Here is a colorful Vegetarian Pasta Salad recipe tossed in a simple red wine vinaigrette dressing. It’s fun, festive, and best served at all your summer parties and BBQs – easy option to make ahead!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Eye catching and beautiful, with just the right balance of crunchy and creamy.
- Homemade red wine dressing takes it over the top!
- Kid friendly and mom approved – a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies!
- Easy to prep ahead – and store for later in the fridge.
Ingredients You Will Need
Pasta salad for vegetarians is easy to make when you have the right ingredients on hand. Here’s a look at what we need for this recipe:
- short pasta – keep it simple with any short cut pasta you have on hand, such as rotini, orecchiette, fussili, or farfalle (bowties).
- cucumbers – Persian cucumbers are milder than regular cucumbers and the best part – no need to peel.
- tomatoes – opt for super sweet cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise for a pretty presentation.
- bell pepper – any color of sweet bell pepper will do – red, orange or yellow are my favorites.
- red onion – a small to medium size red onion goes a long way. A large shallot or two is your next best option. But the red onion does add a nice pop of color.
- fresh mozzarella cheese – go for a whole round of fresh mozzarella cheese and chop it when you get home, or pick up a container of bocconcini. Mozzarella pearls work too. You can find them in the cheese section of your grocery store or any local Italian deli.
- parsley – for fresh flavor and color. Basil would add a nice burst of fresh herb flavor, too.
- extra virgin olive oil – use a quality EVOO for the fruitiest and purest flavor.
- red wine vinegar – red wine vinegar adds a nice burst of acidity and sweetness. White wine vinegar is a good sub.
- granulated sugar – the sugar is the secret ingredient that makes the best vegetarian pasta salad recipe. A teaspoon or two of honey is your next best option if you’re looking for a substitute.
- garlic – one clove of garlic goes a long way. Mince or grate it for the finest texture.
- Italian seasoning – I love a store-bought Italian seasoning blend that has a mix of savory herbs like marjoram, thyme, oregano, basil and parsley. If unavailable, an even mix of dried oregano and basil is a good substitute.
- fine sea salt – to enhance the flavor of the dressing and vegetables.
- red pepper flakes – for a kick of spice. Use to your taste, or omit it altogether.
How to Make
The trick to getting this pasta salad done in a short amount of time is to prep all the veggies and make the dressing while the pasta cooks on the stove. Here’s how to do it:
Cook any short grain pasta to al dente according to the directions on the box. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. Al dente is the key for pasta salad!
Prep Vegetables and Make Dressing
While the pasta is cooking on the stove, cut all of the vegetables and set them in a large bowl.
Make the dressing by mixing together the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and red pepper flakes in a mason jar or small bowl.
In your serving bowl, combine the pasta, half of the vegetables and some mozzarella. Drizzle on about half the dressing and then toss to combine.
Add the remaining vegetables, mozzarella, parsley and the rest of the dressing. Toss again to fully coat.
TIP: Tossing the pasta salad in a layered technique ensures all parts of the pasta and vegetables are evenly coated.
Serve or Chill
Serve immediately. Or, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.
The beauty of this recipe for vegetarian pasta salad is that it can be served room temperature or cold. Serve it the moment it is made or chill in the fridge for a few hours until it’s cold. It’s a fast and colorful side dish that can be paired with:
- Burgers: Serve it as a side dish to portobello mushroom burgers, Greek turkey burgers, chipotle cheddar turkey burgers or black bean burgers.
- Sandwiches / Wraps: Goes great with California turkey wraps, Southwest chicken wrap, Tex Mex wraps or tempeh lettuce wraps.
- Vegetables: Makes a great summer staple alongside grilled veggie kabobs, strawberry mango salad, grilled cabbage steaks or this amazing looking Squash and Zucchini Casserole.
- Cookouts: You can’t do cookouts and barbecues without a pasta salad, fruit bowl and potato salad here in the Midwest.
How to Store & Make Ahead
Leftover marinated pasta salad will keep tightly covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Make Ahead Instructions: To get ahead for summer parties or BBQs, make the pasta salad 2-3 days in advance. Cover and store in the fridge. The pasta will soak up the dressing over time. Because of this, I like to make an extra batch of dressing and toss it with a few extra tablespoons just before serving. I then use up the rest of the dressing in salads for the week. Win-win!
Vegetarian Pasta Salad FAQs
If you’re in need of a healthy alternative to pasta, you could try gluten-free pasta varieties such as brown rice, quinoa or lentil.
To successfully make pasta salad in advance, make sure to have extra dressing on hand. First, dress the pasta and vegetables when it is freshly made. Then, check the consistency the next day and toss with a few more tablespoons of dressing just before serving.
Pasta salad is a versatile side dish that can be paired with all your summer favorites, including burgers, panini, sandwiches, wraps, roasted vegetables, grilled meats, and more.
The trick to cooking pasta to a chewy yet firm texture is to cook it one minute past al dente. This keeps it soft, but not mushy.
More Pasta Salad Recipes You’ll Love:
If you make this Vegetarian Pasta Salad recipe, be sure to leave a comment and review on the blog! I love hearing from you, and it helps others learn more about the recipe too! Xx AshleyPrint
Vegetarian Pasta Salad
Here is a colorful Vegetarian Pasta salad recipe tossed in a simple red wine vinaigrette dressing. It’s fun, festive, creative and best served at all your summer parties and BBQs – with the option to make ahead!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 6-8 1x
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 pound short pasta (rotini, orecchiette, bowtie, etc.)
- 4 Persian cucumbers (the small ones), diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, lengthwise
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 medium red onion. diced
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
- 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried oregano and basil)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
- Prepare vegetables and dressing: While the pasta is cooking, prepare all of the vegetables and make the dressing by stirring everything together in a separate jar.
- Combine: In a large bowl combine the pasta, layer in about half of the vegetables and some mozzarella, drizzle on some dressing and then toss to combine. Add in the remaining vegetables, mozzarella and fresh parsley; add the remaining dressing and toss again to fully coat.
- Serve immediately or cover and chill until ready to serve.
STORAGE – Store, tightly covered in plastic wrap or airtight container, for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Keywords: vegetarian pasta salad, pasta salad for vegetarians, vegetarian pasta salads