Easy Pasta Salad

12 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Refrigerate 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Easy Pasta Salad made with mozzarella, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers in a creamy Italian dressing is the PERFECT side dish to bring to a potluck or picnic!

If you’re working on perfecting your favorite Side Dish recipes, be sure to check out these three easy side dishes that everyone loves: Crab Salad, Best EVER Baked Beans and Cole Slaw.

Classic Pasta Salad

Easy Pasta Salad is a simple side dish made with mozzarella cheese, olives, pasta, and vegetables in a homemade dressing. It is a meatless version of our Italian Antipasto Pasta Salad, but just as creamy and filling. If you want to add meat to this classic Italian pasta salad, try salami, prosciutto, or pepperoni.

This recipe takes a total time of 10 minutes to throw together, but you should refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. The refrigeration time gives the flavors a chance to come together, plus this dish is best served cold.

This is a perfect pasta salad recipe for potlucks, and beats store-bought every time! If you buy a pre-made dressing it is almost as easy too! It will be ready in just 10 minutes. 

How to Make Easy Pasta Salad

Making this Pasta Salad is incredibly easy! It’s just a matter of mixing all the ingredients together and letting them cool in the fridge for a couple of hours until ready to serve. Check it out!

  • Step One: Boil water with the pasta until the pasta cooks all the way through, then drain the pasta if you don’t have the precooked kind. When pre-cooking your own pasta, make sure you only cook it in a large pot to al dente, so you don’t end up with mushy pasta. Rinse the pasta with cold water to keep it from cooking further.
  • Step Two: Portion out and mix in all the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Chop your veggies to be about the same size, which will make the pasta salad look more uniform and each part will be bite-sized.
  • Step Three: Cover the pasta and leave it in the fridge until the Pasta Salad chills completely. Top with fresh parsley before serving for presentation.

More Classic Side Dishes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make Pasta Salad ahead of time? 

This Italian pasta salad recipe is perfect to make-ahead because it tastes best after it’s been refrigerated. Make this cold pasta salad the day before or in the morning when you’re serving this at night.

Reserve some extra dressing just in case the salad dries out, but it should be fine if it’s sealed tightly. We recommend not making this more than 24 hours ahead, to make sure it’s the best quality possible when you serve it.

What other vegetables can I add to my Pasta Salad? 

This dish can be bulked up with a large variety of vegetables that add healthy nutrients and yummy flavor. Go ahead and experiment and make it your own! The following are great additions to any Pasta Salad: Zucchini, White beans, Pepperoncinis, Banana peppers, Red onion, English cucumber

Key Ingredients for Easy Pasta Salad

The Pasta Salad ingredients in this dish cover a wide variety of flavors that blend together so nicely. You can easily find all the ingredients at your closest grocery store. 

  • Pasta: We’re using the tricolored kind because it adds so many colorful hues to the dish. You can use regular colored pasta just fine too. 
  • Cheese: Mozzarella is an amazing cheese that is yummy and mild in taste. Buy the freshest you can for best taste! If you can find the mini mozzarella balls, those are easy to work with and ready to go. 
  • Olives: Black olives that are pitted are an essential ingredient in this recipe. 
  • Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are easy to cut in half and add to your pasta dish. 
  • Dressing: Always make your own, if you can. The flavor and freshness of homemade Italian dressing is unsurpassed. But, you can use the prebottled kind in a pinch. 
  • Bell Peppers: We’re using red and green pepper (aka capsicum) in this dish to bring a variety of color.

How to Make Creamy Italian Dressing

This healthy dressing contains no artificial preservatives and is super duper easy to put together. Just mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate. Pro tip: You can reuse an empty glass dressing jar that’s been cleaned out for this dish. It’s the best way to recycle! 


  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon marjoram

Instructions: Mix the olive oil, white wine vinegar, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, garlic salt, dried basil, dried oregano and dried marjoram in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. This dressing will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. 

Quick and Easy Pasta Salad

Variations for Easy Pasta Salad

There’s a ton of variety in this recipe! Additions and subtractions, styles and spices – the list is (almost) endless. Check it out!

  • Pasta: You can also make this recipe with penne pasta, or whatever type of pasta you have in your pantry. The tri-color pasta in this recipe adds a nice color to the presentation of the dish.
  • Vinegar: Add a dash of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar for some flavor variation. You can also use apple cider vinegar in the dressing. 
  • Spicy: : Make this Easy Pasta Salad spicy with some red pepper flakes, diced red onions, or spicy peppers.
  • Dressing: You can use store-bought Italian dressing, but the homemade dressing above will have a lot more flavor.
  • Additions: Add more antipasto ingredients to this pasta salad recipe like sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, cucumber, Roma tomatoes, or aged provolone. Add some grated parmesan to the top, or serve extra on the side.
  • Flavor Booster: The Italian dressing has enough seasoning, but you can add some fresh flavor to this Italian pasta salad with herbs like basil, dill, coarse ground black pepper, or minced chives.
  • Greek Style: Add feta cheese to make this a Greek Pasta Salad. Bonus points if your olives are Kalamata olives from Greece!

More Pasta Salad Recipes

How to Store Easy Pasta Salad

  • Serve: Pasta Salad should be chilled in the refrigerator for about an hour before serving. Do not leave at room temperature for longer than two hours.
  • Store: After serving, store Pasta Salad in an airtight container for up to 4 days and stir well before serving.
  • Store: Oil-based dressings don’t freeze well so, don’t bother freezing this recipe, just toss it and make a fresh batch.

Pin this recipe now to remember it later

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Easy Pasta Salad

Easy Pasta Salad made with mozzarella, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers in a creamy Italian dressing is the PERFECT side dish!
Yield 12 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American-Italian
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 pound tricolor rotini pasta , precooked
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese , diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes , halved
  • 8 ounces medium pitted black olives
  • 1 green bell pepper , chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper , chopped
  • 2 cups Italian Dressing (see recipe above or use bottled)


  • In a large bowl add the pasta, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, black olives, green bell pepper and dressing and toss gently.
  • Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.



Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.


Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 807mg | Potassium: 232mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 685IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 122mg | Iron: 1mg
Bowl of Easy Pasta Salad Pin 1

Photos used in a previous version of this post:

Pasta Salad

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. This WAS easy! I made it to go along for a bbq we went to, and everyone raved about it. Thank you!

  2. The most amazing pasta salad! This is the one dish I always get requests for at parties. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us!

  3. This pasta salad was so tasty! I took it to our family easter egg hunt get-together, and everyone raved about it! I will be making this one again!

  4. I have a question about the dressing. Are the ingredients listed for the homemade dressing enough for the complete recipe? I noticed it’s says two cups of dressing yet the ingredients only make enough for about a cup of dressing. Why not state to double it for the recipe if in fact you need to? Otherwise, if what I’ve made with this recipe isn’t enough I have to turn around and make another recipe worth.

    1. Hello Andrea, when it comes to dressings, I prefer to make extra depending on how much I want. Same for you, You can make as much or as little you want.

  5. i made this for a bbq and it was a huge hit! i only had red wine vinegar so i made the dressing with that. and also i had fresh mozzarella and that really set it off! lots of reave reviews. people i didnt even know were coming up to me and asking me if i made the pasta salad. lol why yes i did thanks!

  6. I have misplaced by Easy Picnic Salad recipe, but this is very close with the exception that mine also had fresh basil and parmesan cheese in addition to the mozzarella. So glad I found this one. Hope I find what I did with mine! Thank you for having this posted.

  7. This was so easy and quick! I used feta cheese instead of mozzarella and Wishbone Italian bottled dressing . Still came out delish!

  8. This looks wonderful and I want to make it this weekend. I have a question though. The picture doesn’t look like it has shredded Parmesan on it. Do you mean grated, in the plastic jar? TIA!

    1. I used shredded parmesan for the creamy Italian dressing. You just want to make sure you’re whisking it well. I hope you enjoy this dish.

  9. Sabrina,

    I love this recipe as I always love all your recipes. I get very excited when I look at recipes and see they’re from you. I always feel confident trying them as they’ve all been excellent. Thank you for sharing!!

      1. It may be a bit dry because pasta continues to soak up liquid. I’ve never let it sit quite that long so I couldn’t say for sure.