Easy California Pasta Salad with Homemade Italian Dressing
A simple California pasta salad that you can toss together in no time! Loaded with black olives, green and red bell peppers, diced tomatoes, onions, and parmesan cheese. Drizzled with a quick and easy homemade Italian dressing.
It’s officially pasta salad season.
And I’ve got a new one to add to your arsenal of pasta salad recipes. Meet the California Pasta salad loaded with simple ingredients and drizzled with my simple, yet robust, roasted garlic Italian dressing. Gosh, I could eat this stuff for weeks on end.
Truth be told, I wanted to share this salad with you before Memorial Day so you had something quick and easy to toss together for all your holiday shindigs. But Memorial Day snuck up on me this year. Oh well, we still have all 93 days of summer left to enjoy it.
Lately, I’m having a moment with this California Pasta Salad. This makes a ton, by the way, so you can see why it would be best if you made it for a large crowd. But the recipe can also easily be scaled back if you’re serving this for 4. Me? I made a whole batch for the TWO of us. And you can bet we ate it all. I love that it’s so customizable – I’ll toss in some leftover cooked chicken when we’ve got some on hand. Or I can serve it with grilled shrimp skewers. And my favorite — served with Greek grilled chicken. I kid you not I could eat this for lunch or dinner for a week straight and still not be tired of it. That’s saying a whole lot — I’m one that gets bored of food rather quickly!
California Pasta Salad is summer in a serving dish for me. During the summer, lunches are best consumed cold because *pause* it’s only June 5th and it’s already sweltering in Texas. I’m not eating or drinking anything evenly remotely warm. Not gonna happen.
Okay, let me break this California Pasta Salad down for you.
- cooked pasta (basically, any shape you like)
- green + red bell peppers
- chopped red onions
- chopped tomatoes
- sliced black olives
- tons of grated parmesan cheese
You’ll notice this is a mayo-less pasta salad. I love my midwestern ways, but sometimes, you gotta lay off the mayo and embrace all the millions of salads and dressing combinations that taste 1000% delicious without mayonnaise. Let’s keep going; you can swap the ingredients for things you like or add other ingredients in. If you’re fancy, swap the chopped tomatoes or sun-dried ones or add in marinated artichokes. I use both of them in my Mediterranean pasta salad and can’t get over how good it tastes. You can also, add MEAT. Mini pepperoni, diced salami or even a shredded rotisserie chicken would work well here, and you wouldn’t have to do much to make this a complete meal. And lastly, this salad is economical. You’re not using anything here that costs an arm and a leg so you can mindlessly add this to all your summer potluck, book club, and picnic menus.
Roasted Garlic Italian Dressing for our California Pasta Salad:
Okay, I’m having a moment with roasted garlic again because I seriously just used it in this salad. I’m obsessed with how smooth it makes the dressing and allows you to double up on it without the fear of breathing garlic breath all over the first person that approaches you post lunch. You’ll also notice that my roasted garlic dressing is a little different than what you usually see on a California Pasta Salad. Still has the same bones but I find the flavors to be a little more sophisticated.
For the dressing we’ll combine:
- roasted garlic
- white wine vinegar
- italian seasoning
- dried basil
- dijon mustard
- olive oil
- sesame seeds
And there you have it! California Pasta Salad that requires just a wee bit of chopping but can simply be prepared ahead of time and will indeed feed a crowd!
So easy and so so yummy!
- 1 pound fusilli or rotini pasta
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 2 small cans (2.25 ounce each) sliced black olives, drained
- 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
Roasted Garlic Italian Dressing:
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon EACH: Italian seasoning, dijon mustard, and dried basil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoon water
- 12-14 cloves roasted garlic (see notes)
- SALAD: Cook the pasta according to package direction, drain and allow to cool to room temperature. Combine all the ingredients (except the parm) for the salad in a large bowl and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the dressing.
- DRESSING: Place the ingredients for the dressing in a blender along with a big pinch of salt and pepper and blend until smooth (or add to a jar if using an immersion blender.) Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- ASSEMBLE: At this point, you can refrigerate the dressing until ready to serve as well or toss the pasta salad with dressing and top with parmesan cheese and serve! If you’re taking this to a party, I suggest keeping the salad and dressing separate until ready to serve.
- I purchased roasted garlic from the deli section of my grocery store. Feel free to roast your own garlic too if you'd like!