the best pasta salad in a serving bowl

The recipe for The BEST Pasta Salad has always gone by another name in my family: “Grandpa’s Pasta Salad”. That’s because this recipe was one of his absolute favorites and he always requested that it be served at every special occasion. My Grandpa’s family came from Czechoslovakia and had an affinity for boldly flavored foods like sauerkraut, pickled pigs feet, and pepperoni, which is probably why he loved this salad so.

No sauerkraut nor pickled pigs feet in here, though! (Really selling this dish, aren’t I?!) Just cooked pasta tossed with chopped pepperoni, black olives, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, a zesty spice blend, and zippy Italian dressing which combine to make the most perfect pasta salad. My family has been eating this pasta side dish all our lives and the good news is that it can be easily made gluten free!

overhead photo of a bowl of pasta salad

Recipe Notes

  1. My Grandpa liked this dish made with fettuccini (try it sometime – it’s SO good!) but you can use whatever pasta you have on hand/your family likes. I most often make it with rotini.
  2. Cooked gluten free pasta typically does NOT keep well refrigerated overnight. That said, plan on making then enjoying this dish on the same day if making with gluten free pasta.
  3. We have traditionally made this pasta salad recipe with Kraft Zesty Italian Salad Dressing but, since it’s not gluten free, I use my homemade Best Ever Italian Vinaigrette to dress the salad with instead. It’s super tangy, and easy to make too.
  4. What really makes this pasta salad is the liberal amount of McCormick’s Salad Supreme Seasoning, which is now gluten free, added to the pasta salad. Like, at least half the bottle, and I usually add more – ha! That said, if you can’t find it at the grocery store I’m providing a copycat recipe in the recipe card below. It’s a dead ringer for the real thing!

fork digging into a bowl of pasta salad

How to Make The Best Pasta Salad

Start by cooking pasta in salted, boiling water until cooked through. I like Delallo and Barilla brands of gluten free pasta, though if you’re local, Hy-Vee’s Good Graces gluten free pasta is a fabulous choice too. It’s chewy and spring like “real” pasta!


Once the pasta is tender, drain then rinse under cold water until the pasta is cool.

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Meanwhile, shake up the pasta salad dressing. Again, traditionally we’ve used Kraft Zesty Italian Salad Dressing, which you could use if you don’t need to eat gluten free, but nowadays we use my gluten free Best Ever Italian Vinaigrette instead.


Next, mix together the pasta salad seasoning blend which is what really makes this pasta salad pop. You can use McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning, which is gluten free at the time of this writing (2/22), or make your own copycat seasoning blend. The homemade blend is a great option if you need to eat dairy free – just omit the cheese called for in the recipe.


Last step is to add chopped pepperoni, cucumber, and tomatoes, plus sliced black olives to a large mixing bowl.


Add the cooled pasta plus seasoning blend to taste (we usually start with 1/2 the bottle/copycat recipe) plus enough dressing to coat, then serve right away, or refrigerate for up to a few hours. Add more dressing before serving if you refrigerate it first. As I mentioned, cooked gluten free pasta doesn’t hold up well to refrigerating overnight, but a few hours to meld the flavors is just fine.

I hope you LOVE this easy, zippy, zesty BEST Pasta Salad ever!! Enjoy!

overhead photo of a bowl of pasta salad

More Yummy Side Dish Recipes

The BEST Pasta Salad

5/5 (8 REVIEWS)


The BEST Pasta Salad is a family recipe that's a hit at parties, potlucks, or as a zest side dish with dinner. Full of flavor and punch!


serves 8

  • 1lb gluten free short cut pasta
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded then chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded then chopped
  • 6oz pepperoni, chopped (I like Applegate Farms)
  • 2.25oz can sliced olives, drained
  • 1/2 - 3/4 bottle McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning OR 1 recipe Salad Supreme Seasoning (see notes)
  • 1 recipe Italian Vinaigrette (see notes) OR 1 large bottle Kraft Zesty Italian if dish does not need to be GF


  1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain then rinse under cold water until pasta is cool.
  2. Add cooled pasta, tomatoes, cucumber, pepperoni, black olives, Salad Supreme Seasoning, and enough of the Italian Salad Dressing to coat a large bowl then toss to combine. Serve right away or refrigerate for up to a couple of hours (cooked gluten free pasta can get hard if chilled too long). Add more dressing if needed before serving.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,


Photo collage of best ever pasta salad