Tri Color Pasta Salad is full of fresh vegetables, tender rotini pasta, and covered in an easy dressing of ranch + Italian salad dressing! The combination of two salad dressings is the secret. It's the perfect side dish for any gathering, bbq, or dinnertime.
Tri Color Pasta Salad Recipe
Pasta salad recipes are my very favorite type of recipe to create in my kitchen! This tri color pasta salad is full of tri colored rotini pasta, tons of fresh veggies, mozzarella pearls, and it's covered in an easy dressing with two different salad dressings! The combination of ranch dressing + Italian dressing really is what make this pasta salad stand out from the crowd.
This is great served as a side dish to dinner, and it's also the perfect salad to bring along to a summertime gathering or bbq. It goes great with anything and it's a delicious way to eat lots of vegetables.
Here is the list of ingredients that you will need to make this recipe. I also share some helpful tips so that you can recreate this salad in your own kitchen!
- Tri Color Pasta Salad - No subs for this one! You need tri color rotini to create a tri color pasta salad 😉
- Mozzarella Pearls - These are little balls of mozzarella cheese. They do sell marinated ones but don't get those! We want the plain mozzarella pearls which you can usually find in the deli-produce area at the grocery store.
- Black Olives - I like to use a can of sliced olives and then just roughly chop them. You can use a can of already chopped olives but I find that they're too small, which is why I recommend just chopping the sliced black olives.
- Mini Cucumbers - I highly recommend using the mini cucumbers vs. regular cucumbers in this recipe. Regular cucumbers have a lot more seeds and moisture to them.
- Cherry OR Grape Tomatoes - Either one will work, make sure that you halve them and then measure out the 1 cup.
- Baby Carrots - These are already small in size which makes them perfect for this recipe. Just slice them thin and that's it.
- Chopped Broccoli
- Red Onion - You will only need about ½ of a red onion for this recipe.
- Yellow Pepper - Feel free to use a orange or red bell pepper instead. I think yellow is the best because there is already the red and orange colors in this tri color salad.
- Olive Garden Parmesan Ranch & Italian Salad Dressings - I have tested this recipe several times using other salad dressing combinations and this is the best! For best results, please use the Olive Garden brand of salad dressings when making this recipe.
How To Make Tri Color Pasta Salad with Italian Salad Dressing
Learn how to make a tri color pasta salad in your own kitchen with these easy steps.
- Preparation : Add water to a large pot and put it over high heat to let it come to a boil. It will take several minutes for the water to come to a boil. While you're waiting, go ahead and start prepping all your vegetables. You can finish prepping the veggies while the pasta is boiling in the next step.
- Pasta : Add the pasta + salt into the boiling water and cook according to package instructions. I prefer a soft pasta so I always cook about 2 minutes longer then the al dente cook time.
- Drain & Rinse : When pasta is done, drain it in a colander. Make sure to drain it well. I like to take a paper towel and gently dab the pasta to make sure any extra moisture is off of it.
- Pasta Salad : Add the drained pasta and all the veggies + cheese, into a large serving bowl or mixing bowl. Stir.
- Dressings : Add the two salad dressings and mix well, making sure all the pasta is coated in dressing.
Tips For Success
Here are a few of my helpful tips so that you can have success with this recipe in your own kitchen.
- Olive Garden Salad Dressings : I have tested this recipe several times with other dressings and other combination. The combo of Olive Garden's Parmesan Ranch Dressing + Italian Dressing is the best! I highly recommend sticking with the recipe and using those two dressings.
- Vegetables : Be sure and chop/slice all the vegetables so they're all about the same size. This way, you get all sorts of goodness in one bite, rather than one large piece of something. It's also the reason that it's best to use baby carrots and mini carrots.
- Measuring : Make sure you are measuring the 1 cup needed of the veggies after you have sliced, chopped, or halved them.
- Pasta : Cook to al dente or cook a few minutes longer for softer pasta. I prefer a softer pasta, so I always cook it a few minutes past the al dente cook time. Be sure and also add some salt to the boiling water. This will flavor the pasta and make it actually taste like something!
- Use Cold Salad Dressings : This will help the salad stay cold and ready to serve right away! Be sure and refrigerate the salad dressing bottles.
Tri Color Pasta Salad FAQ's
- How to Store Leftover Pasta Salad
- Store any leftovers in the fridge, inside an air-tight container, for up to 3-4 days.
- Pasta salad will dry out as it sits in the fridge. To fix this, just add additional salad dressing and mix it up.
- Pasta salad is best served within a few hours of making it.
- Can I Serve This Right Away?
- Yes you can! It's yummy served right after making it, or you can refrigerate it for 1-2 hours before serving for a colder pasta salad.
- Add additional salad dressing into the salad before serving, if needed, to moisten it back up.
- Substitution & Variation Ideas
- Although I don't recommend it, you can use any ranch or Italian dressing. Try using a zesty Italian dressing for a kick.
- Feel free to use a red bell pepper or orange bell pepper instead of the yellow. I like to use yellow because the red and orange colors are already in the salad.
- If you don't want to roughly chop the sliced olives, you can use chopped olives instead.
- If wanted, add some dried seasonings like basil, garlic powder, Italian seasoning for more flavor. The salad dressings have plenty of flavor already, so this is totally optional.
- Can I Make Pasta Salad Ahead of Time?
- I do not recommend making this the night before. The pasta will soak up any dressing as it sits in the fridge. If you must make it 24 hours ahead of time, make sure that you add plenty of dressing to moisten it back up before serving.
- I recommend making it right before serving OR you can make it 1-3 hours before serving and let it sit in the fridge to get cold. If needed, add dressing to moisten it back up.
More Pasta Salads You'll Love
- Coleslaw Pasta Salad
- Poppyseed Chicken Pasta Salad
- Fruity Cashew Chicken Pasta Salad
- Easy Greek Pasta Salad
- Dill Pickle Pasta Salad
Tri Color Pasta Salad
Tri Color Pasta Salad
- 1 box (12 oz) tri color rotini pasta
- 8 ounces mozzarella pearls
- 1 can (2.25 oz) sliced black olives roughly chopped
- 1 cup sliced & halved mini cucumbers
- 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup sliced baby carrots
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- ⅓ cup finely diced red onion (about ½ of a red onion)
- 1 yellow pepper chopped small
- ¾ cup Olive Garden Parmesan Ranch salad dressing
- ¾ cup Olive Garden Italian salad dressing
- Preparation : Chop all the veggies beforehand or while the pasta is cooking. Put the water into a large pot and let it come to a boil while you're preparing veggies. You can then finish them up while the pasta is cooking.
- Cook pasta according to instructions on the back of the box. Cook to preferred tenderness, al dente or longer for softer pasta. * Add about 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the boiling water before you add your pasta in. This helps flavor the pasta. If using regular table salt, use ½ teaspoon.
- When pasta is done cooking, drain it inside a colander, and run cold water over it for about 30 seconds.* Make sure it is drained really well. I normally take a paper towel and blot the pasta to make sure all the extra moisture is off of it.
- Dump the pasta into a large mixing bowl or large serving bowl. Add the mozzarella pearls, olives, cucumbers, tomato, carrots, broccoli, red onion, and chopped yellow pepper. Stir to combine.
- Pour the ranch dressing and Italian salad dressing over the pasta and stir well, making sure that all the pasta and vegetables are coated in the dressings.
- Serve right away OR you can refrigerate it for about 1-2 hours before serving for a colder pasta. * Both ways are equally delicious. I like it cold, so I usually refrigerate it for about 2 hours before serving it. Add a little extra dressing, if needed, to moisten back up any leftovers or before serving it cold from the fridge.