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!
Servings 12 servings
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
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.
- 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.
- 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!
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