Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing

Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing

This easy, throw together Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing is loaded with crisp veggies, juicy tomatoes, chickpeas, cheddar cheese, and green olives. It’s bright and fresh with a zesty Italian flavor!

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When I think of a classic pasta salad, this Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing is it! We use spiral noodles, crisp veggies, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives, and cheddar cheese cubes. We skip the store-bought dressing and toss everything with our zesty Homemade Italian Dressing. It’s irresistibly good and a quintessential potluck barbeque side everyone enjoys.

Pasta salad is also super versatile so depending on what you have in the veggie and cheese drawer, toss it in! This is also a great side dish that can be made on a whim. It’s a cinch to whip up and you only need a handful of ingredients.

My favorite thing about Pasta Salad is the leftovers. I think it tastes even better as the flavors have a chance to sit and marry together. Plus, it lasts for several days in the refrigerator which means a quick an easy lunch option.



One of the things I’ve discovered over the years as a home cook is how easy it is to make homemade salad dressing. I usually have the ingredients on hand because great salad dressings are pretty simple, using basic pantry staples. Obviously grocery store items can be convenient, but when possible, it’s so much better to make dressings from scratch. It tastes fresher, and like I mentioned, easy; plus you know exactly what goes in it.

The Best Homemade Italian Dressing!

Let’s face it, the dressing for any pasta salad is everything! And when I say this Italian dressing is THE BEST, I mean it’s seriously the best homemade Italian dressing I’ve ever had! It’s herby, garlicky, and tangy. Perfect with all the fresh veggies and pasta. I use two secret ingredients ( I guess it’s no secret now) that really take this dressing over the top in my opinion. Pepperoncini’s and Parmesan Cheese. The pepperoncini’s add a nice briny flavor, while the parmesan is nutty and offers a thicker, more creamy like consistency. It’s ridiculously good.



Ingredients For Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing:

  • Spiral pasta
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Black or green olives
  • Cubed cheddar cheese
  • Chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • Parmesan cheese

Ingredients For Italian Dressing:

  • Olive oil (good quality)
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Fresh garlic
  • Dijon mustard
  • Pepperoncini’s
  • Honey or agave
  • Italian seasoning
  • Fresh parsley
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper


Lets talk Pasta!

There are several different pasta shapes that work great for pasta salads, but my heart will always be partial to corkscrew-like shaped pasta. The groves capture all the sauce from the dressing and it’s a softer and more tender pasta. Other pasta shapes used for pasta salads are Penne, Bowtie, Macaroni, and Orecchiette. You really can’t go wrong. It’s a matter of preference and what is available, or maybe what you have on hand.

Pasta Salad Is Easy and Fast To Make.

Step 1. Cook pasta according to package directions. I like it al dente.

Step 2. While the pasta cooks, prepare veggies, tomatoes, and cheese.

Step 3. Make the dressing in a mason jar or blender.

Step 4. Use a large bowl and layer pasta salad ingredients.

Step 5. Pour dressing over the top and toss to combine. That’s it!

Allow The Pasta Flavors To Marinate Before Serving.

This salad can be enjoyed right away, and if I’m being honest, my fork usually hits the serving bowl immediately after I’ve tossed in the dressing. If you have the extra time though (and restraint) to let the dressing do its magic, even better!



Make it a meal!

I could eat a bowl of cold Pasta Salad for dinner any day of the week. To make this even more filling and satisfying, add shredded chicken (rotisserie is super convenient) or your favorite salami.

Customize Your Pasta Salad:

One of the things I love so much about pasta salad is how easy it is to customize. I don’t always have my favorite ingredients like the ones I’ve used for this recipe, but there are plenty of other veggies, cheeses, pickled items, beans, and meats to be added for a great pasta salad. Use what you love. You really can’t mess it up!



Pro Tips:

  • Cook pasta al dente. If using a spiral pasta, especially, cook just until al dente. This will prevent the pasta from breaking apart when all the ingredients are tossed together.
  • Rinse pasta in cold water after it’s cooked. I would not recommend this for all pasta recipes, but for cold pasta salads, it’s necessary. First it stops the cooking. Second it removes the excess starch you don’t want or need when making a cold pasta salad.
  • Chop veggies into bite size pieces. I like to have the perfect bite of everything. A good rule of thumb is to chop all your veggies and pasta ingredients to the size of pasta you use.
  • Use a blender or mason jar to mix dressing. If you want a smoother consistency, use a blender to mix the ingredients until smooth. Mason jars work great because you can toss everything in and shake it up.
  • Use a large bowl to mix ingredients. This recipe makes a nice big bowl so make sure you use an extra large bowl to toss the ingredients together.
  • Use a microplane to grate the garlic clove. If you don’t mind having bits of garlic in the dressing, mincing will be just fine. I like the garlic flavor without biting into pieces of fresh garlic. A microplane will grate the garlic super fine so it basically melts into the dressing.

Make ahead Pasta Salad:

If you’re making this pasta salad more than 4 hours ahead of time, keep the dressing separate from the pasta ingredients. Toss everything together 30-minutes and up to 4 hours before serving. Give it another good toss before diving in!



Other Salads You Might Enjoy:

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Let’s eat!🤍

Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing

This easy, throw together Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing is loaded with crisp veggies, juicy tomatoes, chickpeas, cheddar cheese, and green olives. It's bright and fresh with a zesty Italian flavor!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 57 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8
Calories 533 kcal

Ingredients
  

Pasta Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fusilli or rotini shaped pasta see notes for other pasta options
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets cut in bite size pieces
  • 1 cup broccoli florets cut in bite size pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (6 oz) can whole green or black pitted olives, drained
  • 1 cup cubed cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • grated parmesan

Homemade Italian Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil make sure it's good quality
  • 4 tbsp red wine or white wine vinegar
  • 2 small lemons juiced and zested
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or minced
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp pepperoncini's, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp honey or agave
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
  • 3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese not the kind in the can
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Start by cooking the pasta according to package directions. I like my pasta al dente. Make sure to rinse the pasta well in a colander with cold water once it is cooked.
  • Meanwhile, prepare veggies, cheese, and other salad ingredients.
  • Make dressing by adding all the dressing ingredients to either a mason jar or blender. If blending, leave out the parmesan and mix it in using a whisk.

Assemble Pasta Salad:

  • Add noodles and other salad ingredients to a large bowl. Pour on all of the dressing. It will look like a lot but the pasta will absorb most of it. Toss with a large spoon until well coated and place in the refrigerator for at least 30-minutes before serving. Give it a good toss before diving in and sprinkle with extra parmesan if desired.

Notes

Tips:
 
    • Cook pasta al dente. If using a spiral pasta, especially, cook just until al dente. This will prevent the pasta from breaking apart when all the ingredients are tossed together.
    • Other Pasta shapes that work great for pasta salad: Penne, Bowtie, Macaroni, and Orecchiette. 
    • Rinse pasta in cold water after it’s cooked. I would not recommend this for all pasta recipes, but for cold pasta salads, it’s necessary. First it stops the cooking. Second it removes the excess starch you don’t want or need when making a cold pasta salad.
    • Chop veggies into bite size pieces. I like to have the perfect bite of everything. A good rule of thumb is to chop all your veggies and pasta ingredients to the size of pasta you use.
    • Use a blender or mason jar to mix dressing. If you want a smoother consistency, use a blender to mix the ingredients until smooth. Mason jars work great because you can toss everything in and shake it up.
    • Use a large bowl to mix ingredients. This recipe makes a nice big bowl so make sure you use an extra large bowl to toss the ingredients together.
    • Use a microplane to grate the garlic clove. If you don’t mind having bits of garlic in the dressing, mincing will be just fine. I like the garlic flavor without biting into pieces of fresh garlic. A microplane will grate the garlic super fine so it basically melts into the dressing.
    • Make ahead. If you’re making this pasta salad more than 4 hours ahead of time, keep the dressing separate from the pasta ingredients. Toss everything together 30-minutes and up to 4 hours before serving. Give it another good toss before diving in!
 
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be understood as an estimate rather than a guarantee. The Menu Maid makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
 
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving  
Calories 533
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 24g 31%
Saturated Fat 7.2g 36%
Cholesterol 25mg 8%
Sodium 288mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 62.3g 23%
Dietary Fiber 7.3g 26%
Total Sugars 6.8g  
Protein 20.5g  
Vitamin D 2mcg 10%
Calcium 265mg 20%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 380mg 8%
Keyword Broccoli, cauliflower, Cheddar cheese, chickpeas, Extra virgin olive oil, Fire roasted tomatoes, Fresh herbs, Garlic, Green olives, Homemade Italian dressing, pasta, Pasta salad recipe, veggies

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