This Easy Cold Pasta Salad has broccoli, bell peppers, zesty Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese. It’s simple and always a favorite!

Easy cold pasta salad in a wooden bowl with a serving fork and spoon.

There are tons of fun ways you can change up this salad, depending on the season and what you have in your veggie drawer. I always prefer a springy pasta shape like rotini to catch all of the dressing, but you can pick your favorite.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Easy Cold Pasta Salad Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for easy cold pasta salad.

Ingredient notes

  • Broccoli: If you’d like to blanch the broccoli (optional), bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add broccoli and cook until just tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  • Red onion: If you onion seems angry when you slice it (makes you cry), marinate it in the salad dressing for 5 minutes, or up to 30 minutes, before assembling the rest of the salad.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper).
Easy cold pasta salad dressing in a clear jar on a white plate with a spoon.
  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, rinse with cold water, and drain again. In a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, broccoli, bell peppers, red onion, and Parmesan cheese.
Separated easy cold pasta salad ingredients in a clear bowl.
  1. Drizzle with salad dressing and toss to combine.
Dressing being poured onto easy cold pasta salad in a clear bowl.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes at least 12 (1-cup) servings.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: The Italian salad dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator. The pasta can be cooked, drained, rinsed, and cooled up to 1 day in advance. The vegetables can be prepped the day before and stored separately in the refrigerator.
  • More mix-ins: Get creative with diced cucumbers, cubes of cheese, sliced salami, a can of olives, or your favorite fresh herbs.
  • Make the vinaigrette your own: Substitute balsamic vinegar for the red wine vinegar or add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Easy cold pasta salad in a wooden bowl with a serving fork and spoon.

More potluck favorites

Easy cold pasta salad in a wooden bowl with a serving fork and spoon.

Easy Cold Pasta Salad

This easy Cold Pasta Salad has broccoli, bell peppers, zesty Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese. It's simple and always a favorite!
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 12 servings (1 cup each)
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Calories 274

Ingredients 

For the Italian dressing:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove minced fresh garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pasta salad:

  • 16 ounces rotini or other small pasta
  • 2 cups broccoli florets chopped and blanched if desired (see note 1)
  • 1 red bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion peeled and thinly sliced (see note 2)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions 

  • To make the dressing, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper).
  • In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
  • In a large bowl, add the cooled pasta, broccoli, bell peppers, red onion, and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with salad dressing and toss to combine.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Broccoli: If you’d like to blanch the broccoli (optional), bring 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add broccoli and cook until just tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
  2. Red onion: If you onion seems angry when you slice it (makes you cry), marinate it in the salad dressing for 5 minutes, or up to 30 minutes, before assembling the rest of the salad.
  3. Yield: This recipe makes at least 12 (1-cup) servings.
  4. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  5. Make ahead: The Italian salad dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator. The pasta can be cooked, drained, rinsed, and cooled up to 1 day in advance. The vegetables can be prepped the day before and stored separately in the refrigerator.
  6. More mix-ins: Get creative with diced cucumbers, cubes of cheese, sliced salami, a can of olives, or your favorite fresh herbs.
  7. Make the vinaigrette your own: Substitute balsamic vinegar for the red wine vinegar or add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 274kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 9gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 141mgPotassium: 199mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 499IUVitamin C: 45mgCalcium: 113mgIron: 1mg
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Comments

  1. I made this very simple to make pasta salad with limited expectations but I just thought it looked pretty. I wasn’t expecting the tremendous flavor especially with the dressing. In my case, I used red wine vinegar but I might try another one next time we’ll see. I think the key was to definitely blanch the broccoli florettes and to chop the peppers in very very small bite-size pieces and to sliver the onions extremely thin. I can’t wait to bring this to my get together today, thank you so much for the recipe I’m definitely sharing it with many.5 stars

  2. Easy and quick to make. Made if for a BBQ yesterday, it was a hit! Everyone loved it! Substituted cheddar/mozzarella for the Parmesan because I didn’t have any and added a bit of fresh parsley. So yummy!5 stars

  3. My daughter is picky about vinegar and red onions, but she ate it all except for some of the onions. I added some diced mozzarella which she especially liked.5 stars

    1. Hi Ann, I can’t think of any reason why not! If you like rice noodles, that’s all that matters. :) Thanks! -Meggan

  4. If I make this dish today, will the peppers still have the same crunch tomorrow when served? Worried they might go soggy overnight? 

    1. Hi Nicola, I think they will be fine. But in case I am wrong, or if you don’t believe me, prep the peppers but keep them separate, in the fridge, until tomorrow. Just add them in, in the morning. You should be fine! It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and I’d hate for you to be disappointed. Good luck! I hope this helps! -Meggan

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