Packed with veggies, toppings & a flavorful vinaigrette, Favorite Pasta Salad is my “go-to” salad recipe for cookouts, potlucks & family dinners.
FAMILY FAVORITE PASTA SALAD
Today I’m updating a long time family favorite recipe – Favorite Pasta Salad. It’s one of the first recipes I posted on the blog, waaaay back in July 2014.
It was a family favorite for many years before sharing it here. In fact, I can’t even guess how many times I’ve made this recipe over the years. Too many times to count.
Favorite Pasta Salad is also my “go-to” recipe for picnics, potlucks and team dinners. The bowl is ALWAYS empty at the end of the meal. Not a single noodle left.
INGREDIENTS FOR FAVORITE PASTA SALAD
- I prefer to use Penne pasta for this dish. The ridges and hollow tube shape make an ideal vessel to catch and hold the flavorful vinaigrette dressing.
- The toppings are what make this dish shine. Choose in-season veggies. Or use whatever you have on hand. Add cheese cubes for protein. Bite-size pieces of ham, salami or pepperoni will make this a quick lunch or dinner.
- The Teens prefer it on the simpler side – grape tomatoes, black olives and cubes of Monterey Jack cheese. I like to load it up with veggies – the more the merrier. You can make this YOUR Favorite Pasta Salad by selecting the toppings your family prefers.
HOW TO MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE DRESSING
- The dressing ingredients are pantry staples you most likely have on hand – oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, basil, onion powder, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Toss the ingredients in a jar and blend. I use an immersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools) to make the dressing.
BEST TIME TO MAKE FAVORITE PASTA SALAD
- When you’re short on time. It takes just 30 minutes to prepare. The dish tastes best when chilled before serving but you can serve it right away if you are short on time.
- Favorite Pasta Salad pairs well with sandwiches, burgers and grilled meats. Prepare a batch on the weekend to serve with your weekly meals.
- A potluck favorite, I return with an empty bowl every time. Every time.
- The lack of mayo in the dressing makes this a great option for summer picnics.
- The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for larger gatherings. I once made a quadruple batch (seriously!) for large party – so easy!
MAKE AHEAD TIPS FOR FAVORITE PASTA SALAD
- Prepare the pasta and prep your toppings the day before. Store separately in the refrigerator.
- The vinaigrette dressing can be made 1-2 days in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Combine pasta, toppings & dressing a few hours before serving and refrigerate. The salad needs to chill for a couple hours for best results.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE FAVORITE PASTA SALAD
Immersion blender – one of my most-used kitchen tools.
Colander – these colors make my heart sing.
Mason jars – get the wide mouth for easier mixing.
Prep/mixing bowls – my faves!
Do you like just a few toppings on your pasta salad? Or do you prefer more veggies than pasta? Drop a comment below and share your favorite pasta salad toppings.
Favorite Pasta Salad recipe was originally posted on July 2014. I adapted my recipe from a magazine clipping and don’t know the original recipe source. Had I known back then blogging would be “a thing” (AND that I would have a blog!), I would have made note of more details. Who knew?!
*** PIN THE RECIPE FOR LATER ***
MORE SIDE DISHES YOU MAY ENJOY:
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Favorite Pasta Salad
- 16 oz. penne pasta
- 4 cups add-ins, chopped or halved (use any combination):
- Veggies: grape or cherry tomatoes, red/yellow/orange/green peppers, onion, pitted black olives, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, carrot, seeded cucumber, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans
- Cheese cubes: Monterey jack, cheddar, provolone
- Meat, cut in bite size pieces: ham, salami, pepperoni
- 2/3 cup sunflower or olive oil
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. sugar
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water.
- Add pasta, veggies and add-ins in a large bowl.
- Add dressing to pasta/veggie mixture & toss until well coated.
- For best results, chill for a couple hours before serving.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
- Combine all dressing ingredients in a small container and blend until well mixed. (I use my immersion blender).
- Nutrition information is provided as a reference and will vary based on the toppings used.