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Easy Pasta Salad

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This Easy Pasta Salad is perfect for your summer cookouts. It’s packed with fresh veggies, roasted tomatoes, black olives, and cheese, then finished off with tangy Italian dressing. Serve as-is or customize to suit your tastes!

overhead of a bowl of pasta salad next to two gold forks

Easy Bow Tie Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

I grew up eating lots of summer pasta salad. And my dad still makes it on the regular. So, I’m declaring this “Dad’s pasta salad.” Sorry Mom. Yours is good too!

Now, I’ll admit that I’m usually the one bringing desserts to a party. BUT it is nice to have options. And this Easy Pasta Salad is the perfect addition to any potluck, BBQ, or summer party. It’s loaded with bowtie pasta, fresh veggies, salty black olives, and cheese, then finished off with Italian dressing.

But remember, the magic of cold pasta salad is that you can totally customize it to suit your own tastes. Feel free to play around with add-ins to make this your own!

What Goes Into Bow Tie Pasta Salad?

This Bow Tie Pasta Salad is packed with fresh and flavorful ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pasta – just pick your favorite pasta shape. I like bigger pieces of pasta, so I opt for bowtie or penne, but other smaller pasta shapes will work too.
  • Cherry Tomatoes – you can use raw cherry tomatoes or roast them (my preference!)
  • Red Bell Pepper– or any type of pepper you prefer
  • Red Onion
  • Black Olives
  • Cheese – a good quality sharp or medium cheddar or Monterey jack are my favorites. Mozzarella works great too! Dice the cheese into small cubes so it incorporates well into the pasta salad.
  • Shaved Parmesan Cheese
  • Italian Dressing
  • Green Onion – optional for garnish.
overhead of separate bowls filled with pasta salad ingredients

How to Make Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

This Cold Pasta Salad comes together in just a few simple steps!

  • Make the pasta: Prepare a box of pasta according to the directions. Cool completely.
  • Roast the tomatoes (optional): Place the cherry tomatoes on a lined baking sheet, toss with oil, salt, and pepper, then roast at 425ºF for 20 minutes. Cool completely.
  • Prep the mix-ins: Dice the pepper and onion and cube the cheese into small pieces.
  • Combine and chill: Combine everything in a large bowl, toss with parmesan, then add dressing, little bits at a time, until dressed to your liking.

How Do You Keep Pasta Salad from Absorbing Dressing?

The pasta will naturally absorb some of the dressing as it sits. You can curb this effect, however, by tossing the cooked noodles in a little bit of olive oil before adding them into the salad.

The oil creates a barrier between the pasta and dressing. It’s not 100% effective but it does help!

a large clear bowl full of pasta salad

Recipe Tips

  • Dice evenly. Be sure to chop the onion, pepper, and cheese up pretty small so everything incorporates well into the salad. We want a little of everything in each bite!
  • Cook the pasta al dente. Pasta with a little more structure holds up better in the dressing. I recommend cooking it al dente according to the box directions.
  • Cool completely. Make sure you cool the pasta (and the tomatoes, if roasting) completely before mixing everything together.
  • Add the dressing right before serving. As it sits, the pasta will soak up some of the dressing and become a little mushier. If you know you’re waiting to serve the salad, I recommend holding off on adding the dressing until you are ready to serve. If you are planning to have leftovers, just add the dressing to whatever portion you plan to serve immediately.

Pasta Salad Variations

  • Use another pasta shape. I love the bowtie pasta, but you could also use shells, penne, elbow macaroni, rotini, orzo, or another small pasta shape.
  • Add protein. Feel free to bulk this up with the protein of your choice. Try chopped pepperoni, diced ham, shredded chicken, crumbled bacon or prosciutto, or even chickpeas for a vegetarian option. If you’re adding bacon or prosciutto, be sure to add it right before serving so it doesn’t get soggy.
  • Add additional Vegetables. Chopped broccoli, diced cucumber, chopped cauliflower, shredded carrots, capers, you name it!
  • Change out the Cheese. This would also go great with crumbled feta cheese instead of the parmesan.
a spoonful of pasta salad held over a bowl

What to Serve with Pasta Salad

This summer pasta salad is the perfect addition to potlucks or grill-outs, so serve it with any and all of your favorite summer recipes!

Try serving it alongside

overhead of a bowl of cold pasta salad next to small bowls of veggies

Storage Instructions

This should be kept cold in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Keep in mind that the pasta will absorb some of the dressing as it sits, so the texture will change slightly. When you serve again you can freshen it up with a little extra dressing and it’s good to go!

How long does pasta salad last in the refrigerator?

A fully assembled pasta salad will last for 3-5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

How far in advance should you make pasta salad?

You can prep the vegetable and even the pasta up to two days ahead of time. Store in separate, airtight containers in the refrigerator. I recommend leaving the dressing off until you’re ready to serve it.

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closeup of a blue bowl filled with summer pasta salad

Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 large servings

Description

This Easy Pasta Salad is perfect for your summer cookouts. It’s packed with fresh veggies, roasted tomatoes, black olives, and cheese, then finished off with tangy Italian dressing. Serve as-is or customize to suit your tastes!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta of choice, prepared and cooled
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, fresh or roasted
  • 1 red bell pepper (about ½ cup chopped)
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 can (2.25 oz) sliced black olives
  • 6 ounces cheese, cubed
  • 1/3 cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • 1/3½ cup Italian dressing
  • Green onion for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prepare a box of pasta according to the instructions on the box. Allow the pasta to cool completely.
  2. To roast the tomatoes, place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 425°F for 20 minutes. Cool completly and strain excess oil.
  3. Dice the pepper and onion into small pieces, set aside.
  4. Cube the cheese into small pieces, set aside.
  5. When ready to serve, combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss with the parmesan cheese and dressing. Start with 1/3 cup and add additional dressing as needed for taste. 

Notes

  • See blog post for ingredient options and suggestions to add additional protein or vegetables. 
  • Add the dressing last and prior to serving to prevent the pasta salad from getting soggy. 
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-5 days in an airtight container. 
Nutrition Information:
1 Serving
475
6 g
476.5 mg
15.8 g
63.7 g
3.8 g
18.9 g
31.3 mg
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Refrigerator
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: easy pasta salad, cold pasta salad, bow tie pasta salad

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