I found the cutest tricolor pasta on my last trip to HomeGoods, and I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe to use it with for a while. Well, I’ve finally found it with this Classic Pasta Salad! It’s chock full of many flavorful ingredients, but the part I liked the most was the homemade vinaigrette dressing. Many of the pasta salad recipes I looked at called for bottled Italian dressing. Now, that’s great for convenience, don’t get me wrong, but I really wanted something totally from scratch. So let’s find out if this recipe is worthy of that tricolor pasta!
Classic pasta salad is made with a tri-color rotini, filled with vegetables and cheeses, and coated in a homemade vinaigrette. The perfect recipe to feed a crowd!
Obviously, pasta is the main ingredient here, and the recipe actually calls for tricolor rotini. I get it—rotini has all those nooks and crannies to really hold sauce and dressing, making it popular for pasta salad. My HomeGoods tricolor pasta find had several additional shapes with plenty of those dressing-holding nooks and crannies. I had to do some research to try to figure out the names, and I hope these are correct:
- Creste de Gallo (literally “comb of the rooster”, ridged macaroni with a wavy spine)
- Cuoricini (heart-shaped pasta)
- Grape clusters (a specialty shape)
- Girelle (smooth conical/corkscrew twists)
- Penne Regate (thin tubular pasta with ridges)
- Radiatori (literally translates to “radiators” 😳)
- Rotini (a.k.a. fusilli, twists)
- Ruote (a ridged tubular flower/wagon wheel shape)
- Sendani Rigati (ridged tubes)
I had several other ingredients in my pantry in addition to the pasta. Olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I even found a can of black olives (the type isn’t listed in the recipe but is in the blog post). I had to slice them for this salad, but it was easy to do and surprisingly quick.
That left me to shop for the produce, meat, and cheeses. I found them all at my regular grocery store, but most of the packages left me with extras. I was worried I would end up wasting them, but I managed to use them up in a puttanesca a few days later.
Lastly, you might have noticed a wedge of parmesan in the photo of the ingredients. I decided to grate it myself for some reason. I’m sure grated parmesan from the dairy case would have been fine. I just had to be extra.
First off, I need to mention this recipe makes 24 servings. That’s great for a crowd but too much for the 2 of us. I halved it and we made it into a few meals since it was hearty enough for light dinners by itself. My kitchen scale made weighing out the ingredients much easier than I thought it would be.
My Classic Pasta Salad kicked off with boiling some water for the pasta. I used a 4.5-quart saucepan to make sure it was large enough for the pasta. Once I weighed out 12 ounces of pasta (the package was 17.6 ounces) I began prepping the vegetables.
I had the veggies done by the time the water was ready (about 10 minutes), so I salted it, added the pasta, and made sure to stir periodically while I finished up the other prep work. The package I bought didn’t have detailed instructions with a cooking time (so weird!) so I took a guess and boiled it for 9 minutes.
I wasn’t quite finished with prepping the cheeses and pepperoni by the time the pasta was done. Prepping the cheese wasn’t bad, but separating all the pepperoni took forever! Tip: It’s not listed in the recipes, but the photos show the pepperoni is halved.
When I drained the pasta I noticed a lot of breakage and realized it was on the verge of overcooking. So instead of simply leaving the pasta in the colander to cool per the recipe, I ran it under cold water to stop the cooking process. It ended up being a good thing since the pasta was fine and this method cut off a lot of prep time.
Once the pasta was saved I finished up the prep work and made the salad dressing. Assembling this recipe was just a matter of adding all the ingredients to a large bowl and mixing them together. The only “problem” I had was the pepperoni clumping together. It was cut very thinly, and I think that caused it. No amount of picking it apart really fixed the problem, so I recommend thicker slices like what you find on most pizzas.
I let my finished Classic Pasta Salad sit for an hour to meld the flavors, then we dug in. And good news—hubby said the clumped pepperoni was his favorite part!
This recipe lists 25 minutes to prep plus 1 hour of resting time, for a total of 1 hour and 25 minutes. My time was 1 hour and 33 minutes, and I think picking apart the thinly sliced pepperoni was what caused the slowdown.