5-Ingredient Pasta Salad

Bowls of 5-Ingredient Pasta Salad sitting on yellow and orange printed napkins

Pasta salad is a staple for summer picnics and parties. And no wonder, because it is so delicious and versatile! 

There are dozens of different ways to make pasta salad, but if you want to keep things simple while still enjoying plenty of flavor, you can’t beat this classic pasta salad recipe.

5-Ingredient Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing makes a quick and easy side dish for almost any kind of meal. Alternatively, it could be served as a main dish since it is loaded with cheddar cheese and pepperoni.

Bowl of Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing sitting on brightly colored napkins

What you’ll need to make 5-Ingredient Pasta Salad

Basic ingredients for classic pasta salad:

  • Tri-color rotini
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Italian dressing

Optional ingredients that may be added:

  • Black olives
  • Halved grape tomatoes
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Diced onion
  • Diced green pepper

Cubes of cheese on a cutting board and a bowl of classic pasta salad on a white wooden table

Can you make pasta salad the night before?

Yes, you can! There are several simple methods for making pasta salad ahead of time.

Method #1

Assemble the entire pasta salad, but reserve about 1/4 of the Italian dressing (or have a little extra handy). Just before serving, pour the remaining dressing over the refrigerated ingredients and stir to get everything nicely coated. 

Method #2

Prep all the ingredients and refrigerate them in sealed containers or zipper bags until you’re ready to make the pasta salad. Because everything is already cold from being in the refrigerator, you can quickly combine all the ingredients and serve the pasta salad immediately.

Bowl with cheese, pepperoni, and tri-color rotini for quick and easy pasta salad

How long does pasta salad last?

Pasta salad with Italian dressing (or any pasta salad WITHOUT mayonnaise) can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. 

If your pasta soaks up too much dressing while it sets in the frig, it may become a bit dry. If this happens, just add a little more Italian dressing to the pasta salad. Presto, delicious again!

5-Ingredient Pasta Salad


  • 1 16 oz. pkg. tri-color rotini
  • 1 8 oz. block cheddar cheese
  • 1 7 oz. pepperoni stick
  • 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1 16 oz. bottle Italian dressing


  • Cook rotini according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water until rotini is no longer warm. Transfer to large bowl.
  • Cube cheddar cheese and pepperoni; add to bowl along with Parmesan cheese.
  • Pour dressing over ingredients in bowl. Stir well to coat.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Bowls of pasta salad with pepperoni and cheddar cheese

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