Best Pasta Salad Recipe (Homemade Dressing)

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This is the best pasta salad recipe! A flavorful homemade dressing and roasted tomatoes make it stand out from the rest. It is a delicious, healthy, 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


What is a BBQ without an awesome pasta salad? This pasta salad recipe with homemade dressing is always the hit of the party, and a must-add to any summer gathering menu. It’s a go-to for me 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! The perfect compliment to anything you decide to toss on the barbecue.

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

How to make Pasta Salad with Homemade Dressing

This homemade pasta salad recipe is SO easy to make, which is one of the reasons I love it. Even making your own dressing is so simple!

Roast the tomatoes 

One thing that sets this pasta salad recipe apart from all the rest is the addition of roasted baby tomatoes. A little secret about yours truly…I do NOT like raw tomatoes! (Gasp)! It’s true! I’m a raw-mater hater!

However…I could eat roasted tomatoes all day long! The roasting really brings out the sweetness and imparts of depth of flavor that just can’t be beat…which is why they shine in this easy pasta salad recipe!

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!

two overhead photos of a baking metal baking pan. The left shows tomatoes before roasting, the right shows the tomatoes after they have been roasted

Make the homemade Italian dressing

What sauce to put in pasta salad?  This is a question that gets asked a lot about pasta salad recipes, and of course my answer is a Homemade Dressing! In a pinch I have tried bottled dressings and always regret it.

The Homemade White Balsamic Italian Dressing in this pasta salad recipe literally takes 3 minutes to toss together and shake up! TOTALLY worth it! No processed ingredients or additives here!

A note a on white balsamic vinegar. 

I love white balsamic vinegar for both the taste and the color! It doesn’t turn the pasta salad an off-putting brown color like regular balsamic vinegar. However, if you don’t keep the white variety on hand, and don’t care if your pasta salad recipe turns out a little darker, then regular balsamic vinegar can totally be used with equally delicious results!

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

Assemble the pasta salad

Once you have roasted the tomatoes and made the dressing, this recipe comes together in no time! Here are a few notes on the method:

  1. Chopping veggies. We prefer our vegetables to be chopped pretty small, so that we can get a little of everything in each bite. To make this even easier a food processor can be used to dice them up very quickly.
  2. Rinse the pasta. Rinsing the pasta will cold water after it ha been fully cooked will ensure it doesn’t become over-cooked, and will keep it from absorbing too much dressing.
  3. Adding the dressing. As you can see in the recipe video, the homemade dressing is added to the pasta salad after the hearty vegetables and cheese have been mixed in with the pasta. Be sure to evenly coat everything before adding the parmesan cheese and the fragile roasted tomatoes!
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.

Store

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

Recipe FAQs

Here are a few more important notes about this recipe!

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.

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

Best Pasta Salad Recipe: Ingredients & Substitutions 

Here are a few notes on the ingredients and possible substitutions in this easy 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.

How to make this pasta salad recipe vegan: 

If you leave out the pepperoni and fresh mozzarella you have yourself a vegan version…however those are two of my favorite ingredients in this salad…so I would only omit if absolutely necessary!

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 is the best pasta salad recipe! A flavorful homemade dressing and roasted tomatoes make it stand out from the rest. It is a delicious, healthy, make-ahead BBQ side dish  full of fresh veggies, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella cheese.
4.78 from 36 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 oz (4 cups) uncooked tri-color rotini pasta, or gluten-free rotini
  • 1 cup pepperoni diced
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese cubed
  • 1 small cucumber diced
  • 2 cups bell pepper diced (colors of your choice)
  • 2 (6 oz) cans sliced black olives
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing:

Roasted tomatoes:

Instructions 

Make the dressing:

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

Cook the pasta:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.
  • When finished, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Roast your tomatoes:

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Slice your 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.

Putting it all together:

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

Video

Notes

This pasta salad recipe makes a lot of salad. It can easily be halved to feed a smaller crowd!

Ingredient Substitutions

  • 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.

Store

You can 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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Recipe Rating




49 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’m super excited to serve this at my best friends bridal shower tomorrow. I LOVED making the entire recipe and I had to stop myself from eating it as I crafted it!! Thank you for this!!!

  2. 5 stars
    I had this pasta salad Sunday when I went to visit my granddaughter her husband and my two great-grandchildren 🙂 I can honestly say this was the best pasta salad I’ve ever had and I do love my pasta salad and it’s hard to find a really good one. My granddaughter gave me the link for the recipe. I live in a senior community and I’m going to make it very soon for a potluck dinner we’re having. And I must say it’s all about that dressing wow it is delicious.

  3. This looks great and I’d like to try it. I have a question about the tomatoes, though. Can they be roasted a day or two ahead of time? I assume just stored in a sealed baggie until needed? Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Martha! Theoretically they can be, but I’m afraid they might get too mushy. I think part of the flavor comes from them being immediately incorporated into the pasta salad!

  4. 5 stars
    This was a big hit with my family. Love love love the dressing and love the white balsamic. The recipe called for “grated” Parmesan cheese but I used “shredded” because it looked so pretty on the picture.

    1. It is PERFECT picnic food!!! You can make it the night before and toss it in your basket for a great meal outdoors! 🙂

  5. Yum! Love the idea of roasting the tomatoes. I bet that ads all sorts of depth to the dish! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  6. This looks heavenly! I’ve never had a pasta salad with roasted tomatoes before and now I can’t wait to try this! Pinned for later! 🙂

    1. Oh my word you must give it a whirl! Roasted tomatoes seriously enhance the flavor of all the other ingredients beautifully!

  7. Your Pasta Salad will be delicious, I just love this combination of flavor. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday and have a fabulous weekend and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  8. I love summer salads. Looks yummy! I’m visiting today from #shinebloghop. Pinned to my recipe board.