adds just a little creaminess to the pasta.
  • Garlic Paste. Mixed into the mayonnaise, the garlic adds just the right amount of savoury to the pasta.


Easy Pasta Salad in a bowl with serving utensils on the side

Easily Make This Salad a Meal

This recipe is not only a side dish. Easy Pasta Salad makes a great start for a meal. By adding some protein to the pasta salad, you can have a meal ready in minutes using leftover pasta salad.

  • Chicken. Add some chopped cooked chicken to the salad to make lunch. Adding Grilled chicken is one of our favourite ways to make this a lunch.
  • Ham. Chopped or diced ham is also good in this salad.
  • Brisket. Chopped small, brisket adds a lot of flavour to this pasta salad and is a great way to use leftovers from a BBQ.
  • Tuna. A can of drained tuna is a good addition.


How To Serve Easy Pasta Salad

The best way to serve this salad is cold. We let it chill overnight or for at least 30 minutes before serving.

When serving it for a BBQ outside, we keep it on ice by filling a larger bowl with ice chips and setting the bowl of salad inside it.

This salad makes a great side dish for a BBQ or picnic. Whether you’re serving BBQ chicken or fried chicken, this pasta salad makes a perfect accompaniment.

Easy Pasta Salad is great for taking on a trip to the beach or on a camping trip. When making it for a trip, we package it in individual containers in the cooler. That way a whole bowl doesn’t have to be taken from the cooler for a serving.

The Dressing For Pasta Salad

There are also two ways to make this salad. The basic recipe is the same, it’s the dressing and cheese that changes. The dressing for the pasta salad is bottled. Either Italian dressing or Greek dressing. The recipe card below is for the Italian dressing version, but Greek dressing is a great alternative.

When using Italian dressing, I add Parmesan to the salad.

Feta cheese is added with the Greek dressing. I also add a combination of black and green olives when using Greek dressing.

Tips for Making Easy Pasta Salad

While the water is heating up to cook the pasta, this is when I like to chop the vegetables. Then while the pasta is cooling to room temperature, I gather and measure out the remaining ingredients.

To help the pasta cool faster, I use a large plastic container that has a flat bottom. This allows the pasta to spread out and allows the pasta to cool faster. I also stir the pasta gently every 5-10 minutes to bring the bottom layer up so that it does not remain hot on the bottom.

When it comes to storing leftover pasta salad, we like to store it in smaller containers that are easy to grab on the go. This salad is perfect for lunches so we like having single servings on hand.

This recipe makes an average of 20 servings but can be halved easily for a smaller amount.

Storing Pasta Salad

Any leftover pasta salad should be kept in the refrigerator. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap or place it in an air-tight container. The pasta salad will last in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Bowl of pasta salad

Easy Pasta Salad

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 20 servings


  • 2 pounds dry rotini pasta
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • tsp dried basil
  • tsp dried parsley
  • 3 sweet peppers, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange, diced
  • 5 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 medium sized red onion, diced
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 8 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 24 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup sliced olives, black or green
  • cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 bottle zesty Italian dressing, 475 ml
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Drain pasta and rinse under cold water to remove some of the starch.
  • Toss pasta with olive oil, Italian seasoning, dried basil and parsley.
  • Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Once cooled, add vegetables and fresh basil to the pasta and stir.
  • In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise and garlic paste.
  • Add cheese, olives, mayonnaise, Italian dressing and pepper to pasta and vegetable and toss to coat
  • Refrigerate for 30-45.
  • Serve cold


Additional mayonnaise or Italian dressing may be needed if pasta seems too dry. As pasta cools it will absorb the dressing and mayonnaise making the pasta seem dry.



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