Really Good Pasta Salad

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There’s one dish that truly takes the crown when it comes to being the perfect side dish to any meal: pasta salad. This Really Good Pasta Salad is a flavor-packed pasta salad recipe making it the perfect recipe for summer entertaining! Get my tips below for making it extra delicious.

up close of pasta salad in a white bowl.

Summer is here, and that means it’s time to break out the grill, gather friends and family, and enjoy the season’s bounty of delicious food. If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing dish that’s sure to impress your guests, look no further than this flavor-packed pasta salad recipe. With fresh ingredients, vibrant colors, and a burst of zest in every bite, this dish is the perfect addition to any summer gathering. Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue or a casual picnic in the park, this recipe is easy to make in large quantities and can be customized to suit your taste.

Not only is this dish customizable, but it’s also a great option for feeding a crowd. You can easily scale up the portions to accommodate a larger group without sacrificing any of the flavor. Plus, it can be made ahead of time, making it a stress-free option for entertaining.

pasta salad in a bowl and served on a small plate with a fork.

You may remember that a few years ago I shared a recipe for Really Good Macaroni Salad (which, by the way, has become one of the most popular recipes here on IBC.)

The reason I described that salad and this one as “really good” versus something like “the best” or “the ultimate” is because I haven’t tried all of the pasta salads in the world. Plus, even if I did, what I think is best might be different from you think is best. Make sense?

And if you LOVE pasta and macaroni salads as much as I do, you’re in luck because I have the ultimate collection of the best pasta salad recipes. I cover everything from the classic to recipes with a twist. There’s something for everyone!

pasta salad served on a small plate next to a prickly pear margarita.

This recipe is from my mom. While she often comes to me for new recipes, I always go to her for classic recipes from my past. We make a good team like that! I’ve loved this pasta salad for years, so I’m happy I finally have a chance to make it for you.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Fresh, colorful, and brimming with flavor, this dish is a guaranteed hit with any pasta salad lover.
  • This recipe is entirely customizable, so you can add or remove ingredients to suit your preferences and dietary needs. Use what you love!
  • It’s easy to make in large batches, which makes it ideal for feeding a crowd.

With every bite, there’s a burst of freshness, a hint of tang, and a touch of savory decadence. Now, let’s dive into this recipe and discover how to transform simple ingredients into a symphony of flavors, perfect for any summer gathering. Plus, stick around for some insider tips to elevate it even further!

pasta salad served in a large white bowl.

Ingredients

To create the ultimate pasta salad, you need to start with the right ingredients. I think the variety of ingredients creates a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. However, if you hate olives (or another non-essential ingredient), feel free to leave them out.

ingredients for really good pasta salad arranged in groups on a plate.

Here are the key components you’ll need:

  • cavatappi pasta (my personal favorite for most pasta salads)
  • red onion diced
  • broccoli 
  •  green olives 
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • banana peppers
  •  mini pepperoni
  • salami
  • cherry tomatoes
  • green pepper

For the dressing:

  • red wine vinegar
  • sugar
  • dried parsley
  • Italian seasoning
  • fresh garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Pro Tip: When you’re chopping all of the ingredients, I recommend keeping the pieces pretty small. This is my trick for creating any really good pasta-type salad.

The goal is to get as many of those tasty flavors into a serving as you can. If you only have eight pieces of broccoli in the salad because you cut them so big, it’s likely that not every serving will have broccoli.

really good pasta salad in a large white bowl with text.

How to Make

I’ll walk you through the steps for making this pasta salad recipe. I’ve also provided a full ingredient list and detailed instructions in the printable recipe card below.

  1. In a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, red onion, broccoli, green olives, cheese, banana peppers, pepperoni, salami, cherry tomatoes, and green pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, sugar, dried parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. (About 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.)
  3. Add the dressing to the bowl of pasta. Toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Toss again before serving.

And that’s it! Your pasta salad is ready to be served!

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up close of pasta salad on a small plate.

Recipe Tips

  • Pasta Perfection: Ensure your pasta is cooked al dente. It should be firm to bite, ensuring it doesn’t get mushy when mixed with the dressing.
  • Freshness First: Use the freshest ingredients you can find. The crispness of the veggies combined with the freshness of the herbs in the dressing can make a huge difference.
  • Balance of Flavors: Adjust the dressing to your taste. Some like it tangier, while others prefer a milder flavor. Always taste and adjust!
  • Chill Time: For the flavors to meld beautifully, refrigerate your pasta salad for at least an hour before serving.
  • Cheese Choices: While sharp cheddar is recommended, feel free to experiment with other cheeses like feta or mozzarella for a different flavor profile.
adding dressing to really good pasta salad in a large white bowl.

Recipe Variations

Now that you have the base recipe, why not switch things up and try some fun variations? You can customize the flavors to suit your guests’ tastes or try new ingredients for a fresh twist.

  • For a Mediterranean-inspired twist, try adding feta cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes, and a lemon vinaigrette.
  • Go for a Tex-Mex feel with black beans, corn, avocado, and a spicy cilantro lime dressing.
  • If you want to make your pasta salad a bit more filling, add some cooked chicken, shrimp, or even tofu. For a vegetarian option, try roasted vegetables like zucchini or eggplant.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with different combinations of ingredients. Your guests will love trying something new and exciting.

pasta salad served on a plate and in a white bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s address some frequently asked questions about making and serving pasta salad.

How far in advance can I make pasta salad?

Pasta salad is a great dish to make ahead of time. You can prepare it up to a day before and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

What’s the best type of pasta to use in pasta salad?

My favorite type of pasta to use for pasta salad is cavatappi. The corkscrew shape with a hole really holds onto the flavor and other ingredients.

Can I use a different type of dressing?

Absolutely! You can use any dressing you like. Italian dressing, ranch dressing, or even a vinaigrette would all be great choices. Just make sure to taste as you go and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

How much pasta salad should I make?

A good rule of thumb is to make about 1/2 cup of pasta salad per person. So, if you’re expecting 10 guests, you’ll want to make 5 cups of pasta salad.

With these common questions out of the way, you should be prepared to make the ultimate pasta salad!

the best pasta salad recipe served in a large white bowl on a wood table.

I hope you enjoyed this Really Good Pasta Salad recipe! Give it a try and let me know what you think.

More Pasta Salads You’ll Love

If you’re ready to take your pasta salad to the next level I hope you’ll give this recipe a go! I know you’re going to enjoy it. If you do, please leave a comment and a 5-star rating below. 

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pasta salad in a big white bowl.

Really Good Pasta Salad

This Really Good Pasta Salad is a flavor-packed pasta salad recipe making it the perfect recipe for summer entertaining!
5 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pasta salad, summer
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 374kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cellentani pasta prepared al dente and cooled
  • 1/4 cup red onion diced
  • 1 cup broccoli chopped
  • 1 cup green olives sliced or whole (I did a mix of both.)
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese cubed
  • 1/2 cup banana peppers chopped
  • 1 cup mini pepperoni or pepperoni cubed
  • 1/2 cup salami cubed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper diced

Dressing:

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, red onion, broccoli, green olives, cheese, banana peppers, pepperoni, salami, cherry tomatoes, and green pepper. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, sugar, dried parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. (About 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.)
  • Add the dressing to the bowl of pasta. Toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Toss again before serving.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 374kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 28mg | Sodium: 618mg | Potassium: 291mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 369IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 119mg | Iron: 2mg

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36 Comments

  1. O M G!! I came upon your site from another blog and SOOO glad I did!! I LOVE Pasta dishes and have looked over some of your recipes… needless to say I will be making a LOT of your dishes. I love your site and hopefully after making your recipes will love them, too. So happy I decided to check your blog out… impressed!!
    P.S. Beautiful photos, too.

  2. Loved this!! I’ve made a ton of different pasta salads and my husband and I think this is the best! We compromised he’s not a broccoli fan and I love tomato. Dressing is the bomb!

  3. I made my version of this Pasta Salad and it was a BIG Hit with Family. But because we have some of our Family that are ‘Non-Meat Eater’, “Lactose Intolerant”, and some ‘Just Counting Calories… My Version had different ingredients!
    I added Veggies I had on hand {thin slices Carrots, Celery, Red/Orange/Yellow Bell Peppers, Small Cucumbers along with Ripe Black Olives and Stuffed Green Olives ~ omitted Onions cause I don’t like Raw Onions}. And the ONLY things I changed about the Dressing was I use 1/3 cup Monk Fruit Sweetener in place of Sugar and 1 cup Avocado Oil in place of Extra Virgin Olive Oil!
    It’s the Dressing {even as written}. Cause I believe; You could even put torn cardboard in this Pasta Salad and it would still be “Really Good Pasta Salad”.
    Thanks for the Recipe. {Had NO Leftovers and was told, “Don’t Lose That Recipe”} Really Thank You!!!

  4. I made this for the first time for a camping trip. My son’s gf and I are the only ones that tried it so far. We both agree that it ranks right up there with my spaghetti anti-pasta salad that everyone raves about! It is delicious!! I love the dressing and will probably make that for tossed salads. I can’t wait for other family and friends to try it! It makes TONS too😃Thank you!