Confetti pasta salad loaded with fresh veggies and topped with a zesty homemade Italian-style dressing. It’s potluck perfection and can easily be made ahead of time for easy peasy party prep!
Hookay so… my Instagram semi-exploded the other day when I posted a photo of my pregnancy-induced pasta salad-a-thon. I think it’s a combination of everyone being giddy with excitement over spring and summer produce breaking us out of our winter rut as well as the fact that pasta is [let’s face it] the ultimate comfort food.
It holds a dear place in my heart [and duh, stomach!] simply because it’s so flipping versatile. [ok it doesn’t hurt that there are noodles involved too!] I can whip up a bowl with nearly any random combination of fridge and pantry ingredients and it can be ready in a moment’s notice. This is absolutely perfect around BBQ/party/potluck season in the Spring and Summertime and, in true military fashion, I usually find out about most of these events a few hours before I have to attend them. It’s my speedy savior and always an instant hit. It’s also one of those dishes that, when I make it, results in a full-blown husband happy dance. [which looks a lot like this if you’re curious] I think it’s safe to say that I make this a lot =) I love a good happy dance!
So I have a few plans in the works. I want to finally sit down and write up my dressing combinations for you kids. There are a LOT of them. All quick. All easy. Some can even be made entirely with pantry ingredients alone. Oh and they’re all flipping delicious! I also want to write down all my favorite pasta salad combinations, since this dish can literally be made a thousand and one ways. I’m happy to do this. Not because I love you or anything [I do. Dearly] but because I really want an excuse to eat more pasta salad.
Until then, here’s my go-to recipe. This is the one I’ve been making non-stop since the temps started getting warmer outside and yes, the very same pasta salad I teased you guys with on Instagram. Sorry about that!
- one 12 oz box of tri-color rotini pasta
- two cups of elbow macaroni
- 1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes
- 1-2 cups of sliced mini peppers or diced bell peppers
- ½ a large english cucumber
- finely grated parmesan and romano cheese
- salt and pepper, if desired
- I love the look/texture of combining some elbow macaroni with the rotini but feel free to skip it if you don't have any on hand! It's more of an add-on than a necessity
- Simple + Speedy Italian Dressing:
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 TBSP mrs dash italian seasoning [it tastes AMAZING on everything]
- ½ TBSP of garlic powder
- ¼ tsp of salt
- freshly ground black pepper, if desired, to taste
- Craving a creamy dressing? Mix the above Italian dressing recipe with your favorite homemade or natural store-bought Caesar dressing. I always go with the Naturally Fresh brand in the salad aisle.
- To make the dressing: Whisk all ingredients together and allow to sit. Giving the dressing some time to mingle will not only infuse flavor into the oil/vinegar but also soften the dry herbs and seasoning. It should keep in your fridge for about a week, if needed.
- note: I use the entire batch of dresing for the pasta salad and then make a second ½ cup of dressing for the following day. Once the pasta has spent 24 hours marinating in the fridge it has pretty much soaked up all your yummy dressing -- adding more coats the pasta and amps up the flavor.
- Bring a large pot of water [about 4 to 6 quarts] to a boil.
- Boil noodles for around 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, for al dente pasta. To prevent sticking, feel free to add a little bit of oil to the pot. I add a spoonful of my favorite coconut oil and have to refrain from sticking my hand in the pot to eat them prematurely.
- After 7 minutes has passed, scoop out a noodle and test for tenderness.
- Once they're ready, remove from heat and strain in a colander to remove the water. As long as the noodles are hot they'll continue cooking, if you prefer to add the dressing to hot noodles [some say it helps the noodles soak up the flavor] then cook them more on the al-dente side and less tender. If you plan on rinsing your noodles with cold water to halt the cooking process, then you can cook them until they reach your ideal tenderness. Totally a matter of preference! It seems silly to mention it but the last thing I want is for you to end up with mushy noodles, those are about as fun as a bag of wet mice. [or hungry bloggers]
- While your noodles are cooking, chop your veggies. I like to slice my mini peppers into rings and halve my cherry tomatoes. For the cukes, I cut the entire cucumber into quarters and then slice into little triangles. I get more veggies per forkful this way and I love the way it looks.
- By the time you've finished chopping your noodles should be done!
- Add your veggies and dressing to the mix and toss to incorporate.
- Dust the entire bowl with parmesan romano cheese and dig. on. in.
vegansaurus chefs skip the cheesy topping and you’re good to go!
t-rex chefs you can add cubed ham/turkey if you’d like but my carnivore husband insists it’s awesome without – let your stomach be your guide!
Feel free to whip up extra dressing so anyone that wants a little extra can drizzle it on their salad. I add an extra half cup of dressing the following day since the noodles soak up the goodness overnight. I think it’s safe to say that this salad is great the first day, and even better the next!
so… how was it? I think I’ve confessed my love to this pasta salad three or four times in this post so far, so let’s do this once more: I LOVE THIS STUFF! I don’t typically make it in the fall or winter so the fact that it’s finally “pasta salad season” has me craving it like a madman. The Italian dressing has a higher vinegar content than most and gives the salad a real kick of flavor while the cheese compliments the zesty dressing and crunchy veggies perfectly. I hope you love it as much as I do!
What’s your favorite dish to dive into once temperatures start to heat up?