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 delectable 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 (it’s SO good) but you can use whatever pasta you have on hand/your family likes.
  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 side dish 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 instead. SO tangy, SO yummy. Easy to make, too.
  4. What really makes this pasta salad special is the liberal use of a flavor-packed spice blend. We have always used McCormick’s Salad Supreme Seasoning, but since it’s also not gluten free, I use a copy cat recipe which I’ll share below. It’s a dead ringer for the real thing!

fork digging into a bowl of pasta salad

How to Make This Recipe

Start by cooking 1lb gluten-free or regular pasta in salted, boiling water (dish will not be GF if using regular pasta.) I used Delallo gluten free rotini and also like Barilla’s GF pasta cuts for this salad.


Cook until the pasta is al dente then drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Dill Pickle Tuna Salad


Dill Pickle Tuna Salad


Meanwhile, shake up the dressing. Again, traditionally we use a jar of Kraft Zesty Italian for the dressing, but since it’s not gluten free I use my Best Ever Italian Vinaigrette instead.


Next whip up the spice blend which is what really makes this pasta salad pop! If you don’t need to eat gluten free, use McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning. If you DO need to eat gluten free, click here for a gluten free copycat seasoning recipe >


Las step is to add 6oz chopped pepperoni, 1 chopped cucumber that’s been peeled then seeded, 3 Roma tomatoes that have been seeded and chopped, and a 2.25oz can sliced black olives that has been drained to a large bowl.


Add the cooled pasta, plus seasoning blend to taste (we usually start with 1/2 the bottle/copycat recipe,) plus 3/4 of the dressing then toss to combine. Refrigerate until cool then toss with the remaining dressing right before serving. As I mentioned, cooked gluten free pasta doesn’t hold up well overnight, but a few hours in the refrigerator 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 (7 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 recipe Salad Supreme Seasoning (see notes, OR 1/2 - 3/4 bottle McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning if dish does not need to be GF)
  • 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 to stop the cooking process and cool pasta.
  2. Add pasta, tomatoes, cucumber, pepperoni, black olives, Salad Supreme Seasoning, and 3/4 of the Italian Salad Dressing to a large bowl then toss to combine. Refrigerate until completely chilled then add remaining salad dressing just before serving if necessary.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,


Photo collage of best ever pasta salad