We had a “tailgate” themed pot luck for lunch here at work this week that was AMAZING! We’re a big faculty and there was so much food; from dips to main dishes to desserts; like we probably could have fed the whole student body along with the faculty.
Most faculty members usually volunteer to bring a dish of some kind. So, when the sign-up’s happened, I decided to do something that was tasty and relatively easy for me to throw together the night before: pasta salad.
I know we’re all surprised that pasta salad is my go-to dish for parties; try to hold your shocked looks.
This pasta salad fit exactly what I needed: it took almost no time to put it together, it travels well (plus it wasn’t something that needed to be warmed up) and it’s a crowd pleaser – as evidence by the fact that there was none left after lunch…and this makes a TON!
One of my favorite things about this, outside of it being easy (which I mentioned that it’s super easy, right?) is that it’s like a rainbow of veggies and add-in’s, so it’s super colorful; plus I use tri-color rotini, so it’s super bright and really flavorful.
I fully admit, part of the reason why this is so easy is because I cheat and just use bottles of Italian dressing as opposed to making it myself. I’m sure if you’re down with doing it/have the time/energy to do that you could; but when I’m making this at 7pm on a Tuesday, a good bottle of Italian suits me fine.
The only real prep involved here is chopping the veggies. You can really use any veggies you want, but I like a good variation of flavors in them and I love veggies that have a good crunch to contrast the softness of the pasta, cheese, and salami. I don’t make the veggies super small because I don’t want them to get lost. I made most of them about the size of a rotini noodle.
Isn’t that just pretty? And, despite the appearance in the picture, I did actually go back and halve the tomatoes; they’re just easier to eat when they’re cut and the don’t all sink to the bottom like they sometimes can when they’re whole.
Also tiny mozzarella cheese balls in pasta salads are essentially my favorite thing (in case the huge pile of them didn’t give you an indication). I’m almost embarrassed to also admit how many of those tiny pieces I snacked on while making this.
I also really love salami in this dish (that and the cheese are what make it Italian for me). A good dry salami is better, I’ve found, because it’s easier to work with and the dressing will wind up softening the salami up a bit so it’s better to start off with something drier to keep the consistency in a good place.
This is also a really great dish to prep for lunches; in addition to all the reasons I listed above (like it traveling well and how easy it is to make), it also holds in the fridge really well. I’ve kept this in the fridge for about a week and the longer it sits, the more intense the flavors get, so it’s definitely a good prep-ahead dish and a total crowd pleaser!
Italian Pasta Salad
- 2 12oz boxes tri-color rotini
- 1 medium red onion chopped
- 1 medium yellow pepper chopped
- 1 medium orange pepper chopped
- 2 small/medium cucumbers seeded and chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 16 oz ciliegine mozzarella cheese
- 7 oz hard salami sliced into strips
- 2 16oz bottles Italian dressing your brand of choice
Cook pasta in salted water, according to box directions
While pasta is cooking, chop all veggies into easy-to-eat pieces. Making them about the size of the pasta noodles is usually a good idea as it'll make it easiest to eat. Halve the cherry tomatoes and slice the salami into similar sizes as the veggies.
Once the pasta is drained, allow the pasta to cool for a few minutes before moving it to the serving bowl. Add all veggies as well as Italian dressing and toss well to combine all ingredients together.
Dish can be served immediately or chilled for later service. The longer it sits (and chills) the better the flavors mesh together! Enjoy!