Jump To Recipeby Liz Thomson
January 30, 2023This post may contain affiliate links.
This tasty pasta salad is filled with a rainbow of vegetables and tossed in a flavorful vinaigrette for a showstopping side dish! This make-ahead recipe is perfect for a picnic or a simple packed lunch.
This simple pasta salad is filled with delicious flavors and plenty of vegetables for a healthy, simple dish. It’s a great way to get in a variety of nutrients in one dish, and it’s easy to substitute ingredients based on what you have in your pantry. When it’s made with whole wheat pasta, it’s a good source of protein and fiber.
Pasta salad is also the perfect dish for meal prepping and taking on the go. It can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for several days, making it a convenient option for busy days. It’s also easy to pack, making it an excellent option for picnics, lunch at work, or school.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Pasta– I recommend a short pasta like penne or fusilli. I used Barilla Protein Plus pasta as it has extra fiber and protein, making this recipe extra filling. You can use chickpea pasta if you want to keep this recipe gluten-free.
Olive oil– I recommend high-quality olive oil with a light, fruity flavor.
Sun-dried tomatoes– Be sure to use tomatoes packed in oil. These have the best flavor and texture.
Red wine vinegar– This adds a tangy flavor to the dressing. Feel free to substitute with champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar, or even balsamic vinegar.
Garlic powder– I prefer garlic powder instead of fresh garlic since it has a more mild flavor.
Arugula– I like the slightly peppery flavor of arugula, but you could substitute it with baby spinach.
Pepperoncini– I love the briny flavor but if you don’t like the spiciness, feel free to substitute with olives instead.
The Key to Perfect Pasta Salad
This is a trick I learned from America’s Test Kitchen. The key to the perfect pasta salad is actually to overcook the noodles just slightly. I cooked mine one minute past al dente. Then after draining the pasta, rinse it under cold water. (Normally, I’d never advise rinsing pasta, but this is a unique case!) This helps stop the cooking process so the noodles don’t get soggy. By overcooking the noodles slightly, they’re the perfect texture once cooled.
The Best Pasta Salad Dressing
I wanted to keep the vinaigrette simple but still add lots of flavor. The secret is to use some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. It’s infused with the savory, briny flavor of the tomatoes, which adds depth to the dressing. The red wine vinegar adds brightness and the olive oil adds a subtle, fruity flavor. A little garlic powder and salt and pepper are all you need for spices. For other pasta salad recipes, try this Caesar pasta salad recipe or this pasta salad with no mayo.