This Easy Bowtie Pasta Salad with Italian dressing, fresh veggies, and Parmesan cheese is a quick summer dinner, cookout side dish, or meal prep lunch!
Like many of you, we’re challenging ourselves to grocery shop less and make our meals go further during this season of Staying At Home™. Juggling a business with kids home full time also means we’re in desperate need of quick meals that require very little prep work and clean up.
With the weather turning warmer, I decided an easy cold pasta salad would be a perfect addition to our rotation.
Italian Dressing Pasta Salad is My New MVP
Bow tie pasta salad is a CHAMP recipe for the, ahem, “unique” moment we find ourselves in. We love it because:
- It can be made in about 20 minutes.
- It’s ideal for making ahead of time. Make it in the morning, during nap time, or even the night before!
- You can swap out ingredients based on what you have on hand.
- It’s great for using up odds and ends in your produce drawer.
- It can be made meatless or loaded with meat and cheese! It’s totally up to you!
What’s in Bowtie Pasta Salad?
This recipe is loosely based on my mom’s pasta salad, but heavily adapted based on what we had in our produce drawer. Our Bow Tie Pasta Salad included:
- Bowties (obviously)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Broccoli (I love how broccoli soaks up the dressing!)
- Parmesan cheese
- Bottled Italian dressing
- Salt, pepper, and some scraps of parsley I dug up from the back of the fridge
Substitutions and Variations for Bowtie Pasta Salad
The beauty of this recipe is, you can completely make it your own! My mom always made Italian Dressing Pasta Salad with cubed Swiss cheese and imitation crab, and it’s delicious! You can put almost anything in here, and it will be fabulous!
Here are some pasta salad variations you may want to try:
- Sub the farfalle for another pasta, like rotini or penne.
- Swap out the veggies- cucumbers, red onion, and cauliflower can all be used here.
- Add some briny pickled veggies like banana peppers or olives.
- Sub the salami for pepperoni or ham cubes.
- Add cubed cheese to the mix if you’ve got it. My kids love this version!
Tips on how to make pasta salad:
- Pasta salad is actually best made ahead of time. It should be mixed together at least 1 hour in advance, but it will last for up to 5 days in the fridge. It’s perfect for a whole week of lunches!
- To cool the pasta quickly and keep it from sticking together, dunk the colander of hot pasta in an ice bath for a few seconds before transferring to a bowl.
- Don’t forget to season your pasta salad! Start by salting your pasta water, then add salt and pepper to taste once it’s mixed up. Fresh herbs like parsley, basil, or cilantro are also great additions.
Italian dressing for Pasta Salad
Part of the ease of this recipe is, of course, the bottled Italian dressing. It makes this come together in minutes! I recommend using a zesty, puckery Italian dressing. The Olive Garden dressing is especially great for this.
Don’t have Italian dressing? You can make homemade Italian dressing with just a few simple ingredients! You could also switch things up and use the homemade Greek dressing in this Greek Pasta Salad, or triple the vinaigrette recipe in this North Star Copy Cat Chopped Salad recipe.
- 16 ounces bowtie pasta
- 1 bottle Italian dressing
- 5-6 cups vegetables, chopped in bite sized pieces (We used cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers)
- 1 lb. salami, chopped
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil or parsley (optional)
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions. While the pasta cooks, prepare an ice water bath. Drain the pasta, then dunk the colander in the ice water bath for a few seconds to cool it off. Transfer pasta to a bowl.
- Toss the pasta with the Italian dressing, vegetables, salami, cheese, and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Pasta salad will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 580Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 87mgSodium: 842mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 3gSugar: 10gProtein: 19g