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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!
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 274kcal


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.



  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!


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