This Easy Pasta Salad is a perfect side dish! Better yet, it's made with a mayo-free dressing and is packed with fresh vegetables like cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and corn, plus crumbled feta cheese.
Easy Pasta Salad Recipe
This pasta salad is perfect for summer gatherings! Whenever you're ready to grill, this easy grilling side dish is going to be a favorite!
After my second son was born, a friend of ours brought over a bowl of her famous pasta salad recipe. When she first told me what she brought, I was trying to figure out what I would be able to eat instead, as I've never been a fan of mayo-based pasta salads.
But then she told me the dressing wasn't mayonnaise-based. Hallelujah! It was SO good that I had to make it myself.
Why you'll love this recipe:
- It doesn't contain mayonnaise, which makes it a perfect alternative to traditional pasta salads.
- You can make this pasta salad recipe all your own with your favorite shape of pasta and your favorite veggies.
- It can be completely dairy-free if you cut out the feta cheese or use a crumbly vegan cheese.
June 2022 Update: This is one of my favorite recipes, especially in the summertime. I love the color it adds to a party spread! I retested this recipe and found it a little dry, so I doubled the dressing. This change is reflected in the recipe card below.
Ingredients for this Pasta Salad Recipe
This easy pasta salad requires a little chopping work, but it's otherwise easy to put together. Here's what you need:
- any kind of pasta (I like tri-colored rotini)
- bell peppers (I used yellow and red)
- grape tomatoes
- corn (you can use canned, frozen or fresh)
- feta cheese (or vegan feta)
- mayo-free pasta salad dressing
No-Mayo Pasta Salad Dressing
This pasta salad has a homemade Italian dressing that is similar to my Italian marinade for pork chops. (In fact, that would be a delicious and simple summer meal with the pork cooked on the grill and a side of this pasta salad.)
This pasta salad dressing is a vinaigrette with loads of dried spices for a punch of flavor! Here's what to grab at the grocery store:
- red wine vinegar
- olive oil
- minced garlic
- dried oregano
- dried basil
- dried rosemary
- dried thyme
How to make pasta salad without mayonnaise
Cook pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
Chop vegetables. You'll need to do the following:
- cut the broccoli into florets
- quarter and slice the cucumber
- remove the cores and seeds from the bell peppers, then dice them
- halve the grape tomatoes
- cut corn from the cob. (You may use frozen or canned. If canned, drain it first.)
Then, make the dressing. In a mason jar, add ingredients for the dressing. Shake to combine ingredients.
In an extra-large bowl, stir together the pasta, vegetables and feta. Cover with half of the dressing and toss once more.
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Before serving, toss the salad with the remaining dressing. Serve chilled.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How to Prepare Pasta Salad Ahead of Time
After cooking the pasta, add in the vegetables and about half of the dressing. Toss the pasta salad in the dressing and then refrigerate until you're ready to eat. Before serving, add the remaining dressing and give it one more toss.
Should pasta salad be served cold?
This pasta salad can be enjoyed warm or cold. Typically it's best served cold because it can be made ahead of time and doesn't require anything to keep it warm for serving at outdoor events like picnics and barbecues.
This is so much better once it's been refrigerated but definitely can be eaten a little more lukewarm.
What is the difference between Pasta Salad and Macaroni Salad?
Macaroni salad is made with a sweetened mayo-based dressing, while pasta salad is usually made with an oil and vinegar-based dressing!
Pasta salad also has a lot of variations as to which type of pasta noodle is used, while macaroni salad is made with, well, macaroni!
What veggies are best for pasta salad?
Raw veggies are best because they provide a lovely texture to pasta salad. This veggie pasta salad recipe uses cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers and kernels of corn. You could also choose to add olives in your pasta salad!
How to Make Pasta Salad Dressing without Mayo
It is so simple to make your own mayo-free pasta salad dressing! You need 2 parts oil and 3 parts vinegar plus lots of spices!
In this case, you can use red or white wine vinegar and olive oil as the base to the dressing.
Another mayo-free option is this Avocado Tuna Salad.
What can you serve with pasta salad?
Pasta salad goes well with so many dishes! Try one of these ideas:
- Serve it with a protein like chicken thighs or a beef tenderloin roast.
- Enjoy on burger night alongside turkey burgers or hamburgers.
- A barbecue isn't complete without more salads! Don't forget the potato salad or the fruit salad.
More easy side dishes
If you're planning a barbecue or picnic this summer, check out these side dishes:
- Fresh Fruit Salad
- Strawberry Spinach Salad
- Sweet Potato Kale Sauté
- Traditional Mexican Rice
- Jalapeño Creamed Corn
- Lemon Orzo Pasta
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.
- 1 16 ounce box tri colored rotini
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 cucumber, sliced then quartered
- 2 bell peppers (yellow and red), cores removed and diced
- ¾ cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
- ¾ cup corn (canned, frozen or fresh)
- ½ cup feta, optional
- mayo free pasta salad dressing
Mayo Free Italian Pasta Salad Dressing
- 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain once cooked and set aside.
- Chop vegetables and set aside.
- In a mason jar, add ingredients for dressing. Shake to combine ingredients.
- In an extra large bowl, stir together pasta, vegetables and feta. Cover with ½ of dressing and toss once more. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Before serving, toss salad with remaining dressing. Serve chilled.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 167Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 399mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 3g