Table of Contents
  1. This may be the best pasta salad you've ever had.
  2. Why make homemade dressing when buying a bottle from the store is so easy?
  3. Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.
  4. Here’s how to make this recipe.
  5. These pro tips will make this recipe a success.
  6. Frequently asked questions about this recipe.
  7. Other summertime recipes that you'll love making.
  8. Watch how to make this recipe
  9. Have I convinced you to make this recipe?
  10. Easy Pasta Salad Recipe

A traditional pasta salad means spiral pasta paired with broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, and topped with a simple Italian dressing. All that and it takes less than thirty minutes to make! It’s really simple, it’s quick to make, and it’s perfect for summer.

This may be the best pasta salad you’ve ever had.

There’s an unspoken rule when it comes to pasta salad: it needs to be full of flavor or no one will bother to eat it. And at its core, this classic recipe is a simply a side dish that’s made with ingredients we often have in the pantry. The magic happens when a quick homemade dressing is mixed together, one that uses dried herbs, white wine vinegar, and lemon juice. The result is a bright, Italian-style dressing that blows away any store-bought bottle. When the dressing is mixed with the pasta and fresh vegetables, you’ll taste why this is a must-make for any summer party.

If you’re looking for other summertime side dishes, make sure to try my fresh herb pasta salad, my grandma’s truly homemade baked beans recipe that’s incredibly flavorful, or my easy-to-make macaroni salad. You’ll love them all!

Light yellow colored spiral pasta noodles mixed with pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, and red onion with Italian dressing poured over top in glass bowl.

Why make homemade dressing when buying a bottle from the store is so easy?

It’s no lie: dressing purchased at the store is convenient. Growing up, we always had some form of dressing from the store in the refrigerator. So why bother to make it at home? When you chose to make dressing at home, you’re choosing better ingredients, less artificial ingredients, and best of all, more flavor. Making dressing becomes muscle memory and after a few times making it, you’ll know all the steps and not even think about buying any. This pasta salad dressing is simple and since we can handpick each flavor, the outcome is far superior to any mass-produced dressing.

Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.

Since this recipe is simple and somewhat customizable, the ingredients are pantry staples. But each ingredient is handpicked for a specific reason. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Dijon mustard is added as an emulsification agent. One warning on this: you will not achieve perfect emulsification with this dressing, but that’s the point. A small amount of mustard will help bind the ingredients for a short time before everything’s mixed with the pasta.
  • Shallot is the traditional allium of choice for a dressing. It has a lighter, sweeter flavor than other onions and mixes well into the dressing without being too strong.
  • Garlic is essential in an Italian-style dressing. By pressing or smashing the garlic, you release the most pungent flavor. The acidity from the other components in the dressing will temper the strong flavor of the garlic so it marries easily into the dressing.
  • White wine vinegar, as opposed to distilled white vinegar, is sweeter and adds something more than just acidity to the dressing.
  • Honey is the element of sweetness that’s used to balance out the sharpness of the other flavors in the dressing. But know that a little bit goes a long way. If you don’t have honey on hand, a small amount of sugar will do the same thing.
  • Olive oil provides the base for the entire dressing. Since there’s a large amount in the dressing, it’s the dominant flavor. Thus, it’s important to choose a good olive oil.
White countertop filled with all types of ingredients needed to make pasta salad recipe including big bowl of pasta, red onion, spices, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Here’s how to make this recipe.

  1. Cook the pasta. Boil water in a large kettle on the stove. Before adding the pasta, add a bit of salt. This helps to season the pasta and is the only time at which the pasta can be salted. Add in the pasta and allow it to cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing.
  2. Prepare the Italian dressing. In a small bowl or a salad shaker, combine the Dijon mustard, dried oregano, dried thyme, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, shallot, minced garlic, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, and olive oil. Whisk (or shake) everything to make sure the dressing is emulsified. Once combined, set aside until ready to assemble the pasta salad.
  1. Drain the pasta and slice up the vegetables. After draining the pasta, place it in a large bowl. Place the chopped broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, and parsley on top.
  1. Pour the dressing over the pasta. Even though it may seem like a lot of dressing, make sure to use it all. The dressing will soak into the still-warm pasta, so there will end up being less once combined.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together. Make sure the dressing coats all of the ingredients so that no bite is left without the Italian flavoring.

These pro tips will make this recipe a success.

  • When combining the pasta, vegetables, and dressing, the pasta can still warm to the touch but not hot. Hot pasta would soak in too much of the dressing but slightly warm pasta will allow the pasta to soak in some of the dressing once it’s poured over the pasta and vegetables.
  • When chopping up the broccoli and cauliflower, do not throw at the stems. These stalk-like pieces work so well when thrown into the pasta salad along with the florets. Rather than waste, these pieces are completely edible.
  • Make this recipe a few hours before serving and place it in the refrigerator. The entire mixture will cool down and the dressing will have time to soak into the pasta. This will make the dressing more robust as it combines with all of the ingredients.
Glass bowl filled with yellow colored spiral pasta with pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, and chopped parsley mixed in.

Frequently asked questions about this recipe.

Can any type of pasta be used in this recipe?

Spiral pasta will work the best because it grabs onto the Italian dressing really well, but other pastas work as well. Penne, bow tie, and even spaghetti work for this recipe.

What other vegetables would work well in addition, or in substitution, to the broccoli and cauliflower?

Any crunchy vegetables will work in this pasta salad. Make sure to dice them in small uniform pieces. Carrot, cucumber, bell peppers, and kohlrabi all work as substitutions or additions.

Can fresh spices be used in the Italian dressing instead of dried spices?

Of course fresh herbs will work in this recipe. When it’s summer and you have an abundance of herbs, it’s wonderful to be able to use them in many different ways. Use approximately double the amount of fresh herbs as compared to dried herbs. Also, if you’re looking for a more herb-forward recipe, try my fresh herb pasta salad.

Do the red pepper flakes have to be added to the dressing?

No, not at all. If you are spice-adverse, use a lesser amount than listed in the recipe. If you like spice, feel free to add even more than suggested. The crushed red pepper flakes do add a depth of flavor and the typical Italian dressing “zing,” so I would urge you to try the dressing as written before making modifications.

How far in advance can this recipe be made?

You can make this recipe the day before and have it remain fresh. If making a day ahead, reserve half of the dressing and add it one hour before serving to ensure the pasta does not soak up too much of the dressing. Personally, I prefer to make this at least a few hours in advance of serving, just to ensure that all of the flavors marry together.

How long will this pasta salad last in the refrigerator?

Any remaining pasta salad will keep at least one week in the refrigerator. That means this is perfect for leftovers, lunches, and late-night snacks.

Watch how to make this recipe

More summer recipes

Have I convinced you to make this recipe?

I hope you make this recipe and put some food on your dessert table. Leave a comment and share a star rating so you let others know how much you love this recipe. This helps show others that this is a recipe they too can make, enjoy, and love!

Glass bowl filled with spiral pasta salad mixed with cauliflower and broccoli and topped with Italian dressing sitting on white countertop.

Easy Pasta Salad

5 from 3 votes
A traditional pasta salad means spiral pasta paired with broccoli, cauliflower, and red onion, and topped with a simple Italian dressing. All that and it takes less than thirty minutes to make! It’s really simple, it’s quick to make, and it’s perfect for summer.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 12 servings

Ingredients

For the pasta

  • 16 oz spiral pasta
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 3 tbsp minced parsley

For the dressing

  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ tbsp minced shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • cup olive oil

Instructions
 

For the salad

  • In a large stockpot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp salt and the pasta. Boil the pasta until al dente, slightly underdone, 8-10 minutes. Once cooked, drain the pasta and run it under cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
    16 oz spiral pasta
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked and cooled pasta, chopped broccoli, chopped cauliflower, diced red onion, and minced parsley. Pour over the dressing (directions below) and stir. Cover and store in the refrigerator at least one hour before serving.
    1 cup chopped broccoli, 1 cup chopped cauliflower, ½ cup diced red onion, 3 tbsp minced parsley

For the dressing

  • In a medium bowl, combine the Dijon mustard, oregano, thyme, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, shallot, garlic, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, and olive oil. Whisk to combine and set aside until the salad is ready to combine.
    2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 ½ tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried thyme, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp black pepper, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, 1 ½ tbsp minced shallot, 2 cloves garlic, ¼ cup white wine vinegar, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp honey, ⅔ cup olive oil

Notes

  • When combining the pasta, vegetables, and dressing, the pasta can still warm to the touch but not hot. Hot pasta would soak in too much of the dressing but slightly warm pasta will allow the pasta to soak in some of the dressing once it’s poured over the pasta and vegetables.
  • When chopping up the broccoli and cauliflower, do not throw at the stems. These stalk-like pieces work so well when thrown into the pasta salad along with the florets. Rather than waste, these pieces are completely edible.
  • Make this recipe a few hours before serving and place it in the refrigerator. The entire mixture will cool down and the dressing will have time to soak into the pasta. This will make the dressing more robust as it combines with all of the ingredients.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 261kcal | Carbohydrates: 31.1g | Protein: 5.5g | Fat: 13.1g | Saturated Fat: 1.9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 127.6mg | Potassium: 165.2mg | Fiber: 1.9g | Sugar: 2.3g | Vitamin A: 7.4IU | Vitamin C: 14.1mg | Calcium: 22.3mg | Iron: 1.6mg
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Difficulty Easy
Method Cooking

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Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We made the Brats with peppers & onions & your grandmas baked beans

    Simply outrageous meal

    Thanks so much Kaleb ❤️❤️😍😍👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

    Happy 4th of July weekend 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🍾🍷🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  2. This has been my summer go to salad. I have made it many times for at home and to take to parties. It is easy to make and very good.