This super simple vegan pasta salad is a “grown-up-riff” off the traditional side dish my Gram used to make for me when I was just a little “t.” It’s quick, easy to make and bursting with flavors of fresh veggies like red peppers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and more!
Summer brings with it many, many wonderful things. One of the best is the bringing together of family and friends over food. With these gatherings comes the traditional side dishes or, more colloquially “sides.” I have never been a big fan of the more popular mayonnaise-based side dishes like macaroni or potato salads because I have never been a big fan of mayonnaise.
Knowing my distaste for the condiment, my grandmother used to make a simple pasta salad with Italian dressing special for me. I loved this salad, and I loved her for always making sure there was something I would enjoy along with the mains at our summer parties and BBQs.
It was such a simple salad, but the thought and the time taken made it so very special. Gram used pasta, carrots, celery, and broccoli in her classic version . As I and my tastes matured – well, my tastes anyway – I started to morph Gram’s simple salad into what I present to you today.
Still, any time I have a pasta salad, it reminds of that simple act of love and those simpler times: sitting on Gram’s lap, eating the salad she made special, and listening to music and joyful laughter fill the evening air.
An Ensemble of Fresh Summer Flavors
In traditional pasta salads, the pasta is usually the “star of the show”. In this vegan pasta salad, however, each ingredient is part of an ensemble. All the flavors play an integral part in the combined effort.
I try to cut the veg into just the right size/proportion, so one flavor does not really overtake the others. It’s great to be able to get a little piece of everything on the fork, so the ingredients can play their satisfying symphony.
I recommend using the “robust” or ”bold” Italian dressings in this vegan pasta salad for a higher concentration of spices and herbs to help flavor and adhere to the pasta. Also, I have found many of the name brand regular Italian dressings to contain milk and/or eggs in the product while most of the same brands’ robust versions contain none. Still, make sure you read your ingredients to be certain!
T’s Tips for the Best Vegan Pasta Salad
- Rinse the pasta with cold water as soon as you strain it. Swirl the pasta around to ensure you’re getting it all. This will stop the cooking process and ensure your noodles don’t get too gummy!
- Split the dressing and add half to just the pasta and the other half after putting all the veg in. This trick helps keep the flavor even!
- Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors combine and infuse. For full flavor potential though, let it chill overnight.
- Feel free to experiment with different veggies in this recipe. Try different types of olives, some sliced red onion, fresh basil, or roasted red peppers. We also love adding some of our vegan feta or mozzarella to the mix. Have fun with it and make it your own!
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This super simple side is a “grown-up-riff” off the traditional pasta salad my Gram used to make for me. It’s quick, easy to make and bursting with flavors of fresh veggies like red peppers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and more!
1 hr, 30 Prep Time:
1 hr, 30 Total Time:
- 1 8-oz box rotini (We used Banza's chickpea pasta .)
- 1 cup Robust Italian dressing
- 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
- 1 cup small broccoli florets
- 1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
- 1/3 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh spinach, shredded + stems removed
- Cook the pasta according to the box directions and strain when done. Immediately, spray with cold water to stop the cooking process. Swirl the pasta around as you spray it to ensure you’re getting it all with cold water. Set aside to cool and drain well while you gather and chop the rest of your ingredients.
- Once the pasta has drained, transfer to a large serving bowl and add ½ cup of the Italian dressing. Stir with a rubber spatula to incorporate. Add the chopped veggies and remaining ½ cup of the Italian dressing to the pasta. Finally, add the salt and pepper and use a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients inward until well-combined.
- Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let set in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight before serving.