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Summertime Pasta Salad

My ultimate Summertime Pasta Salad recipe is a vibrant medley of fresh vegetables, perfectly textured pasta, and tangy dressing.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Summertime Pasta Salad - a cold pasta salad packed with fresh veggies and lightly dressed with a parmesan and garlic dressing. https://www.lanascooking.com/summertime-pasta-salad/

My ultimate Summertime Pasta Salad is a vibrant medley of fresh vegetables, perfectly textured pasta, and tangy dressing. This recipe is great for warm, sunny days filled with backyard gatherings. Whether you’re hosting a summer soirée or simply craving a refreshing dish, this salad is a great menu choice.

Call me old-fashioned but I just love a good pasta salad. One that is loaded with fresh veggies and coated with a rich, tangy dressing. Oh, yeah.

Summertime Pasta Salad - a cold pasta salad packed with fresh veggies and lightly dressed with a parmesan and garlic dressing. https://www.lanascooking.com/summertime-pasta-salad/

That’s right, I’m bringing back the centerpiece of every 1980s cookout. I’m making it my mission to revive the lowly pasta salad. Just ask BeeBop. We’ve had it three times in the last two weeks 😊 And why not? It’s really delicious. And it can be pretty healthy as long as you don’t load it up with lots of cheese and too much dressing.

This Summertime Pasta Salad has more vegetables than pasta and goes fairly light on the dressing. It is a great accompaniment for pretty much anything you want to grill – chicken, fish, shrimp, steaks, burgers – so let’s get started!

❤️ Why We Love This Recipe


  • It’s refreshing and light and a great way to beat the summer heat with its cool and crisp ingredients.
  • It’s versatile enough to pair well with most grilled meats, making it an excellent side dish for outdoor barbecues and picnics.
  • It’s easy to make with simple preparation and minimal cooking.
  • It can be a healthy option by emphasizing the abundance of fresh vegetables and using a moderate amount of dressing.

🛒 Ingredient Notes


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  • Rotini pastaYou can use any short cut pasta that you like. Fusilli, rotini, or even elbow macaroni will work fine.
  • Tomato Choose nice, ripe (preferably homegrown!) tomatoes for this salad. Beefsteak tomatoes are especially flavorful during the summer.
  • Cucumbers I prefer pickling type (also called salad or Kirby) cucumbers. Use whatever you like.
  • Sweet peppersThe sweet “mini” peppers are great and so are red or yellow bell peppers.
  • Roasted red bell pepperI often choose Mezzetta brand roasted peppers. You can substitute with diced pimiento if you like.
  • Fresh basil leavesLends a fresh, herbal layer of flavor to the salad.
  • Italian, Caesar, Greek, or other Mediterranean-style dressingAlmost any vinaigrette that you like will work in this recipe but will create a very different flavor profile. For example, a red wine vinaigrette will give an entirely different result than a creamy Caesar.

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

🍳 Tools You’ll Use


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • Measuring cups and spoons

🥄 How to Make Summertime Pasta Salad


Cooked fusilli pasta in a bowl.
  1. Start by cooking half a pound of rotini pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold running water. Let it sit and drain while you prepare the rest of the salad.

👉 PRO TIP: You’ll need a large mixing bowl to hold the salad. Add each of the ingredients to the bowl as you work. Amounts are just a guideline. Add more or less as you prefer. Admittedly, there is a lot of chopping involved in making this salad, but none of it is difficult.

  1. Peel, chop, and seed a large tomato.
  2. Next, peel the cucumbers and cut them into small cubes.

👉 PRO TIP: I prefer the Kirby pickling type cucumbers for this salad. They just taste like summer to me.

  1. Now remove the stems, ribs, and seeds from the sweet peppers, chop them, and add them to the bowl.
  2. Cut the roasted red bell pepper into about ½” pieces and add it, too.
  3. Finely chop the celery and green onions adding them to the bowl with the other vegetables.

👉 PRO TIP: Don’t use too much celery since it has a really strong taste and can overpower the entire salad if you aren’t careful.

Mixing bowl with chopped vegetables needed for the recipe.
  1. Last, stack up the basil leaves, roll them up like a little cigar, and cut crosswise into ribbon-like shreds. Add to the bowl.
  2. Add the cool, well-drained pasta to the bowl.

👉 PRO TIP: I often use a Parmesan and garlic dressing, but you can use any Italian or Mediterranean-type dressing that your family likes. The iconic “zesty Italian” is always good!

  1. Pour over the dressing.
  2. Add the salt and pepper.
  3. Toss everything together until well mixed.
Finished pasta salad in a serving bowl.

🍚 Storage Information


If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to three days. Before serving again, give it a good toss to redistribute the dressing and flavors.

⏲️ How to Make Ahead


Prepare the pasta salad up to 24 hours ahead of time and refrigerate it until serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.

🔀 Variations and Options


  • Include a mix of black and green olives for an extra burst of briny flavor.
  • Thinly sliced red onion can add a touch of sharpness and vibrant color.
  • Blanch some green beans and cut them into 1″ lengths for a crunchy addition.
  • Transform this pasta salad into a main dish by adding grilled chicken or shrimp.

🍽️ How to Serve


  • Serve as a side dish alongside grilled chicken, fish, shrimp, steaks, or burgers.
  • Pack it up for a picnic or potluck and enjoy it outdoors.
  • Create a refreshing lunch by pairing it with a light soup or sandwich.

❗ Recipe Tips


  • Do your best to chop the ingredients in similarly sized pieces for the best presentation and texture in the salad.
  • Use pickling cucumbers for their crispness and summer-like flavor.
  • Adjust the amount of dressing according to your preferences, but don’t overload the salad.
  • Experiment with different dressings to customize the flavor.

🧾 More Recipes You’ll Like


HAVE YOU TRIED THIS RECIPE?

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Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked it!

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📖 Recipe

Summertime Pasta Salad - a cold pasta salad packed with fresh veggies and lightly dressed with a parmesan and garlic dressing. https://www.lanascooking.com/summertime-pasta-salad/

Summertime Pasta Salad

My ultimate Summertime Pasta Salad recipe is a vibrant medley of fresh vegetables, perfectly textured pasta, and tangy dressing.
5 from 1 vote
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Salads
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 174kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces rotini pasta
  • 1 large tomato peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium pickling cucumbers (or 1 large cucumber)
  • 5 small sweet peppers or 1 whole green bell pepper
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 3 green onions chopped
  • 4 large basil leaves cut in chiffonade
  • cup Italian or other Mediterranean-type dressing
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Cook the rotini according to the package directions. Drain and rinse well under cold running water. Let the rotini drain while preparing the remaining ingredients.
  • Add ingredients to a large mixing bowl as you work. Peel, chop and seed a large tomato.
  • Peel the cucumbers and cut into small cubes.
  • Remove the stems and seeds from the sweet peppers, chop them and add to the bowl.
  • Cut the roasted red bell pepper into about 1/2” pieces and add it, too.
  • Finely chop the celery and green onions adding them to the bowl with the other vegetables.
  • Stack the basil leaves, roll up and cut crosswise into ribbon-like shreds. Add to the bowl.
  • Add the cool, drained pasta to the bowl.
  • Pour over the dressing.
  • Add the salt and pepper.
  • Toss everything together until well mixed.

Notes

  • Try to chop the ingredients in similarly sized pieces for the best presentation and texture in the salad.
  • Adjust the amount of dressing according to your preferences, but don’t overload the salad.
  • Experiment with different dressings to customize the flavor.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1 | Calories 174kcal | Carbohydrates 28g | Protein 5g | Fat 5g | Saturated Fat 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat 2g | Monounsaturated Fat 1g | Trans Fat 1g | Sodium 417mg | Potassium 302mg | Fiber 2g | Sugar 5g | Vitamin A 862IU | Vitamin C 30mg | Calcium 32mg | Iron 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on June 3, 2011. It has been updated with additional information.

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18 Comments

  1. there is NOTHING like a great pasta salad on a hot summer day – and this one is terrific Lana!!

  2. How many servings does this recipe yield? I’m having a party for about 55ish people. Thanks and I’m so excited to try out this dish! It looks delicious :)

    1. Jessica – This makes about 8 servings as a side dish or with the addition of some grilled chicken or shrimp would serve 4-6 as a main dish salad.

  3. I love a pasta salad, and the next day for lunch it is always that much better. Thanks so much for your version to try.

  4. so like pasta salads, and so do enjoy them during the summer… especially like them with the shrimp….

  5. I love a good pasta salad too. Yours looks so flavorful and I love how colorful it is. :)

    1. Thanks, Lindsey. I purposely used the plain pasta so that the colors of the veggies would stand out on their own. They just seem to get lost when you use the tri-color stuff.

  6. Girl, bring it back! Bring it back! I love this salad…and I love that it isn’t downed in an opaque river of questionableness. :) Bright and vibrant; just like you! :)

    1. Aw, Chris – what a sweet comment! And you know the truth is…I could up the amount of tomatoes in this and pretty much do without any dressing at all!

  7. I do love a good pasta salad! That Parmesan garlic salad dressing looks delicious! I think I’m going to make this salad this weekend, Lana. Maybe it will bring summer to Seattle.

    1. I wish I could send you some of our summer. We’ve been having temps in the mid to upper 90’s for a few weeks now. Definitely summer here!