Weekend Cooking: Quick and Easy Pasta Salad

It has been a while since I have participated in this weekly event sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

I thought I’d share with you my take on pasta salad. I don’t follow a recipe for this – it is a meal that can be whipped up with pretty much what you have in your refrigerator as long as you have some boxed pasta and Italian dressing on hand.

Quick and Easy Pasta Salad

  • 1 package of your favorite pasta – preferably something like shells or twists (I like to use Rainbow Rotini because it is really colorful)
  • A variety of fresh vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, pea pods, and zucchini…your choice!
  • Small cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups of shredded cheese (I like Monteray Jack, but cheddar or Mozzarella also is a good choice)
  • Shredded cooked chicken (optional)
  • Bernstein’s Italian Dressing (I like Bernsteins because it has a lot of flavor and spices in it)
  • Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta to your preference according to the package instructions. When done, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking and cool pasta.

Slice up the vegetables of your choice – I usually cut the veggies pretty small or make thin slices, but it is up to you how you like them. Pour a small amount (about a tablespoon) of olive oil into a skillet, and saute the veggies until they are crisp tender. At the end of sauteing, add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir together in a large bowl the cooked veggies, cooled pasta, 1-2 cups of shredded cheese, the shredded cooked chicken (you can leave this out if you want a meatless pasta), and the Italian dressing to taste (I use about 1/4 cup of dressing, but it really depends on your taste). When well mixed, stir in the cherry tomatoes (if they are large, I cut them in half first). Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve with grated or shredded Parmesan Cheese on top and a slice of your favorite crusty bread.


I love to make this pasta on hot days when I really don’t feel like cooking. The whole meal can be whipped up in about 15 minutes and it is a total dish which allows large servings for two people with plenty of left overs for the next day.


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  1. Sounds yummy, but I don’t think we can find Bernstein’s dressing around here. I’ll be on the lookout for it, though.

    • Kay on July 10, 2010 at 07:59

    I think this sounds delicious. I don’t eat much pasta salad because my husband doesn’t care for cold pasta. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t make it, I just don’t. I may try this though. It would be a good choice the next time he is on a business trip. Chick flicks, Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, pasta salad. Sounds good!

    • Margot on July 10, 2010 at 09:06

    This is the first “recipe” for pasta salad that makes sense to me. I love the idea of putting a bunch of colorful vegetables in with some colorful pasta. And only 15 minutes? I’ve put colored pasta on the grocery list. Thanks.

    • Molly on July 10, 2010 at 09:10

    I love recipes like this – a template to follow but add whatever ingredients are available!

    I have not heard of Bernstein’s dressing before, but I will begin the search 🙂

    • Beth F on July 10, 2010 at 09:18

    What could be easier? ANd a super way to use up summer veggies from the farmers market, CSA, or garden. I use Brianna’s vinaigrette, I’ll have to see if we can Bernstein’s around here.

    • Kim on July 10, 2010 at 09:58

    I have a similar pasta salad recipe, but I never thought to put chicken in it! With three sons and a husband who all love meat, a meal just isn’t complete without some. I think we will have this during the upcoming week–and we do have Berstein’s dressing here and is one I use for my vegetarian version of this salad! Great Post!

  2. This is exactly how I make my pasta salad, too. Love it because it is easy and like you said, perfect for those hot days (and with lots of leftovers too!)

    • JoAnn on July 10, 2010 at 12:39

    I haven’t made pasta salad yet this summer…. this will be the week!

  3. Pasta salad on a hot summer evening…..it just doesn’t get any better than that. Thanks for the recommendation on the brand of dressing….I always fret over that and inevitably pick one that isn’t so great. I’ll try Bernstein’s this weekend.

  4. another nice, easy summer recipe!
    I find using a good Parmesan cheese makes a big difference.

  5. I love,love love pasta salad. I just made wheatberry salad that came out really good. Your recipe sounds yummy. I’m glad you specified the type of Italian dressing..it can make a big difference.

    • Vicki on July 10, 2010 at 18:06

    I love pasta salad in the summer!!

    • Staci on July 10, 2010 at 18:55

    Sounds yummy and easy!

  6. I make a similar pasta salad with either Bernstein’s or Newman’s. Recently, I’ve started adding a tablespoon or two of pesto as well and it mixes really well with the italian dressing! In fact, I made it tonight. 🙂

  7. This sounds quite tasty. I love pasta!

    We had something a bit similar last night. Leftover 3-cheese tortellini tossed with leftover grilled salmon and shrimp. Added some sauteed asparagus, tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Whipped up a rich (naughty!) heavy cream/white wine/lemon/dill sauce and voila! Easy-peasy. 🙂

    • Wendy on July 11, 2010 at 07:00

    Kathy: Really any good, rich Italian dressing can be used…although Bernsteins is by far my favorite for these kinds of recipes.

    Kay: LOL! Awesome girl’s night fare!!

    Margot: I love choosing the most colorful veggies for this – I forgot to also mention red bell peppers which give a nice punch of color. It looks so pretty when it is on the plate!

    Molly: I hope you can find Bernsteins…it is really yummy! I love recipes like this too – I hate following rigid recipes and this is just a really easy, as you say, template to follow!

    Beth F: *nods* I also make this when I know I need to use up the veggies in my frig before they go bad.

    Kim: You’ll have to let me know what your family thinks of it with the chicken 🙂 I’ve also used left over cooked salmon for this and it was good; but I think the chicken tastes better.

    Melissa: I love it, don’t you?

    JoAnn: Well, it is definitely the time of year! Enjoy 🙂

    • Wendy on July 11, 2010 at 07:04

    Michele: You’ll have to let me know what you think of the Bernsteins. I also use it in my guacamole…

    Caite: I agree – the Parmesan is really a great finishing touch

    Wisteria: Oooooh, wheatberry salad sounds yummy!

    Vicki: So do I!

    Staci: It is…on both counts!

    Kristen: Oh, the pesto is something I hadn’t thought of doing, so thank you for that suggestion. It sounds great!

    Les: Wow, your version sounds awesome! I love artichoke hearts…and of course, a rich, naughty sauce doesn’t hurt either!

  8. I love pasta salad, and it’s the perfect side for these hot temperatures. I am going to have to try this recipe as I have never made a pasta salad with fresh veggies before. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Wendy on July 17, 2010 at 20:16

    Zibilee: You’re welcome – hope you enjoy it!

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