One of the quintessential dishes for summer is always a great pasta salad. It’s full of bright flavors, served cold and always hits the spot. My mom has been making this summer pasta salad recipe for as long as I can remember.
It’s my go-to potluck dish for summer get-togethers and a perfect side dish for any barbecue among friends. In our Italian home, pasta has always been such a comfort food. And this is the best way to enjoy it in the summertime.
This cold summer pasta salad is super easy and just has a few ingredients. A few fresh vegetables, olives and a premade dressing. It’s so simple you’ll be making it weekly for the rest of summer, guaranteed!
Summer Pasta Salad Recipe
For this recipe, you can really swap out a few things and customize it however you like. Traditionally we’ve always had it with broccoli (sometimes also cauliflower), grape tomatoes, bell peppers and black olives.
A few other things you can add in are diced carrots, red onion, zucchini, the list goes on. For the dressing, it’s always been classic Wishbone Italian dressing. Seems sac-religious as an Italian, but it’s just so damn good and has all the flavors in it.
The pasta will soak this up quite a bit, so you may need to add, let it sit for a while, then toss and add some more to taste. If you don’t like pre-made dressing (I rarely ever use this except for this recipe) just use a standard vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder. That’s always been our go-to dressing for an easy salad.
- 1 lb of tri-color rotini pasta
- 1 cup blanched broccoli and or cauliflower
- 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sliced black olives
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup of Wishbone Italian Dressing, sometimes more!
How To Make This Simple Summer Salad With Pasta
Bring your salted water to a boil and boil your pasta according to the box directions for al dente. While this cooks, chop your veggies up.
Right before your pasta is ready to come out, about 2 minutes left, you can add in your broccoli if you’d like it blanched. I prefer this over raw, but it’s just a preference. This way it finishes with the pasta and can all be tossed together.
Drain the pasta and let it cool slightly. Do not run under cold water! In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with your veggies and dressing. Let it cool for a bit before putting in the fridge. Toss and taste to see if it needs more dressing once it’s fully chilled.
Delicious Variations For This Fresh Pasta Salad
You can totally switch up this pasta salad and make it your own. I really prefer Italian dressing with it because that’s how I grew up. But if you want something with some more summery flavors, try this pesto tahini lemon dressing from my BLT pasta salad. It would be great with this!
And you can always swap out the veggies for whatever you like. Whatever summer veggies look great at the farmers market works. Think zucchini, corn and even okra for a southern twist. For even more flavor, add in little balls of mozzarella or add in a protein like chicken.
Another fun variation could make this a bit more like a Greek salad. Mix in tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese and lots of red onion and Kalamata olives for a Mediterranean inspired salad. You can still use the Italian dressing and maybe add in a sprinkle of herb de provence. That’s the real secret to a good Greek salad.
Tips For Serving
This salad can be made a day or two in advance. And I actually do recommend making it at least the night before. It allows the pasta to absorb the Italian dressing and make it so much more flavorful.
Just be sure to give the cold pasta a good mix before serving. And definitely taste it to see if it needs another drizzle of dressing. I find myself adding dressing at least one to two more times after the initial swirl of the dressing before it goes into the fridge.
If you’re heading out on a picnic, I love to just add these to big mason jars for individual pasta salads for everyone. It makes for a great side dish for any summer dinner party.
Whether it’s a barbecue of hamburgers and dogs for the 4th of July, to fancy steak on a grill, or even on its own with some rotisserie chicken mixed in, this is always a great recipe to whip up for friends and family.
And in our family, it’s usually eaten straight from the serving bowl with a big fork. It’s so easy to snack on throughout the day.
Since the dressing does have oil in it, this can sometimes get a little firm in the cold refrigerator. Definitely remove it about 15 to 30 minutes prior to serving so you can get the chill off of it. And thanks to this oil-based dressing and has no mayonnaise in it, this means you don’t need to worry about it spoiling for outdoor dining.
Summer Pasta Salad Recipe
- 1 box tri-color rotini
- 1 cup brocolli
- 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
- 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup bell pepper
- 1/2 cup Wishbone Italian Dressing
- Cook pasta according to box instructions for al dente
- While pasta cooks, prepare vegetables.
- Toss all ingredients together and let cool
- Add additional dressing if needed to taste