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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!
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 12 servings (1 cup each)
Calories 274kcal


For the Italian dressing:

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


  • 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.



  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.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 274kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 141mg | Potassium: 199mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 499IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 113mg | Iron: 1mg