If you like 15-minute dinner ideas, consider it your lucky day! This easy pasta salad recipe is quick, cheap, and so dang good. Say hello to your new favorite shelf cooking meal!
Short on time? Don't want to heat up the kitchen? Looking for a simple, filling family meal idea that won't break the bank? This easy pasta salad recipe checks all the boxes!
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If you've got a box of pasta and a few basic pantry staples, you've got everything you need to put a hearty dinner on the table in just 15 minutes. We'll show you how to customize this recipe using ingredients you already have in the kitchen, share tips and tricks for using any leftovers, plus a few ridiculously easy side dish ideas. Let's do this!
EASY WAYS TO CUSTOMIZE THIS PASTA SALAD RECIPE
Aside from the fact that it's cheap and delicious, we love that this pasta salad is versatile! You can make it using just about anything you already have on hand. Want to customize this recipe, so you don't have to run to the store? There are so many pastabilities! Here are some quick tips:
- Pasta – We like using rotini, but just about any noodle will do! If you have penne, bow tie, or macaroni, use that instead. Have a little left of each? Mix and match.
- Italian Dressing – While we usually use Italian dressing, you can make your own vinaigrette, reach for some balsamic glaze, or even toss your salad with some ranch. Another option: use about a quarter cup of mayo blended with your favorite seasonings.
- Tuna – Any chicken works in this recipe too (canned, shredded, cubed, diced). We used canned tuna because we had a bunch, but deli meat or cubed ham is an option, too, as well as some leftover sliced steak, or any other protein you have handy.
- Veggies – Mix and match those veggies to your heart's content! Pasta salad is a great way to use up fresh produce. Peas, corn, beans, celery, onion, peppers, mushrooms, olives, and chickpeas are all amazing options, but we could go on and on. The bottom line? Use what you've got!
- Add-Ins – Want to add a little flair to your pasta salad? Try different cheeses, add in some dried fruit, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, bacon bits, or bread crumbs.
If you're really in a hurry, try doctoring up a box of Suddenly Salad! Just follow the box instructions, toss in some diced veggies and a little chicken, and boom! You're done.
WHAT TO SERVE ON THE SIDE
Truth be told, you can make this a one-dish dinner and call it good! If you add in some protein, it's really all you need. But, if you want to add a side dish of two to stretch this meal even further, try one of these:
- Side Salad – Make it a salad bar kind of night! Mix up your favorites greens and toss those leftover diced veggies and croutons into the mix. This spinach strawberry salad is a fave around here!
- Corn on the Cob – A few ears of boiled or grilled corn are the perfect complement to this summer meal.
- Dinner Rolls – Bring on the carbs! If you like serving bread with dinner, try these delicious dinner rolls. Don't forget the honey butter!
- Steamed Veggies – Microwave some broccoli, carrots, or green beans, and you won't even have to heat up the kitchen.
- Fruit – We love serving fresh fruit as a side dish during the summer. Dice some watermelon or peaches, or make whip up a fruit medley.
Don't overthink it! Pasta salad night is a great time to clean out the fridge. If you have leftover soup, warm that up for an easy soup and pasta salad night. It's so easy to turn pasta salad into a meal because just about anything works on the side.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR LEFTOVER PASTA SALAD
If you have leftover pasta salad, store it in an airtight container and keep it refrigerated. It should last for 3-4 days. This recipe doesn't freeze well, so be sure to use it up! Looking for a few ways to make sure this pasta salad doesn't go to waste? Here are three tips:
- Pack it for Lunch – Whether you're headed to the park or work, pasta salad is a perfect grab-and-go lunch!
- Add it to Another Salad – Have some leftover tossed salad? Mix it all together so nothing goes to waste.
- Make Bento Boxes – Leftovers are way more fun in a bento box, so go ahead and clean out the fridge! Serve up anything you need to use, including that pasta salad.
Alright, now that you're up to speed on recipe swaps, side dishes, and leftovers, what do you say we get to that easy pasta salad recipe?!
OUR FAVORITE EASY PASTA SALAD RECIPE
We can't think of a single reason not to try this easy pasta salad recipe! Since we bet you're already hungry if you've made it this far, let's just dive right in, eh?
Easy Pasta Salad
- 1 box pasta
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ⅓ cup black olives
- 1 can tuna, drained
- 1 cup Italian dressing
- Boil pasta according to package instructions.
- While pasta boils, prep your veggies.
- Drain pasta in a colander and run under cold water to help cool the pasta down quickly.
- Once drained, add it to a large mixing bowl, toss in your veggies, then add the drained tuna and mix thoroghly. Mix in the dressing and stir to combine.
- Optional: cover and refrigerate for about an hour to chill all the ingredients.
- Serve and enjoy!
This easy dinner idea is a quick and easy go-to that's good enough to eat all year. So, the next time you're not sure what to make, reach for a box of pasta and go to town!
We hope you enjoy this one! It's an easy peasy dish perfect for those busy nights.
Do you have a favorite 15-minute meal? Tell us about it in the comments!
Looking for more easy recipes to try?
- Check out this 10-minute mini quiche recipe!
- This black bean and corn dip comes together in a flash and it's delicious.
- Here are a few cheap party ideas!
Ciao for now!
I was worried that if I made a boxed pasta salad for a potluck pool party it would be too plain so I will go ahead and add tomato, peppers and croutons/parmesan…I don’t like onions and I don’t care if there are goopy tomato seeds. No salami meat in the house so I will skip that. Still feeling better about it overall
Definitely try it out!
My only question is why on earth would you take the inside of a tomato out? Thats the best part
If you do your basicly just left with the tomato skin. Other then that the recioe looks great.
We’re just talking about taking the seeds out, not the meat of the tomato! But if you love them, then leave them in! 🙂
Making this as I type with Parmesan variety. Substituting English cucumber for the tomato. Thank you so very much for putting this out there.