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A bowl of pasta salad and a wooden spoon, zoomed in.
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5 from 1 vote

Easy Pasta Salad (Mom's Recipe)

This Pasta Salad is a bite from my childhood. It is overflowing with vegetables and reminds me of springtime and grilling with my parents. It is light enough for a hot day and is bursting with so much flavor.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Cooling Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: chicken pasta salad, cold pasta salad, easy pasta salad, pasta salad, pasta salad with italian dressing
Diet: Kid Friendly, Vegetarian
Cooking Method: Stove
Servings: 10
Calories: 68kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Cook pasta as directed on the box. When there are two minutes left in the cooking time, add the broccoli florets and diced carrots to blanch them.
  • When the pasta is cooked (a little al dente) strain the pasta, broccoli, and carrots - then rinse with cold water.
  • Spread the pasta, broccoli, and carrots out on a baking sheet with edges and drizzle with a little olive oil. Toss to fully coat the pasta and now leave it to cool. If you are in a time crunch, you can pop it in the refrigerator (10 - 15 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes.)
  • When the pasta has cooled, add it to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, olives, artichokes, and peas and toss to combine.
  • Pour ½ cup of dressing over the salad and toss to coat all the pasta lightly.
  • Cover and refrigerate until serving.
  • Top with remaining dressing right before serving or allow your guests to dress their own.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

🔢 Recipe Yield

This recipe makes 20 cups of pasta salad. If each person eats 1 cup or less, this recipe will easily serve 10 people. If you are anything like our family, it will probably only serve five people.

🍳 Serving Suggestions & Uses

Serve this pasta salad with Italian Salad Dressing (we recommend Ken's Italian) and keep it cold. It will be okay sitting on a table at a picnic for a few hours, but I recommend keeping it refrigerated when possible.

🙋‍♀️ Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of pasta is best for pasta salad?
You want to use a pasta that has a lot of nooks and crannies and little ridges for dressing to hide. (Don't use spaghetti, linguine, etc.) I love rotini best, but have also used bowties and that worked great!
What goes with cold pasta salad?
Pasta salad is mostly just a starch with a few vegetables mixed in it, so you'll want to serve it with some kind of protein. Hamburgers, Sandwiches, Fried Chicken, Grilled Chicken, or Hotdogs would all be great options.
Should you rinse pasta for cold pasta salad?
Making cold pasta salad is the only time you should ever rinse your pasta. Rinsing the pasta with cold water helps to stop the cooking process and will help it to cool down faster.
What is the best store-bought dressing for pasta salad?
The best dressing for pasta salad is Ken's Italian Dressing. Hands down. Other Italian dressings come close, but Ken's is by far the best.
Is it better to make pasta salad the day before?
Pasta salad can be made the day before, but I wouldn't go much beyond one day ahead of time. I will eat it for at least a week - but the pasta will get a little hard and dry over time, so ideally, you want to eat it right away.
How do you keep pasta from sticking together in pasta salad?
Drain the pasta, spread it out on a cooking sheet, drizzle a single layer of extra-virgin olive oil over it and allow it to cool. Spreading it out on the cooking sheet allows it to cool quickly and prevents it from overcooking and the olive oil will keep the pasta from sticking.
How much cooked pasta does ½ cup dry pasta make?
When using rotini, ½ cup of dry pasta will make about 1 cup of cooked pasta.

🥫 Storage/Shelf Life/Reheating

Store cold pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge. Preferably only coated with oil and a splash of dressing. For maximum freshness (and minimum sogginess) add dressing only right before serving.

📋 Tips - Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pasta Salad

  • Dressing the pasta salad too early. If the dressing sits on the pasta salad for too long, it will get absorbed and will make the pasta really soggy. Ew.
  • Not using the right type of pasta. When it comes to picking a pasta for your pasta salad, there are a lot of choices. The size and shape of the pasta actually does matter when making this summery side dish. I would avoid fresh pasta - it doesn’t hold up as well and will get mushy and gross. Also, while linguine and spaghetti are delicious, pasta salad isn’t really the dish to use them in. I prefer pastas like rotini, farfalle, and radiatore - lots of nooks and crannies for the dressing to seep into.
  • Overcooking or undercooking the pasta. Cold pasta salad is going to sit for a bit and also has to be so easily "stabbable" with a fork - forkable? I like to cook the pasta until it is al dente - if it is overcooked, it will fall apart and get mushy.

Nutrition

Serving: 2cups | Calories: 68kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 322mg | Potassium: 207mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1603IU | Vitamin C: 40mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg