The fantastic thing about this pasta salad is you can use whatever you have on hand in it. And it is best to make it the day before so all the flavors get good and settled. I have never made this salad the same twice. There is always something I found in the back of the fridge or something I just didn’t have. You can omit anything you don’t like and add anything that you do. If you want the most basic salad use the pasta, Italian dressing and one add in, then sprinkle with cheese. Ta da! Or go through your fridge and see what you have lying around. It also works great if you have a vegetable garden to add any of your on hand veggies to. However, I don’t recommend raw onion, I find it too overpowering, but if that’s your jam, then go for it.
This is a versatile salad. I’ve made this as the main dish and added strips of grilled chicken breast tenders. I’ve served it as a side with some grilled steak or burgers. It is a fantastic dish to bring to a cookout or potluck and we eat this on the regular at my house during the summer because I make a lot and it’s easy and tasty leftovers for lunch. I call it “kitchen sink” pasta salad because I add everything but the kitchen sink. There is no right way to make this, but do make it in your largest mixing bowl and start with a little dressing at a time. As it sits overnight your pasta will absorb the dressing and you may need to add more to the salad before serving.
1/2 bottle of your favorite Italian dressing, my go-to is the Wishbone Zesty Italian
1 box or bag of tri-color rotini or wack mac cooked according to package directions(you can always use bowtie pasta or cooked and cooled tortellini)
1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 small can sliced black olives
1 jar artichoke hearts, slice them up
1 cup diced bell peppers (red, green, yellow and/or orange)
1/2 C cubed salami
20 slices of pepperoni, halved
1 container mozzarella balls, halved
2 small-medium sized carrots, shredded
2 stalks celery diced
1 small cucumber diced
handful of cherry tomatoes chopped, I like the yellow and red ones
Other add in options: banana peppers, pepperoncini, cooked and sliced Italian sausage links, fresh from the garden raw peas, cubed ham, chopped broccoli, kalamata olives, fresh corn kernels, cooked and crumbled bacon, feta cheese crumbles, cubed Colby jack, fresh basil and oregano
Cook your pasta according to package directions when you drain your pasta, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. In a large bowl mix your pasta and about 1/2 of the Italian dressing. It’s easier to add more than to take it out. Add any of the mix-ins you want, toss, add more dressing to taste, cover and refrigerate. Enjoy!