This tri color pasta salad with Italian dressing is perfect for a crowd! Bring it to your next picnic or barbeque and it’ll be gone in minutes.
I grew up eating this pasta salad every summer holiday I can remember.
It features bright tri color pasta, savory olives, crunchy carrots and broccoli, spicy pepperoni slices, mozzarella cheese and a tangy Italian dressing.
It’s delicious and so easy to make!
COOK 12 oz. tri-color pasta according to the package directions; DRAIN and place it in a big salad bowl in the fridge to cool.
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, CHOP 2 large carrots, 1/2 red onion and 1 head broccoli and add it to the bowl of pasta along with 3 oz. sliced pepperoni and a 6 oz. can of olives and TOSS.
ADD about half the amount of 8 oz. Italian salad dressing and STIR to combine. ADD half the cheese from 8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese and MIX . ADD the rest of the dressing and MIX well. FINISH with the remaining cheese on top.
You can really use any short pasta for pasta salad, but my favorite is the tri colored rotini.
The noodles catch a lot of dressing and cheese in their spirals and the colors brighten up the dish.
Tri color pasta is made with the same ingredients as traditional pasta, with the addition of food coloring. This can be natural food coloring, typically made from spinach and tomato.
Pasta is typically made from wheat and flour (if not gluten free).
Tri color pasta has the same taste as regular pasta. The color is just there for a festive touch. Most people choose to use tri color pasta simply to make their dishes more aesthetically pleasing.
According to the USDA, pasta salad should not sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
If you’re outside on a hot day, you should cut that time at least in half!
Even though this is traditionally a pasta side dish recipe, I’ll serve this as the main course for summer dinners paired with fruit, corn on the cob, or chips.
You can also serve pasta salad with this delicious grilled balsamic bruschetta chicken or these grilled sausage kabobs and easy cheesy drop biscuits.
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
I never make this easy Italian pasta salad with red onions. I don’t like how strong they are. My mom always includes them and I always pick them out.
You can omit the broccoli and carrots and replace them with tomatoes if you want a pasta salad that’s similar to a pizza.
If regular-sized pepperonis are nowhere to be found, I’ll use the cute bite-sized ones. They’re great because there’s no chopping required.
I’ve also started using the Kraft Tuscan House Italian Dressing instead of their zesty variety and it adds a lot of extra flavor to the dish.
If you’re making this pasta salad recipe close to serving time, make sure you give the dressing enough time to soak into the vegetables.
You’ll need to separate the pepperonis after you cut them or they’ll all bunch together and result in a big pepperoni clump in the salad.
This pasta salad makes the best leftovers! I find the flavors are even better after it’s been in the refrigerator overnight. And because it’s served cold, it’s perfect to pop in a cooler and take to the park or splash pad.
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I hope your family loves this pasta salad recipe! If you make it, be sure to take a picture and tag me on Instagram with @ashcroftfamilytable and use the hashtag #ashcroftfamilytable.
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Tri Color Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
- 1 12 ounce package tri-color pasta
- 3 ounces sliced pepperoni
- 2 large carrots
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 broccoli head
- 1 6 ounce can olives
- 1 cup Italian salad dressing
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- Cook the pasta according to package directions and place in a large mixing bowl to cool in the refrigerator.
- 15 minutes before serving, cut the pepperoni slices in half.
- Peel and slice the carrots, chop the red onion, and chop the broccoli flowerettes into bite-sized pieces.
- Add the pepperoni, vegetables, and olives to the cooled pasta.
- Add half of the Italian dressing and stir to combine.
- Add half of the cheese and mix well.
- Mix in the rest of the dressing and finish with the remaining cheese on top.