Easy Cold Pasta Salad

An easy Cold Pasta Salad recipe with broccoli, peppers, zesty Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese. Make it ahead; the flavor gets even better as it sits!

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

Pasta salad without mayo means that you can leave the bowl out a little longer, and the easy vinaigrette marinates the vegetables, so it really does get better the longer it sits. You’re not imagining it!

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

Recipe ingredients:

Easy cold pasta salad ingredients in various bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Italian Dressing: My go-to dressing for most cold noodle veggie salads. I also love red wine vinaigrette or you can substitute a bottle of store-bought dressing.
  • 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: Substitute your favorite onion. If your onions are angry (making you cry), you can mellow them by soaking the slices in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes or longer.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until just al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water to cool the noodles off, then drain again. Add the cooked and completely cooled pasta to a big bowl with the vegetables.Separated easy cold pasta salad ingredients in a clear bowl.
  2. Pour in the salad dressing and gently toss to combine. Next add in the grated Parmesan cheese–add more if you like– and toss again. Store the pasta salad in a covered bowl until it’s time to eat.
    Dressing being poured onto easy cold pasta salad in a clear bowl.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Don’t overcook the pasta. Cook the pasta until just tender, so it doesn’t get gummy in the dressing. And rinse! Rinsing is a crucial step to help wash off any extra starch clinging to the noodles.
  • Customize: The whole recipe is up for customization, so change out your vegetables and cheese or add more mix-ins like meat, beans, nuts, and pickled things. Choose your favorites but not everything. A blend of flavors, colors, and textures is ideal.
  • Bite-sized pieces: Chop all your vegetables into small, even bite-sized pieces. That’s so every bite gets a bit of everything!
  • Make ahead: This salad is great to make a day or two ahead, so the dressing really soaks in and marinates the veggies. Add more dressing if you need it!

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

More pasta salad recipes:

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

Easy Cold Pasta Salad

An easy Cold Pasta Salad recipe with broccoli, peppers, zesty Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese. Make it ahead; the flavor gets even better as it sits!
5 from 15 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 274kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

For the Italian salad dressing (or sub 8 oz store-bought, see note 1):

  • 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 bite-sized broccoli florets blanched if desired (see note 2)
  • 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 3)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

To make the Italian salad dressing:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, basil, oregano, parsley, and garlic powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Allow flavors to blend at room temperature while preparing the pasta salad.

To make the pasta salad:

  • Bring 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
  • Meanwhile, combine broccoli florets, bell peppers, and red onion in a large bowl. Stir in cooled pasta. Add salad dressing to taste and Parmesan cheese and toss until uniformly combined. Store covered in the refrigerator until serving time.

Video

Notes

  1. Italian Dressing: My go-to dressing for most cold noodle veggie salads. I also love red wine vinaigrette or you can substitute a bottle of store-bought dressing.
  2. 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.
  3. Red onion: Substitute your favorite onion. If your onions are angry (making you cry), you can mellow them by soaking the slices in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes or longer.
  4. Don't overcook the pasta. Cook the pasta until just tender, so it doesn't get gummy in the dressing. And rinse! Rinsing is a crucial step to help wash off any extra starch clinging to the noodles.
  5. Customize: The whole recipe is up for customization, so change out your vegetables and cheese or add more mix-ins like meat, beans, nuts, and pickled things. Choose your favorites but not everything. A blend of flavors, colors, and textures is ideal.
  6. Bite-sized pieces: Chop all your vegetables into small, even bite-sized pieces. That's so every bite gets a bit of everything!
  7. Make ahead: This salad is great to make a day or two ahead, so the dressing really soaks in and marinates the veggies. Add more dressing if you need it!

Nutrition

Calories: 274kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 141mg | Potassium: 191mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 497IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 112mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!

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