Once the weather changes over to more warm sunny days than not and my kids spend their days out in the yard rather than at school, grilled dinners become the norm. Standing in front of a warm stove or oven is not my favorite thing to do during the summer months.
My grocery bill during the summer months consists of mostly meats for grilling and quick and easy side ingredients. I like to make sides that will last for a couple dinners throughout the week. If I can limit my cooking time and maximize my time outside with my family relaxing, that’s a great day for me!
One of my favorite summer side dishes for grill nights is this EASY pasta salad. The options are endless with this recipe. You can add any additional ingredients, omit something you don’t like, or substitute if you prefer a different flavor or option. You can make as little or as much as you need. I eyeball this every time I make it, if you prefer more of one ingredient or less that’s totally fine!
This salad is great not only to keep on hand in your refrigerator to add to your own dinners, but it is great for BBQs, potlucks, parties, etc. It is easy to make ahead of time and travels well too! This side is best served cold, but there isn’t a lot in it that will spoil easily, so it’s perfect for warm weather.
Easy Pasta Salad
- tri-color rotini pasta
- cucumber – peeled and diced
- cubed cheese of your choice
- diced pepperoni slices
- pitted and sliced black olives
- cherry tomatoes
- Italian salad dressing
When I make a batch of this to keep in the refrigerator for my family, I make one whole box of pasta. Boil the pasta per the box’s directions. Drain and place in a bowl in the refrigerator to cool.
While I am waiting for the pasta to boil, I work on prepping my ingredients. Peel and dice the cucumbers, cube up your cheese, dice up your pepperoni slices. I like to leave my cherry tomatoes whole.
Once the pasta is cooled off enough to add my cut ingredients, I dump them all in a bowl along with the cherry tomatoes and olives and stir to combine. Once I get them pretty evenly distributed, I add about half the bottle of Italian dressing and stir again to combine. If I am going to serve this right away after it’s chilled, I will go ahead and stir in the remainder of the bottle at this time. If I won’t be serving this until the next day, or I am traveling to an event with this side dish I will reserve the other half of the bottle and add it just before serving.
Here is where the versatility of this dish comes in. If you prefer more or less salad dressing, adjust it to your taste. If you prefer a different type of pasta, go for it! A lot of people add onion to this dish. My family doesn’t like raw onions so we omit them. I like to use colby-jack cheese in my pasta salad, but you can cube up any variety you like. I know a lot of people use mozzarella or sharp cheddar. You can also substitute ham or salami for the pepperoni if you wish.
We eat pretty lightly during the warm months. So this pasta paired with a steak or hamburgers is a great option for us. My kids typically won’t eat these veggies on their own, but when I mix them up like this they are definitely fans! Have you made this pasta salad for a side before? What ingredients do you like to add? I’d love to try your variations!