Easy Rotini Pasta Salad is my go-to dish for BBQs, potlucks and picnics. This cold pasta salad is flexible when it comes to ingredients and can easily be made a day, or even two, in advance. If you want a simple yet delicious summer side dish, this pasta salad fits the bill perfectly!
If you invite me to a potluck, there’s a good chance I’ll arrive with this pasta salad in hand. Truth be told, I have a bit of an issue with potlucks and picnics. I’m always worrying about food temperature and food safety. Tell me I’m not alone in this!
That is probably why I usually turn to this recipe when I need potluck ideas. While I’m not a food safety expert, I do like that this rotini pasta salad is made with olive oil and Italian dressing. No mayonnaise to go bad here!
Easy Pasta Salad
There are many reasons I love this delicious and easy pasta salad. To start, it is extremely easy to make. After making it a few times, you likely won’t even need to measure when you make it. It’s well suited for the “a bit of this and a handful of that” cooking method.
Next, this rotini pasta salad recipe is really flexible. It’s a great recipe for using items that you already have on hand. Think of the recipe as a guide and feel free to get creative with your ingredients.
Make Ahead Recipe
One of my favorite things about this recipe is that you can make it ahead of time. I often make this recipe the day or night before a potluck or picnic. If you are wondering can pasta salad be made the day before, this one can!
Easy To Transport
If you are going to a potluck or picnic, you might need a dish that is easy to transport. I find this one fits the bill perfectly.
You can transport this recipe in a bowl or casserole dish. You could even transport this salad in large Ziploc bags. This works great if you have a distance to drive and want to keep it cold. Put the bags in an ice chest and you’re off. Simply fill your serving containers upon arrival.
Popular Side Dish
Most importantly this side dish is always a popular potluck recipe! It’s delicious and there is rarely any left when I bring it to a meal. Even my pickiest eater loves this pasta salad, and while it’s a dish adults in joy, I find kids really gravitate to it.
What’s In Pasta Salad?
The answer is – it depends! With this flexible recipe you can change up the ingredients. This is definitely a recipe that can fit your tastes, what you have on hand or what ingredients are on sale.
Pasta Salad Ingredients
Here are the ingredients I typically use:
- Pasta (Rotini is my favorite, but feel free to use other shapes)
- Olive Oil
- Italian Dressing
- Black Olives
- Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
- Bell Peppers
- Parmesan Cheese
- Mozzarella Cheese (I chop up string cheese sticks)
- Red Onions
Some optional ingredients include chunks of chicken, salami, basil, parsley or feta cheese. Honestly you can really get creative with what you put into this recipe. Adding chicken can give you a one bowl meal!
If your family likes one ingredient, feel free to add more. If your family doesn’t like an ingredient, leave it out.
When it comes to the Italian dressing, this too is a matter of taste. Your favorite Italian salad dressing will work great. When I double this recipe for large groups, I typically use two different types of Italian salad dressing, just for more flavor.
How Do You Make Pasta Salad
First, cook your pasta according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, wash, cut and prep the other ingredients.
After the pasta has been cooked and drained, it’s time to add ingredients. This could not be simpler. Just add your ingredients and stir to mix in. Did I mention this is easy?
One thing I do advise is to chill your ingredients ahead of time if possible. I put most of my ingredients in the fridge the night before. Even if they are shelf stable such as canned olives or salad dressing, I like to start with those ingredients cold. Except the olive oil, I never chill that.
How Much Pasta Salad Do I Need For A Pot Luck?
For this recipe, at a potluck or picnic, where there are many dishes, I estimate it feeds about 12-15 people. Depending on the size of your crowd and how many dishes are available to people, it may feed less or more.
This recipe is super easy to double or even triple. If you need to feed a much larger group, feel free to increase the recipe accordingly. Just double (or triple) all ingredients.
More Great Side Dish Recipes
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Ambrosia Fruit Salad
- KFC Coleslaw Recipe
- Summer Pasta Salad
- Crockpot Baked Beans
- Old Fashioned Macaroni Salad
- (The Best) Jiffy Cornbread
- Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole
Rotini Pasta Salad Recipe
Easy Pasta Salad
- 1 12 oz box rotini pasta
- 1 16 oz bottle Italian salad dressing
- 1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 6 oz can black olives
- 1 cup sliced or grated carrots
- 1 pint approximately 10oz container cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half if desired)
- 1 cup chopped broccoli florets bite size pieces
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese chunks
- Prepare rotini according to al dente package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- While rotini is cooking, prepare ingredients by cutting, slicing or chopping as needed.
- After draining and rinsing pasta with cold water, transfer to a large bowl. Add olives, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, bell pepper, onion and cheeses. Add salad dressing and 1/4 cup olive oil and stir well to combine.
- If pasta salad will be served the following day, add an additional 1/4 cup of olive oil just prior to serving and stir to combine. 1/4 cup of salad dressing can be used in it's place if you have an open bottle of salad dressing on hand. This helps compensate for any liquids absorbed overnight by the pasta.
Looking for other potluck recipe ideas? My friends at Real Housemoms have a delicious Rainbow Macaroni Salad recipe that is perfect for a picnic. Mary over at Barefeet In The Kitchen has a great Basil Fruit Salad recipe that would be fabulous for those summer picnics, BBQs and potlucks.