Any cookout I am invited to, I am quick to scour the buffet table of edible goodness until my eyes are fixed on the beautiful selection of salads- potato, macaroni, fruit and my favorite… Pasta salad! All just waiting to be devoured. And who better to put away a big plate of pasta salad than me? I think of it as my duty to help rid the world of dreaded leftovers that just hang out in the fridge after being forgotten. That’s acceptable, right?
If I’m asked to bring a dish or if I have a cookout of my own, you can guarantee that I am the one who brings the pasta salad. It’s always been a tradition of my mom and mine to make it for big events and it’s highly requested. Momma is a believer that a good pasta salad should be hearty and have just the right amount of dressing that is neither too wet or too dry.
After many years of making it, we found that a good pasta salad starts with a quality dressing and is best the next day as the flavors have time to really infuse into the noodles and veggies. If, after 24 hours, the salad is dry, we can simply add more dressing in as needed. Of course, you don’t have to wait a whole day to dig in but it’s like a good chicken noodle soup- always better the longer it sits.
I’m sure that there are plenty of versions similar to this, and maybe even identical, but this is how we make ours and it’s a favorite to anyone who has tried it. So, if you need something to bring to your next gathering, give this recipe a try!
Momma’s Hearty Pasta Salad
- 1 lb. Rainbow (tri-colored) Rotini noodles
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red pepper
- 1 green pepper
- 1 package of sliced pepperoni
- 1 can of black olives, drained and sliced or halved
- 1/2 block of pepper jack cheese, diced or small crumbles
- 1/2 block of Colby Jack cheese, diced or small crumbles
- 1- 16oz. bottle of Italian Dressing (our favorite is wishbone)
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Cook rotini noodles according to package. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking of the noodles. Add to large bowl with lid.
- Dice tomatoes (saving the juice that comes out), onions, cucumber and peppers. Toss everything in with bowl of noodles.
- Slice pepperoni’s into half circles, separate and add to the pasta salad mix.
- Add olives, pepper jack and colby jack cheeses.
- Toss in half the bottle of dressing and the 1/3 cup parmesan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours (or over night).
- Right before serving, add remainder of dressing (more or less as desired).
- Don’t have tomatoes on hand? No problem. Just use a can of diced tomatoes and be sure to add the juice from the can as well.
- Halved cherry tomatoes are also a great substitute for the whole tomatoes.
- Every now and then I will switch out or add different ingredients to my pasta. I have been known to use: Broccoli florets; carrots (thinly julienned); green olives; yellow onions; summer sausage (thinly sliced and halved)
I hope you like this recipe for Momma’s Hearty Pasta Salad. You really can’t go wrong with it. Your results all depend on what you like best so don’t be afraid to play around with different variations, dressings or noodles. This just just how we like to make ours and it’s never failed us.
Got a different variation of pasta salad that you like best? Share it with me. I would love to give it a try for my next cookout.
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