Pasta Salad
Pasta Salad
5 from 1 vote
This is a light and refreshing pasta salad recipe made with a myriad of vegetables and freshly cut basil tossed in a light homemade vinaigrette dressing. The perfect side dish for any barbecue or party.
Pasta Salad

This pasta salad recipe is a great summer salad that is also very simple to make. Adjust this recipe according to the season and the produce available.

So, I have loads of pasta recipes because I love eating pasta for dinner. However, with spring edging in and summer right around the corner, what better recipe to share than this summer salad?

Personally, I like to use fusilli pasta, but other good pasta shapes are farfalle or fusilli. These pasta shapes are best as they don’t have smooth surfaces so the dressing can get trapped which adds lots of flavour to the dish.

When cooking the pasta, be sure to not overcook it. You don’t want mushy pasta in your salad.

The vegetables in this recipe can be interchanged depending on what you have available.

If you have been following me for a while you know that I love bell peppers, so I had to add them into this pasta salad recipe.

Capsicum is one of the healthiest vegetables available, providing numerous health benefits while being low in calories.

Bell peppers come in a variety of colours, and it depends on personal preference as to which colour to use in this recipe. A mixture of colours can even be used.

Capsicums start off green and as the vegetable matures, it turns yellow, then orange, then red.

Out of the four, the green peppers are the most bitter of the colours with the sweetest flavour from the red bell pepper.

Other vegetables I have added to this recipe are cucumbers, red onions, and cherry tomatoes.

In the winter not all vegetables are readily available, so I like to use winter vegetables such as parsnips and turnips.

Although I like to use basil, you can use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand.

Once you have decided on the ingredients for the salad and everything is prepared, the dressing needs to be prepared.

For this recipe I have a vinaigrette dressing is used. Although it is only made with 6 ingredients, this dressing adds an amazing flavour to the pasta and vegetables when combined.

If you are looking for a creamier pasta salad recipe then check out my tuna pasta salad recipe.

This pasta dish is all about the flavours and colours. Despite its simplicity and delicate flavour, this is the ideal summer salad to serve at family barbeques or garden parties.

What Ingredients to Use & Why

Fusilli Pasta: This corkscrew-shaped pasta is not only fun to look at, but also has a way of holding onto all those delicious flavours we’re about to throw at it. As a friendly alternative, you can go for rotini, farfalle, or penne. The pasta police won’t come after you, I promise!

Olive Oil: The smooth operator of the culinary world, olive oil keeps things from getting too sticky while adding a subtle hint of Mediterranean charm. You can swap it out for avocado oil, but let’s be real, you’ll miss that olive-y goodness.

Cucumber: The cool and refreshing star of the show, cucumber brings a crisp, hydrating vibe to your pasta salad. It’s like that friend who always stays chill, even during heated debates.

Red & Yellow Bell Peppers: These sweet, colourful twins add some vibrancy and crunch to the mix. They’re like the life of the party, making everything brighter and more fun. You can also use green or orange bell peppers for a different colour palette; they won’t mind sharing the spotlight.

Red Onion: The zesty, sharp flavour of red onion adds depth and kick to your pasta salad, like that witty friend who always has a clever remark. You can substitute with white or yellow onion, but they may not have the same punchlines.

Cherry Tomatoes: Little bursts of sunshine, cherry tomatoes are the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. They add a delightful pop of flavour to each bite. You can switch them out for grape tomatoes, but be prepared for a slightly different kind of tomato-y fun.

Olives: These salty, briny gems bring a taste of the Mediterranean to your pasta salad. They’re like the well-travelled friend who regales you with tales of their adventures. Can’t find olives? Try capers or artichoke hearts for a similarly exotic twist.

Basil: The fresh, fragrant green confetti that gives your salad a fancy Italian accent. Can’t find basil? Try parsley or cilantro, but don’t be surprised if your pasta salad starts speaking in a different dialect.

Salt & Black Pepper: The dynamic duo, adds a little pow to the flavour party. They bring out the best in all the other ingredients, like the ultimate wingmen.

Dressing Ingredients:

Olive Oil (again): Clearly, we can’t get enough of this Mediterranean magic. It’s the base of our dressing, making everything silky and smooth.

Red Wine Vinegar: A tangy twist to keep things interesting, like that one friend who always has a crazy story to tell. Apple cider vinegar can be a good sub, but it may not have the same gossip-worthy effect.

Dijon Mustard: A little spicy, a little fancy, and full of zing. This is the secret ingredient that makes your pasta salad taste like a million bucks. No Dijon? Whole-grain mustard could work, but you may need to borrow a bowtie for the occasion.

Garlic: Small but mighty, garlic adds a punch of flavour that brings everyone together. Can’t handle the heat? Try roasted garlic for a sweeter, mellower taste.

Salt & Black Pepper (again): Yup, they’re back. They’re like the cool uncles who show up at the end of the party to make sure everyone gets home safe.

Exploring Different Pasta Types for Your Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a versatile dish that can easily be customized to suit your tastes. While this recipe calls for penne, farfalle, or fusilli, you can undoubtedly experiment with other pasta shapes to create a unique and delightful dish.

For a more delicate salad, consider using orzo or ditalini. These small, rice-like pasta shapes blend seamlessly with the other ingredients, allowing the fresh veggies and dressing to shine.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to create a heartier dish, opt for rotini, radiatori, or even cavatappi. Their ridges and spirals capture the dressing and provide a satisfying bite.

When selecting pasta, keep in mind that whole wheat or whole grain options offer a nuttier flavour and added fibre, while gluten-free varieties made from rice, corn, or quinoa can cater to those with dietary restrictions.

Remember, the key to a fantastic pasta salad lies in choosing a shape that complements your desired texture and flavour profile.

Adding More Vegetables to Your Pasta Salad: Ideas for a Healthier Dish

Incorporating more vegetables into your pasta salad not only boosts its nutritional value but also introduces new colours, textures, and flavours.

For instance, blanched green beans or asparagus can add a vibrant hue and a delightful crunch, while marinated artichoke hearts contribute a tangy, briny element. Grilled zucchini or eggplant, on the other hand, lends a smoky depth and tender bite to the dish.

To incorporate seasonal flavours, consider adding sweet corn kernels, thinly sliced radishes, or baby spinach leaves. For a Mediterranean twist, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese are excellent additions.

When introducing new vegetables, be mindful of their cooking times and textures, ensuring they complement the overall dish.

Adapting the Pasta Salad for Gluten-Free and Vegan Diets

A gluten-free pasta salad is easily achievable by substituting regular pasta with a gluten-free variety made from rice, corn, or quinoa. These options often require close attention to cooking times and may benefit from a rinse in cold water after draining to prevent stickiness.

To create a vegan pasta salad, simply swap out any non-vegan ingredients, such as cheese or meat additions, with plant-based alternatives.

For example, replace feta cheese with vegan feta or tofu, and consider adding chickpeas, edamame, or tempeh for extra protein.

Customising the Dressing to Suit Dietary Preferences

The dressing in this pasta salad recipe is already vegan, but you can make adjustments to cater to specific dietary needs or preferences.

For a lower-fat option, try using a combination of vegetable broth and lemon juice instead of olive oil. Alternatively, you can use a dairy-free yoghurt or vegan mayonnaise as a creamy base.

For those who prefer a sweeter dressing, add a touch of maple syrup or agave nectar. If spice is your style, whisk in a dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes. The beauty of homemade dressings lies in their adaptability, so feel free to tweak the ingredients to create your ideal flavour profile.

Prepping and Storing Your Pasta Salad: Tips for Freshness and Flavor

Pasta salad is a fantastic make-ahead dish, as its flavours often meld and improve after a few hours or even overnight. To ensure the best taste and texture, prepare the pasta and vegetables, then toss them with half of the dressing.

Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Before serving, add the remaining dressing and any delicate ingredients, such as fresh herbs or avocado, to ensure they stay vibrant and fresh.

To store leftover pasta salad, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. Keep in mind that the texture of the pasta may soften over time. To refresh the salad, consider adding a splash of vinegar or lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, then toss to combine.

Swapping Red Wine Vinegar: Alternative Vinegar Options for Your Dressing

Red wine vinegar brings a robust, tangy flavour to the pasta salad dressing, but if you’re looking for a substitute, there are several options.

White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar offers a similar acidity and fruity tang, while balsamic vinegar imparts a richer, sweeter taste.

Rice vinegar, with its milder and slightly sweet profile, is another option, particularly for those who prefer a less acidic dressing.

When substituting vinegar, remember that each type has its unique flavour, so adjust the quantity as needed to achieve your desired taste.

Protein-Packed Pasta Salad: Ideas for a Hearty and Satisfying Meal

Transform your pasta salad into a protein-rich, complete meal by adding ingredients such as grilled chicken, shrimp, or tuna.

For a vegetarian option, consider incorporating marinated tofu, tempeh, or even legumes like chickpeas, white beans, or lentils. These protein sources not only make the dish more filling but also offer additional flavours and textures.

When adding protein, be mindful of cooking times and seasoning to ensure the final dish is balanced and cohesive.

Alternative Dressings: Creative Ways to Dress Your Pasta Salad

While the original dressing features a classic vinaigrette, you can certainly experiment with different dressings to suit your taste buds. For a creamy, tangy twist, try a Caesar or ranch dressing.

A zesty lemon-tahini dressing can add a nutty, Mediterranean flair, while an Asian-inspired sesame-ginger dressing brings an exotic, umami-rich element to the dish.

When selecting a new dressing, consider the flavours and textures of your pasta salad ingredients to ensure a harmonious, complementary result.

Dried Basil Versus Fresh Basil: How to Adapt Your Pasta Salad

While fresh basil imparts a vibrant, herbaceous note to the pasta salad, you can substitute dried basil if fresh is unavailable.

Since dried herbs are more concentrated in flavour, use about a third of the fresh amount called for in the recipe (approximately 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of dried basil).

To release the dried basil’s full flavour, rub it between your fingers or crush it in a mortar and pestle before adding it to the salad.

Serving Your Pasta Salad at Potlucks and Picnics: Tips for Success

Pasta salad is a popular choice for potlucks and picnics, thanks to its crowd-pleasing flavours and easy transportability. When serving your pasta salad at a gathering, consider the following tips:

  • Make a large batch to accommodate more guests and store it in a portable, sealable container for transport.
  • Keep the salad chilled until serving time, as it tastes best cold and can be sensitive to temperature fluctuations.
  • Provide a serving spoon or tongs to make it easy for guests to serve themselves.
  • Label your dish with its name and any dietary information (e.g., gluten-free, vegan) to help guests make informed choices.
  • Bring extra dressing or toppings in a separate container, allowing guests to customize their servings.

What are the common mistakes to avoid in pasta salad?

Pasta salad is a classic dish that’s perfect for picnics, barbecues, and potlucks. It’s a versatile dish that can be customized to suit different tastes and dietary restrictions.

However, making pasta salad can be a bit tricky, and even experienced cooks can make mistakes. In this article, we’ll discuss the five common mistakes to avoid when making pasta salad.

Overcooking the pasta – Overcooking pasta can make it mushy and lose its shape. Always cook pasta al dente or slightly firm to the bite. Rinse cooked pasta in cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent it from sticking together.

Adding dressing too soon – Adding dressing to warm pasta can cause the dressing to be absorbed quickly, leaving the salad dry. Let the pasta cool completely before adding the dressing. Toss the salad again before serving to distribute the dressing evenly.

Skipping the seasoning – Pasta salad can be bland if not seasoned well. Use herbs like basil, parsley, and thyme, and spices like garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika to add flavour.

Not adding enough veggies – Pasta salad is an excellent opportunity to add vegetables to your diet. Use a variety of colourful vegetables like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots to add texture, flavour, and nutrition to your pasta salad.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be able to make a delicious and flavorful pasta salad that everyone will love.

Is it better to make pasta salad the day before?

Pasta salad is a delicious and refreshing dish that’s perfect for summer gatherings. If you’re planning to make pasta salad for an event, you may wonder if it’s better to make it the day before. In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of making pasta salad the day before.


The flavours meld together – Making pasta salad the day before allows the flavours to meld together, resulting in a more flavorful dish.

Saves time – Preparing pasta salad can be time-consuming, so making it the day before can save time on the day of the event.

Easier to transport – Chilling pasta salad overnight makes it easier to transport without spilling or spoiling.


The pasta can become mushy – If the pasta is left in the dressing for too long, it can become mushy and lose its texture.

Vegetables can become soggy – Vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes can release water when left in the dressing for too long, causing them to become soggy.

The salad may dry out – If too much dressing is added, the pasta salad may dry out overnight, requiring the addition of more dressing the next day.

Making pasta salad the day before has its advantages and disadvantages. To ensure a delicious pasta salad, it’s best to make it the night before and add the dressing just before serving.

How do you make pasta salad less bland?

Pasta salad is a classic dish that’s easy to make, but it can be bland if not seasoned properly. In this article, we’ll share some tips on how to make pasta salad less bland.

Use a variety of herbs – Adding herbs like basil, parsley, and oregano can add flavour and freshness to your pasta salad.

Add spices – Spices like garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika can add depth and complexity to the flavour of your pasta salad.

Use a flavorful dressing – A flavorful dressing can make a big difference in the taste of your pasta salad. Use a vinaigrette dressing with a mix of olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, or try a creamy dressing with yoghurt, lemon juice, and herbs.

Add salty ingredients – Adding salty ingredients like feta cheese, olives, and capers can add a burst of flavour to your pasta salad.

Use roasted vegetables – Roasting vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant can bring out their natural sweetness and add a smoky flavour to your pasta salad.

Experiment with different pasta shapes – Different pasta shapes can have different textures and flavours. Try using fusilli, farfalle, or rotini to add more interest to your pasta salad.

Let the salad sit – Allowing your pasta salad to sit for a few hours before serving can allow the flavours to meld together, resulting in a more flavorful dish.

Making pasta salad less bland is easy with a few simple tips. By using a variety of herbs and spices, adding salty ingredients, using a flavorful dressing, experimenting with pasta shapes, and allowing the salad to sit, you can create a delicious and flavorful pasta salad that everyone will love.

How long will pasta salad keep in the refrigerator?

Pasta salad is a popular dish for summer gatherings, but it’s important to store it properly to ensure it stays safe to eat. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “How long will pasta salad keep in the refrigerator?”

If the pasta salad contains mayonnaise or dairy-based dressing, it should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature and can cause food poisoning. Once you’ve served your pasta salad, it’s important to refrigerate any leftovers immediately.

In the refrigerator, pasta salad can last for up to five days if stored properly. To store pasta salad, transfer it to an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. Make sure the container is tightly sealed to prevent any air from getting in, which can cause the pasta salad to dry out.

If you’re planning to store pasta salad for longer than five days, it’s best to freeze it. Frozen pasta salad can last for up to three months. To freeze pasta salad, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and label it with the date.

When you’re ready to eat it, thaw the pasta salad in the refrigerator overnight and give it a good stir before serving.

Pasta salad can last for up to five days in the refrigerator if stored properly. Remember to refrigerate any leftovers immediately and use them within five days. If you need to store pasta salad for longer, consider freezing it for up to three months.

Can I cook pasta the day before for pasta salad?

Preparing for a gathering or party can be stressful, and cooking everything on the day of the event can be overwhelming. One way to save time is to cook the pasta for your pasta salad the day before. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “Can you cook pasta the day before for pasta salad?”

Yes, you can cook pasta the day before for pasta salad. Cooking the pasta in advance can save time on the day of the event and allow you to focus on other preparations.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Toss the pasta with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together and transfer it to an airtight container. Store the pasta in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the pasta salad.

When you’re ready to make the pasta salad, remove the pasta from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to take the chill off.

Add your desired ingredients and dressing, and toss well to combine. You may need to add a bit more dressing if the pasta has absorbed some of the moisture.

It’s important to note that if you’re using a dairy-based dressing or mayonnaise, it’s best to add the dressing just before serving. These types of dressings can spoil quickly and should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Cooking pasta the day before for pasta salad is a great time-saving strategy. Just make sure to rinse the pasta in cold water, toss it with a bit of olive oil, and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

When you’re ready to make the pasta salad, let the pasta sit at room temperature for a few minutes before adding your desired ingredients and dressing.

With these tips, you can make delicious pasta salad without the stress of cooking everything on the day of the event.

Conclusion: My Favourite Way to Serve and Enjoy

Oh, the Best Pasta Salad, how you’ve won my heart! As I stand here, surrounded by veggies and pasta, I can’t help but feel like I’ve conquered the culinary world. I mean, who wouldn’t want to dig into this colourful masterpiece, right?

Picture this: you’re biting into a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, then reaching out for some Buffalo Wings, only to wash it all down with a sip of Green Tea (because, you know, I’m all about balance).

But wait, there’s more! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you sneak a slice of Red Velvet Cake and a slurp of Blueberry Smoothie to satisfy that ever-lingering sweet tooth.

Yup, this Pasta Salad has become the sidekick we never knew we needed, like the Robin to our Batman, the Chewbacca to our Han Solo. So go forth, my friends, and let this Pasta Salad bring joy and laughter to your next meal – your taste buds will thank you!

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Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

by Nabeela Kauser
This is a light and refreshing pasta salad recipe made with a myriad of vegetables and freshly cut basil tossed in a light homemade vinaigrette dressing. The perfect side dish for any barbecue or party.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 6
Calories 458 kcal


  • 500 g Pasta Fusilli
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Cucumber Diced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper Diced
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper Diced
  • 1 Red Onion Diced
  • 200 g Cherry Tomatoes Halved
  • 50 g Olives Pitted and halved
  • 15 g Basil Chopped
  • Salt To taste
  • Black Pepper To taste

For the dressing:

  • 50 ml Olive Oil
  • 30 ml Red Wine Vinegar
  • 5 ml Dijon Mustard
  • 1 clove Garlic Minced
  • Salt To taste
  • Black Pepper To taste


  • Cook the pasta according to the package instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water, until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, olive oil, diced cucumber, bell peppers, red onion, cherry tomatoes, black olives, and basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and pepper, until well combined.
  • Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss until well coated.
  • Serve the pasta salad cold, and enjoy!


Nutritional facts:
The provision of nutritional information is done so merely as a courtesy and should not be taken as a guarantee.


Calories: 458kcalCarbohydrates: 68gProtein: 12gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 236mgPotassium: 421mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 436IUVitamin C: 50mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 2mg
Keyword Food, Healthy, Pasta, Recipe, Salad
Tried this recipe?Mention @CookwithNabeela or tag #CookwithNabeela!

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Hi, I’m Nabeela and I love to cook! I want to share with you my favourite, delicious family-friendly recipes. I want to inspire you to create fantastic food for your family every day.

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