Best Pasta Salad Recipe

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This pasta salad recipe is bursting with flavor thanks to homemade dressing and roasted tomatoes. It is a delicious, make-ahead BBQ side dish  full of fresh veggies, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella cheese.

overhead view of the best pasta salad recipe in a large white serving bowl

Pasta salad is a quintessential barbecue side dish, and this this pasta salad recipe with homemade dressing is truly the best.

It’s always the hit of the party, and a must make for any summer gathering. It’s my go-to whenever we’re pulling out the grill to feed a crowd.

This pasta salad recipe is full of fresh summer veggies, features roasted baby tomatoes, and is tossed with a homemade dressing that is out of this world! Plus, you can prepare it in advance to make entertaining a breeze.

overhead view of the best pasta salad recipe in a large white serving bowl

Best Pasta Salad Recipe: Ingredients & Substitutions 

overhead photo of the labeled ingredients in this Best Pasta Salad Recipe
  • Pasta: You can easily make this dish gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta and pepperoni.
  • Vegetables: Feel free to swap the veggies in this recipe for your favorites.
  • White balsamic vinegar. Regular balsamic vinegar works well too.
  • Olive oil. Both canola and avocado oil work well in this recipe. However I think olive oil is the best choice.
  • Dried seasoning. Feel free to substitute fresh herbs if you have them on hand.
  • Pearl Mozzarella. If you cannot find pearl mozzarella, simply chop fresh mozzarella cheese into small cubes.
  • Pepperoni. For a lighter version use turkey pepperoni. For a vegetarian version, omit the pepperoni.
overhead view of the best pasta salad recipe in a large white serving bowl with a wooden spoon taking a scoop

How to Make Pasta Salad with Homemade Dressing

Let’s discuss how to make the best pasta salad, and don’t forget to watch the video.

Roast the Tomatoes 

Begin by roasting the tomatoes. This bring out their sweetness and adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the pasta salad. You can use raw tomatoes, but I suggest you try roasting them.

Begin by drizzling the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper.

How to Make Pasta Salad - tomatoes on a baking sheet before roasting

The roasting process is simple, drizzle on some olive oil, sprinkle a little salt and pepper, stir and bake. Just be sure to bake long enough that the tomatoes become shriveled and dry out as much as you’d like!

How to Make Pasta Salad - tomatoes on a baking sheet before roasting

Make the Homemade Italian dressing

While the tomatoes are roasting, make the homemade Italian dressing. Simply mix together all the ingredients in a glass measuring cup or add them to a glass jar and shake to combine.

front view of a glass container with the homemade pasta salad dressing

Cook the Pasta

While the tomatoes are roasting, cook the pastsa according to the package instructions in salted water. When it is al dente, drain, but do not rinse the pasta. The dressing sticks much better to un-rinsed noodles.

Assemble the Pasta Salad

Once all the components are ready, it’s time to assemble the pasta salad recipe.

I suggest chopping the vegetables small so there are little bits of veggies in every bite. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl, then add the dressing and stir to combine.

    overhead view of the best pasta salad recipe in a large white serving bowl with all the ingredients organized separately before being mixed together

    Chill

     I recommend letting this pasta salad recipe sit covered in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving, or overnight.

    Taste and adjust! Before serving pasta salad always taste it and adjust the seasonings as necessary! Depending on the pasta used, you may even need to add a touch more dressing. I usually adjust the salt and pepper right before serving.

    overhead photo of best pasta salad recipe in a white serving dish garnished with basil

    Serve

    Serve this pasta salad recipe with your favorite barbecue dishes. We love making this with hamburgers, BBQ chicken, chicken kebabs, broccoli salad, coleslaw and potato salad.

    Store

    You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I do not recommend freezing this recipe.

    best pasta salad recipe in a white serving dish

    Pasta Salad Recipe FAQs

    Can you make pasta salad the night before?

    One of the (many) wonderful things about this recipe is that you can make it a day in advance. I actually prefer to prepare it ahead of time to give the flavors a chance to blend together.

    How long can you keep pasta salad in the refrigerator?

    This recipe lasts for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

    What sauce do you put on a pasta salad?

    The best sauce for pasta salad is the homemade dressing including in this recipe. However, you can use your favorite store-bought Italian dressing if you prefer.

    overhead view of the best pasta salad recipe in a large white serving bowl with a wooden spoon taking a scoop

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    The Best Pasta Salad Recipe with Homemade Dressing

    Laura
    This pasta salad recipe is bursting with flavor thanks to homemade dressing and roasted tomatoes. It is a delicious, make-ahead BBQ side dish  full of fresh veggies, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella cheese.
    4.79 from 38 votes
    Course Salad, Side Dish
    Cuisine American, Italian
    Servings 10 cups pasta salad (about 30 servings)
    Calories 177
    Prep Time5 minutes
    Cook Time1 hour
    Chilling1 hour
    Total Time1 hour 5 minutes

    Ingredients 
     

    Pasta salad:

    • 16 ounces rotini pasta (uncooked, 4 cups)
    • 1 cup pepperoni (diced)
    • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (cubed)
    • 1 cucumber diced
    • 2 cups bell pepper diced (colors of your choice)
    • 12 ounces black olives (sliced)
    • ½ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)

    Dressing:

    Roasted tomatoes:

    Instructions 

    Make the Dressing

    • In a small bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, mix together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

    Roast the Tomatoes

    • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
    • Slice the baby tomatoes in half.
    • Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
    • Spread onto a large baking sheet and bake for 60-90 minutes.
    • Once tomatoes are shriveled and roasted to your liking, remove from oven and let cool.

    Cook the Pasta

    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
    • When finished, drain in a colander. Do not rinse.

    Assemble the Pasta Salad

    • In a large bowl, mix the pasta, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, cucumber, bell pepper, , olives, and Parmesan cheese.
    • Add the dressing and stir to combine.
    • Stir in the roosted tomatoes.
    • Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight) before serving.

    Video

    Notes

    Ingredient Substitutions
    • Pasta: You can easily make this dish gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta and pepperoni.
    • Vegetables: substitute your preferred vegetables if desired.
    • White balsamic vinegar. Regular balsamic vinegar works well too.
    • Olive oil. Both canola and avocado oil work well in this recipe. However I think olive oil is the best choice.
    • Dried seasoning. fresh herbs are great substitutes for the dried. 
    • Mozzarella. use either pearl mozzarella or chop a log of fresh mozzarella cheese into small cubes.
    • Pepperoni. For a lighter version use turkey pepperoni. For a vegetarian version, omit the pepperoni.
    Store
    Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I do not recommend freezing this recipe.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 0.33cup | Calories: 177kcal | Carbohydrates: 16.3g | Protein: 3.5g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5.5g | Cholesterol: 5.7mg | Sodium: 175mg | Potassium: 23.6mg | Fiber: 1.5g | Sugar: 2.8g | Vitamin A: 210IU | Vitamin C: 21.3mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 0.7mg

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Did you enjoy this recipe? Have a question? Leave a comment below!

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    4.79 from 38 votes (25 ratings without comment)

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    51 Comments

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you for sharing. Since I retired I don’t want to use plain old bottled dressing. I’m making it now for a party tomorrow. I added half the dressing and letting it marinade overnight, stir in remaining tomorrow to keep it moist. Dressing is great!

    1. 5 stars
      This is a KEEPER!! I made the salad vegetarian so no pepperoni and I don’t have mozzarella but I added everything else. The dressing is AMAZING!!! I added more salt (instead of 1/2 teaspoon I used 1 teaspoon). You could do so much with this salad. You could add fresh cherry tomatoes, and lots of other veggies. I think kidney beans might be good too! Thanks for a great recipe!

    2. 5 stars
      I too would like to know how to adjust the time for 20 uncooked tri-color rotini pasta?
      Thanks, I love your recipes.

    3. 5 stars
      I’m not on Instagram but I have glorious pictures of this! I’m gluten free and low fodmap so this was perfect yet delicious and easy to make for the meal prep! My husband eats ‘normal’ pasta but decided he would also eat this as was the best pasta salad he had tried 🙂 thank you!

    4. 5 stars
      I just made this with brown balsamic and it tasted great!!! Added fresh chopped zucchini and olives and it is beautiful! Thank you for the recipe !