This rotini pasta salad is a family favorite recipe. Spiral noodles are mixed with crumbled feta, black olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Then it’s coated in a delicious homemade Italian dressing. This loaded pasta salad with tons of vegetables is the perfect cold Summer salad for picnics or potlucks!
Rotini Pasta Salad
This is the ultimate rotini pasta salad. It’s packed with fresh vegetables, like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers, and features a zesty homemade vinaigrette that’s sure to please everyone at the table.
This pasta salad is not only quick and easy to prepare, but it also delivers big flavor and it’s so beautiful. It’s perfect for potlucks or simply to keep in your fridge for an easy lunch meal prep.
If you’re looking for a cold Summer side dish to accompany your grilled chicken, steak, or tuna, this recipe will definitely become a staple in your household.
Rotini Pasta: Its spiral shape and nooks and crannies are perfect for holding onto the delicious homemade dressing. Tri-colored rotini adds a visually appealing touch, but any type of rotini will work well.
Cherry Tomatoes: These small, sweet tomatoes add a pop of color and flavor to the pasta salad. If cherry tomatoes aren’t available, you can substitute grape tomatoes or diced Roma tomatoes.
Cucumber: Crisp, refreshing cucumber adds a satisfying crunch to the pasta salad. English or Persian cucumbers are ideal choices because they have thin skin and minimal seeds.
Red and Yellow Bell Pepper: Adding both red and yellow bell peppers provides a sweet, mild flavor and a vibrant color contrast to the dish. Feel free to substitute orange or green bell peppers if desired.
Red Onion: Finely chopped red onion adds a sharp, tangy flavor that complements the other ingredients. If red onion is too strong for your taste, try using sweet onion or green onions instead.
Kalamata Olives: These dark, meaty olives bring a rich, briny flavor to the pasta salad. If you prefer, you can use green olives as an alternative.
Feta Cheese: Crumbled feta adds a creamy, tangy element to the dish. If you’re not a fan of feta, try substituting it with goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, or even cubed cheddar.
Fresh Basil and Parsley: These fresh herbs lend a bright, aromatic touch to the pasta salad. Feel free to experiment with other herbs like cilantro, dill, or mint to create your own unique flavor profile.
Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil serves as the base for the homemade dressing, providing a rich, fruity flavor that ties everything together.
Red Wine Vinegar: This vinegar adds a tangy, acidic element to the dressing. If you don’t have red wine vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even fresh lemon juice in its place.
Lemon Juice: Fresh lemon juice brightens up the dressing and complements the other flavors in the pasta salad. If you don’t have fresh lemons on hand, bottled lemon juice will work in a pinch.
Honey: A touch of honey adds a subtle sweetness to balance the acidity in the dressing. If you don’t have honey, you can use maple syrup, agave nectar, or even granulated sugar as a substitute.
Dijon Mustard: This mustard adds a slight kick to the dressing and helps emulsify the oil and vinegar. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can use whole grain mustard, or even yellow mustard if you’re in a pinch.
Dried Oregano: This herb adds a classic Italian flavor to the dressing. If you don’t have dried oregano, you can use dried basil, thyme, or even Italian seasoning blend as a substitute.
Garlic Powder: A pinch of garlic powder provides a subtle, savory depth to the dressing. If you prefer, you can use fresh minced garlic or even onion powder in its place.
Salt and Pepper: Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste, enhancing the flavors of all the other ingredients.
In addition to the ingredients listed above, you can customize your pasta salad by adding grilled chicken, canned tuna, sliced salami, or even cooked shrimp for extra protein. You can also experiment with different vegetables, like artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, or blanched green beans, to create your own unique version of this classic dish.
How To Make Rotini Pasta Salad
Prepare the pasta: Start by cooking the rotini pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool it down. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)
Make the dressing: In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Assemble the salad: In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked pasta with the cherry tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, red onion, olives, feta cheese, and fresh herbs.
Dress the salad: Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss gently to coat everything evenly.
Chill and serve: Cover the salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld together. Before serving, give the salad a gentle stir and garnish with additional fresh herbs if desired. See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, cooking times, and helpful tips, etc.
- Cook the pasta al dente: To ensure the perfect pasta salad texture, cook your rotini until it’s al dente, meaning tender but still firm to the bite.
- Rinse and cool the pasta: After cooking, rinse the pasta under cold water to remove excess starch and stop the cooking process. This helps prevent the pasta from becoming gummy and sticking together.
- Let the pasta salad chill: Allow the pasta salad to refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. This will give the flavors time to meld together and create a more delicious and cohesive dish.
What Are The 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Making Pasta Salad?
- Overcooking the pasta: Cook the pasta until it’s al dente, as it will continue to soften as it absorbs the dressing.
- Skipping the rinse: Rinse the cooked pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent the pasta from becoming gummy.
- Skimping on seasoning: Don’t forget to season both the pasta water and the dressing with salt and pepper to bring out the flavors of all the ingredients.
- Dressing too early or too late: Allow the pasta salad to chill for at least 2 hours after dressing to let the flavors meld together. If you’re making it ahead of time, you can also toss the pasta with a little dressing and refrigerate, then add the remaining dressing just before serving to keep everything fresh.
- Overloading the salad: Remember to keep a balance of pasta, vegetables, and dressing to ensure that every bite is flavorful and satisfying.
How Long To Cook Rotini For Pasta Salad
The key to a perfect pasta salad is cooking your rotini just right. To achieve an al dente texture, cook the rotini for about 8-10 minutes. However, always check the package instructions for the specific cooking time, as it may vary slightly depending on the brand. Remember, you want the pasta to be tender, yet firm to the bite.
Can I Use Different Types Of Pasta For Pasta Salad?
Yes, you can use different types of pasta for pasta salad. While rotini is a popular choice due to its shape and ability to hold onto the dressing, other pasta shapes like farfalle, penne, or fusilli will also work well.
Does Pasta Salad Keep Well?
Yes, pasta salad keeps well when stored correctly! You can store your pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Just make sure to give it a good stir before serving, as the dressing may settle at the bottom. If the pasta salad seems a bit dry after a few days, don’t worry – simply add a splash of olive oil or a bit more dressing to refresh it and bring it back to life.
How Do You Make Pasta Salad Not Dry?
To prevent your pasta salad from becoming dry, start by rinsing the cooked pasta with cold water. This removes any excess starch, which can contribute to a gummy texture. Next, be sure to use enough dressing to coat the pasta and vegetables evenly. The dressing not only adds flavor but also keeps the pasta salad moist and delicious. If your pasta salad still feels a bit dry, simply add a little more dressing or a drizzle of olive oil to adjust the consistency.
Should I Dress My Pasta Salad The Night Before?
You can dress your pasta salad the night before, but keep in mind that the pasta may absorb some of the dressing, causing it to become less saucy. If you prefer, you can toss the pasta with a little dressing the night before, and then add the remaining dressing just before serving to keep everything fresh.
Can You Freeze Pasta Salad?
While it’s technically possible to freeze pasta salad, the texture of the pasta and vegetables may become mushy once thawed. It’s best to enjoy pasta salad fresh or store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
What Are Some Good Side Dishes To Serve With Pasta Salad?
Pasta salad pairs well with a variety of side dishes, such as grilled vegetables, garlic bread, a mixed green salad, or fruit salad. You can also serve it alongside your favorite protein, like grilled chicken, fish, or steak, for a complete and satisfying meal.
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Pasta Salad Recipes
If you like this recipe, be sure to check out all of our other side dishes. Some reader favorites are:
- Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
- Ranch Pasta Salad
- Bow Tie Pasta Salad
- Chicken Macaroni Salad
- Caprese Pasta Salad
Rotini Pasta Salad:
- 12 oz rotini pasta (preferably tri-colored)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup cucumber, diced
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the rotini pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool it down.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked rotini pasta, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red and yellow bell peppers, red onion, kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese, fresh basil, and fresh parsley.
- In a separate small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss gently until everything is well coated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 2 hours, allowing the flavors to meld together.
- When ready to serve, give the pasta salad a gentle stir and garnish with additional fresh herbs if desired.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 458Total Fat: 13.4gCarbohydrates: 70.5gFiber: 4.1gSugar: 6.4gProtein: 13.4g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Rotini pasta salad is a versatile, crowd-pleasing dish that’s perfect for family meals, picnics, and potlucks. Its combination of fresh vegetables, tangy homemade dressing, and colorful pasta is sure to delight both kids and adults alike. Plus, with so many ways to customize it with your favorite ingredients and protein options, you’ll never get tired of this delicious classic summer pasta salad.