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This Easy Vegetable Pasta Salad recipe is one of my go-to summer side dish recipes. It comes together in a snap and can be made ahead of time for a great menu addition!
It’s one of my favorite Cookout Side Dishes for BBQs and other spring and summer get-togethers. It’s great for indoor bbq food, too, like BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches or Baked Chili Cheese Dogs year round.
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Why We Love This Vegetable Pasta Salad Recipe
This salad is a fantastic starter pasta salad. It’s delicious, but you can also take it up a few notches with the right ingredients. Add your own flair and you’ll have everyone eating out of your hand…and asking for the recipe!
- Perfect for potlucks – Whether you’re headed to a Backyard BBQ or a church basement, this vegetable pasta salad is perfect!
- Easy and Fast – You can whip this pasta salad up in about 15 minutes!
- Clean out your Fridge – Grab whatever pasta you have on hand – doesn’t have to be rotini – and grab whatever raw veggies you have on hand. This recipe is super easy to customize.
- All the colors! You can substitute or add any of your favorite fresh vegetables. It’s all about a gorgeous dish that’s good for you.
- Make Ahead – You can make this recipe a day ahead of time, and it travels well.
How to Make Vegetable Pasta Salad
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside. You can toss with a little of the dressing or with olive oil to keep it from sticking, but that’s not always necessary.
- Saute the vegetables just to slightly soften, making them easier to eat in the salad.
- Toss the pasta, veggies and kalamata olives together in a large bowl. Drizzle some Italian dressing over the pasta salad and gently toss to coat.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with fresh Parmesan.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make this salad something really special by adding a few upgrades:
- Cheese – Grated or shredded Parmesan works in my Zesty Italian Pasta Salad so it would work great here as well. A little Feta goes great with Italian dressing, and so does freshly grated Mozzarella.
- Veggies – What you see pictured is what I had on hand and I really wanted some color. You could add just about any raw veggie you can think of, like mushrooms, shredded carrots, snap peas, red cabbage, bell pepper (any color), sliced olives or cucumbers. Tougher veggies like broccoli or green beans could be blanched first to make them easier to chew.
- Herbs and Seasonings – Fresh herbs are a salad’s best friend! I love adding fresh Italian parsley and fresh chives to my salads. Depending on the flavor of the dressing you could also add fresh basil or oregano. A little fresh minced garlic or even a sprinkling of garlic powder would be wonderful.
- When cutting an onion for a salad (meaning you don’t plan to cook it), rinsing the slices under cold water will help to give it a more mild bite. Dry with a paper towel before adding to your salad.
- Try to keep your cuts fairly evenly for all the veggies, and even with the size of the pasta. This will make the salad easier to eat.
- Be careful not to overcook or undercook your pasta. You want it to be al dente, which means that it it soft but still has a slight bite to it. Overcooking will result in mushy pasta, and undercooking results in hard to chew pasta.
- Make sure to season the boiling water generously for the pasta, and season the salad with salt and pepper. Nobody likes bland pasta.
- The pasta doesn’t have to be cooled down completely. Adding the dressing while the pasta is still a little warm will help the noodles to absorb the flavors. I recommend adding about half of the dressing while it’s warm, then add the remainder just before serving to freshen it up.
- Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days, but dressed pasta salads are best served fresh, within a couple of hours of adding the dressing.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
- Roasted Pepper Pasta Salad
- Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
- Taco Pasta Salad
- Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta Salad
- Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
- Antipasto Pasta Salad
- Lemon Orzo Salad
- Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad
Easy Vegetable Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces rotini pasta or other small cut pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 cups broccoli florets chopped
- 1 zucchini
- 1 cup grape tomatoes sliced in half
- 2 bell peppers (any color) cored and cut into bite sized pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 medium-sized red onion peeled adn thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup halved kalamata olives
- 3/4 cup Italian dressing Any brand or flavor
- Parmesan cheese optional, if desired
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, seasoning generously with salt.
- Drain the pasta and then rinse under cool water. Set aside too cool to room temperature.
- While the pasta is cooking, saute the vegetables just to soften slightly. Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add broccoli florets and zucchini to the skillet and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add bell peppers and tomatoes and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add the red onion and garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, kalamata olives and vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle on the Italian dressing and gently toss everything together until well coated.
- Top with shredded Parmesan cheese and a few turns of fresh cracked black pepper if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.