overhead photo of a bowl of pasta salad

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 very favorites and he always requested that it be served at special occasions. That said, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that this pasta salad recipe is also my husband’s favorite recipe.

Not ONE of his favorite recipes…his VERY favorite recipe…of all time. He literally groans when he seems me making it because he knows he’s about to be half a serving bowl of pasta salad heavier. ;)

Ahh, the power of The BEST Pasta Salad!

the best pasta salad in a bowl with a fork

The BEST Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a summer staple in the Midwest and it feels like everyone’s got their own special combination of ingredients that makes their pasta salad the best. That said, I humbly believe there is no better pasta salad ingredient combo than mine. There, I said it! This dish is chewy, crispy, crunchy, savory, zesty, and zippy, and we make it at least once a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The secret’s in the seasoning blend…

Ingredients Needed

  • Pasta: My Grandpa loved this dish made with fettuccini (try it sometime – super fun!) though I usually use gluten free rotini pasta. I prefer Jovial Brown Rice Rotini vs a corn/rice blend rotini pasta. If you don’t need to eat gluten free, use regular rotini pasta.
  • Tomatoes: Typically I use Roma tomatoes in this dish, but feel free to use whatever looks best in your area at the time.
  • Cucumber: A peeled, seeded, then diced cucumber adds crunch and freshness to this pasta salad recipe. You can use a regular or English cucumber.
  • Pepperoni: We LOVE the savory, salty flavor pepperoni adds to each bite of this pasta salad. I strongly believe Applegate Naturals makes the best pepperoni!
  • Sliced Olives: Olives add to the savory, satisfying flavor to this dish.
  • McCormick Salad Supreme: Special secret ingredient alert!! This seasoning blend is one of the best on the planet and really sets this pasta salad apart from any other. At the time of this writing, 5/22, it’s gluten free. I add an ungodly amount of it to this dish.
  • Zesty Italian Dressing: Zesty Italian Dressing is the other ingredient that really makes this pasta salad sing. I prefer Ken’s Zesty Italian, which is gluten free. If you don’t need to eat gluten free you can use Kraft’s version. I’ll also link to my homemade Italian dressing below.

overhead photo of best pasta salad ingredients in a bowl

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How Do You Keep Gluten Free Pasta from Getting Hard?

Short answer: you can’t. :( Sorry! Cooked gluten free pasta typically does NOT keep well in the refrigerator for more than 2-3 hours before it hardens and becomes crumbly. I find cooked brown rice pasta holds up a little longer and better than a corn/rice blend pasta, but this recipe is definitely best when made then served immediately, or you can refrigerate it for up to 2 hours before serving. You might need to add a touch more dressing before serving if you refrigerate it first.

Okay, okay!! Are you ready to dive into this bowl of deliciousness?!

overhead photo of a bowl of best pasta salad

How to Make The Best Pasta Salad

Start by cooking pasta in salted, boiling water until cooked through. Again, I like Jovial brand gluten free brown rice pasta. That said, if you’re local, Hy-Vee’s Good Graces gluten free pasta is a great choice too. It’s chewy and spring like “real” pasta!

box of jovial rotini next to a pot of water

Once the pasta is tender, drain then rinse under cold water until the pasta is cool, then add to a large mixing bowl.

Next add chopped fresh cucumber and tomato, diced pepperoni, and sliced olives. 

ingredients for the best pasta salad in a mixing bowl

Finally sprinkle on McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning then drizzle with Ken’s Zesty Italian Dressing. I usually use up to 1/2 cup of the seasoning (YES) and around 1/2 of the bottle of salad dressing. Use as little or as much of both as you like!

Now, if you can’t find this particular dressing, you can make my Best Ever Italian Vinaigrette and use that instead. If you can’t find the seasoning, here is a fabulous copycat seasoning blend.

NOTE: Sometimes the Salad Supreme Seasoning is located by the salad dressings at the grocery store, near the croutons, etc. vs in the spice aisle, so look in both places if you’re having trouble locating it.

seasoning and dressing for the best pasta salad

Simply stir to coat and combine then serve immediately or chill for up to 2 hours. I’m telling you — BEST. PASTSA. SALAD. EVER!! I hope you love each zippy and zesty bite – enjoy!

fork in a bowl of the best pasta salad

More Summery Side Dish Ideas

The BEST Pasta Salad

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Description

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!

Ingredients

serves 8

  • 12oz gluten free rotini pasta
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded then chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded then chopped
  • 4oz pepperoni, chopped (Applegate Farms recommended)
  • 2.25oz can sliced olives, drained
  • 4oz jar McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning OR 1 recipe homemade seasoning (see notes)
  • 16oz bottle Ken's Zesty Italian Dressing OR 1 recipe homemade Italian Vinaigrette (see notes)

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add rotini and cook until tender. Drain then rinse under cold water until pasta is cold. Drain very well then add to a large mixing bowl.
  2. To the cooled pasta add tomatoes, cucumber, pepperoni, black olives, 1/3 of the bottle of Italian Dressing, and 1/4 cup Salad Supreme Seasoning then mix to combine. Taste then add more dressing and/or Salad Supreme Seasoning if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Notes

  • Because this pasta salad is made with gluten free pasta, it's best eaten right away or chilled for up to 2 hours prior to serving. You may need to toss with additional dressing before serving if chilling first. 
  • Look for McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning by the salad dressings at the grocery store, or in the spice aisle.
  • Click here for the homemade Italian Vinaigrette recipe >
  • Click here for Copycat Salad Supreme Seasoning recipe >

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.

Video

Photo collage of best ever pasta salad

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin