While I’ve made many kinds of pasta salads for the family and for entertaining over the years, nothing quite beats this Classic Tri Color Rotini Pasta Salad that’s made in just 20 minutes from scratch.
The tri-color rotini pasta salad does a great job of locking in all the flavors from the homemade Italian dressing while the rest of the veggie salad ingredients provide a delicious contrast of crunchy crisp texture, added juiciness, and bulk – it is an ideal pasta salad for a July 4th barbeque!
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Tri Color Pasta Salad
- Easy Pasta Salad. Classic Pasta Salad takes you back to the basics of an easy pasta salad while still hitting the mark when it comes to flavorful fresh and crunchy salad ingredients mixed in with tender saucy pasta.
- Pasta Salad For Barbecue. This traditional pasta salad is perfect alongside various grilled meats. It’s my go-to pasta salad when the warmer weather arrives and we enjoy regular cookouts.
- Versatile. You can vary the salad ingredients to suit your taste preferences. Most pasta salad recipes are extremely versatile and this classic pasta salad is no different!
Why This Rotini Pasta Salad Recipe Works
- Step By Step Instructions. This Classic Pasta Salad recipe includes step-by-step instructions with photos for making the salad from scratch. There’s no way that you’ll get lost along the way.
- Common Ingredients. Most of the ingredients used in this recipe are likely to already be in your pantry, and if not, are readily accessible in your local grocery store.
- Quick. Apart from the chilling time, you only need to spare 20 active minutes of your time to make this salad.
- Recipe Tips. You don’t need to scroll too far before coming across helpful recipe tips and tricks to make your salad assembly stress-free and enjoyable.
- Tried and True. I’ve been making this Classic Pasta Salad for the family for years which means that you can trust that I’m guiding you from tried and true techniques and processes.
- Customizable. Recipe variations have been included in case you want to mix things up, or try something new to keep things interesting for yourself and the family.
- Serving Suggestions. Serving suggestions are provided in this recipe that you can use to enjoy this hearty pasta salad to the maximum!
What Do I Need To Make This Classic Pasta Salad
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Below, I discuss the ingredients and possible substitutions if you don’t have a specific ingredient. However, if you are looking for the specific measurements of each ingredient, scroll down to the bottom of this article, just above the comments, for the printable recipe card, which includes all the ingredients and the specific amounts of each one.
- Tri-color Rotini Pasta – I love using this pasta as it’s great for soaking up the dressing but you could use smaller pasta. Other pasta that works well in this dish includes bowties, macaroni noodles, cavatappi, ditalini, orzo, or orecchiette.
- Salami – I’ve used deli genoa salami but you could easily use diced ham, pepperoni, summer sausage, or hard salami instead.
- Grape tomatoes – Washed and halved.
- Mozzarella cheese – fresh and diced into small pieces but you could also use mozzarella pearls. Other cheese that works well in this pasta salad includes Monetary Jack, Muenster cheese, or pepper Jack.
- Green bell pepper – diced very small. You can opt to use only one color bell pepper or an assortment of red and green bell peppers.
- Red onion – Thinly sliced.
- Black olives – opt for canned sliced black olives. You will need to make sure that they are drained well.
- Green olives – opt for canned sliced green olives with pimento (red pepper). It provides a delicate sweet flavor. You will need to make sure that they are drained well.
- Olive oil – I always use a high quality olive oil in my recipes.
- Red wine vinegar
- Dijon mustard – You can use a yellow mustard instead if you need to.
- Garlic – you’ll need 1 clove worth of garlic, either pre-minced or mince fresh garlic instead.
- Parmesan cheese – Make sure to grate the parmesan cheese from a block instead of buying pre-shredded cheese. Freshly shredded cheese always tastes better.
- Sugar – Granulated.
- Kosher salt – this helps to bring out all the flavors of the ingredients.
- Black pepper – just enough to taste.
- Celery seed – This spice is great for providing the same flavor as fresh celery but without the bulk.
How To Make Tri-Color Rotini Pasta Salad With Italian Dressing
- In a large bowl, add deli salami 1/2 inch cubes, halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cubes, chopped green bell pepper, thinly sliced red onion, sliced black olives and green olives.
- Add cooked rotini pasta and stir together.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, parmesan cheese, sugar, salt, pepper, and celery seed until well combined.
- Pour the red wine vinaigrette into the bowl with the pasta salad, and toss the ingredients so everything is covered in the dressing. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and then serve.
- Storing Pasta Salad. You can prepare elements of this salad to store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator overnight, saving you some time and cleanup when assembling the salad to serve the following day.
- Chill. This salad needs about 1 hour of chill time so that all of the flavors from the ingredients blend together. Make sure that you factor this time in for best taste. Even though you could serve it immediately after assembling, it will always taste better after the allocated chill time.
- Toss Twice. Before serving this salad, be sure to toss it again as some of the dressing could have settled at the bottom in the refrigerator.
- Customize. You can easily use this classic pasta salad as a base recipe to add all of your favorite ingredients.
- Change The Meat. You can make use of other meats such as diced ham, pepperoni, summer sausage, or hard salami. If you really enjoy a meaty pasta salad then consider using a combination of these meat choices.
- Change The Vegetables. Change the mix of veggies in this pasta salad by using fresh broccoli florets, fresh zucchini, red or yellow peppers, carrots, pepperoncini, artichoke hearts, or fresh baby spinach.
- Different Mozzarella Type. You can use mozzarella pearls instead of cutting the block of mozzarella into cubes.
- Change The Cheese. My classic pasta recipes call for mozzarella and parmesan cheese. This salad also works well with the flavors provided by Monetary Jack, Muenster cheese, or pepper Jack.
- Change The Pasta. You can use smaller pasta than the rotini. Bowtie pasta, macaroni noodles, cavatappi, ditalini, orzo, or orecchiette are all great options.
- Vegetarian. For a vegetarian pasta salad, omit the salami. If you want a vegan-friendly pasta salad then you will need to find a vegan cheese in addition to removing the salami from the ingredients.
What To Serve With Tri Color Pasta Salad?
This Classic Pasta Salad is the perfect side dish to any of your cookouts but it’s just as delicious and is also hearty enough to be enjoyed as a main meal. Pair it with:
- Grilled Peach Tomato Salad
- Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Grilled Mahi Mahi
- Barbecue Chicken Kabobs
- Greek Seasoned Porterhouse Steak
If you want a meatier pasta salad to enjoy as a meal on its own then consider adding is some shredded chicken. You will likely need to increase the salad dressing if including additional protein.
How Long Does Pasta Salad Last In The Fridge?
Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Any longer than that and the fresh salad ingredients will start to wilt and become soggy.
Can I Freeze Pasta Salad?
I don’t recommend storing this pasta salad in the freezer. Many of the ingredients in this pasta salad don’t freeze well.
Can I Make This Classic Pasta Salad Ahead Of Time?
Since you do need to chill the assembled salad for 1 hour in the refrigerator prior to serving, you could say that this already is a make-ahead dish.
With that said, you could save yourself even more time by preparing some of the salad components and storing them in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator the night before. That way, all you need to do is add the salad ingredients together the next day and allow the fully assembled salad to chill for 1 hour.
I do suggest making the pasta just prior to assembling the salad for chilling.
Why Do I Have To Chill This Rotini Pasta Salad?
Chilling this classic pasta salad for 1 hour in the fridge before serving allows the different flavors of the ingredients to blend together. Trust me, there’s a big taste difference between serving the salad immediately and allowing it to sit first. Don’t skip this step!
How Long Should I Cook The Rotini Pasta?
Most instructions on the packaging of pasta state to cook the pasta for 6-8 minutes although this can vary depending on the size and thickness of pasta.
You want to make sure that you only cook your pasta until it is ‘al dente’ which means that it slightly undercooked. The pasta won’t be ultra soft at this stage which is good since it will continue cooking onc removed from the boiling water. By the time that you combine this pasta with the other salad ingredients and allow it to chill, it’ll be the perfect texture!
How Many Calories are in This Pasta Salad?
Based on the automatic calculation below in the recipe card, there are 522 calories in this Tri-color Rotini Pasta Salad when divided into 8 servings.
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Tri-Color Rotini Pasta Salad Recipe
Tri-Color Rotini Pasta Salad
- 12 ounces tri-color rotini pasta
- 4 ounces deli genoa salami (cut into 1/4 inch slices)
- 1 pint grape tomatoes (cut in half)
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese block (small diced)
- 1 cup small-diced green bell pepper
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup canned sliced black olives (drained)
- 1/4 cup canned sliced green olives with pimento (drained)
Cook The Rotini
- Cook the tri-color rotini pasta per the instructions on the back of the box to al dente. Drain and rinse the rotini with cold water to stop it from cooking, drain well. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.
Make the Italian Dressing
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, grated parmesan cheese, sugar, salt, black pepper, and celery seed until well combined.
Make The Pasta Salad
- Cut the Genoa salami into half inch cubes, and add to the bowl with the halved cherry tomatoes, cubed or pearled mozzarella, chopped green bell pepper, thinly sliced red onion, black olives, and green olives, and pasta. Set aside.
- Pour the Italian dressing into the bowl and toss the ingredients so everything is covered in the dressing. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for one hour and then serve.
- You can prepare elements of this salad to store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator overnight, saving you some time and cleanup when assembling the salad to serve the following day.
- This salad needs about 1 hour of chill time so that all of the flavors from the ingredients blend together. Make sure that you factor this time in for best taste. Even though you could serve it immediately after assembling, it will always taste better after the allocated chill time.
- Before serving this salad, be sure to toss it again as some of the dressing could have settled at the bottom in the refrigerator.
- You can easily use this classic pasta salad as a base recipe to add all of your favorite ingredients.