Really, I think we all can agree, nothing feels better than bringing a dish to a potluck or picnic and having everyone go nuts over it by ranting and raving about how delicious it is. Asking other people at the gathering “Who made this? It is wonderful! I must get the recipe!”
If you haven’t ever experienced this, well, I feel bad for you, but hopefully by reading my potluck pasta salad recipe, you too can make it happen!
I actually have three go-to easy cold pasta salad recipes that I use for different occasions, but today I am going to be sharing my usual first choice for parties, potlucks, or picnics.
Why This Pasta Salad?
The really crazy thing about this pasta salad is that it is super simple. It really doesn’t seem like anything special when I am making it, but without fail every single time I have made it for other people they totally love it!
I am not exaggerating at all. I have never brought this dish somewhere without several people asking around to find out who made it so they could ask me how.
But the real compliment comes from the people who don’t ask. When there are 5, 10, 20 potluck offerings sitting on a table and you watch yours quickly disappear while other people’s bowls barely have a dent in them, you know you did something right!
Yes, this may be a little egotistical, but hey, it feels good. And I do not want to be that person (sorry if it is you) who has to bring 2 lbs of whatever you made back home. So sad…
I have to believe that, deep inside, anybody who spent the time and money to make something for a party wants everyone to eat it and love it. And that is my goal. So without further ado, here is my ridiculously simple fan favorite pasta salad recipe…
What You Will Need
Depending on the size of the gathering you are attending you may want to double, triple or quadruple this recipe. I will just base it on one standard 12 oz box of Rotini noodles. This will yield about 7 cups of finished pasta salad when the ingredients are added.
Pretty much all of the ingredients in this pasta salad are things I usually have on hand. As usual, I try to make things that don’t require you (or I) to go out and buy a bunch of stuff, but I realize everyone keeps different items in their kitchen. With that said, here are the ingredients you will need:
- 12 oz box of Rotini noodles (about 3 cups dry)
- 25 Spanish (or Manzanilla-same thing) olives- (the small green olives with the pimento inside)
- 10 green onions (about 1 cup chopped)
- 1 cup 1/4 inch cubed Italian Dry Salami or about 20 diced sandwich slices
- 1 cup Sharp Cheddar- about 1/4 inch cubes
- 1 cup Kraft Tuscan House Italian Dressing
A Little Break Down of the Ingredients
I have really always made this by eyeballing the amount of each ingredient. But since I wanted to share the recipe with you all I went and made a batch so that I could be more exact with the quantities. That is why I know exactly how many Spanish olives and green onions I used…in case you were wondering.
Spanish Olives– use the small ones that come in a jar (not a can). If you don’t already have some, you can get a medium sized 7 oz jar for around $3 or $4. (Added Bonus- You can make Dirty Martinis with the leftovers!!) Also, depending on the brand, they are sometimes called Manzanilla olives.
You may be tempted to use the large Spanish olives you see on the shelf right next to these, so you don’t have to cut up as many, but I warn you–they do not taste the same.
I have never quite understood why (maybe I should do some research), but they just have a slightly different taste and are much firmer. Hmm..maybe the thickness of the larger olives doesn’t allow the marinade it is in to soak in as much as in the smaller ones making the flavor different as a whole.
But anyways, you can use the large ones if you prefer them for some reason, but it isn’t something I would do.
You will want to cut up the olives into little pieces. This is probably the most time consuming part of the recipe, but it isn’t as bad as you might think. They are really easy to cut.
Again, do not be tempted to use those pre-sliced green olives that come in a little can. They are not cured the same. The will not impress the way hand sliced actual Spanish olives will.
Green Onions– This one is pretty straight forward. A cup of chopped green onions.
Italian Dry Salami– Honestly, I am usually too cheap to buy the actual log of dry salami, so I just use sliced deli or sliced package salami most of the time.
Cubing up the real thing does actually make the salad a little more fun though. It is nice to get that yummy little chewable bite of salami, so if you have some, or don’t mind spending the money, I recommend it.
If however, you want to take the sliced route, that is fine too. It still tastes great! Just make sure you get dry salami or Genoa, not Cotta! Cotta tastes like bologna…totally different affect on the taste buds.
Sharp Cheddar– I prefer sharp cheddar because it has a stronger flavor than its medium and mild counterparts. To me, if I am going to add calories to my meal, I want to taste them. So, again, you can use whatever you prefer or have on hand, but Sharp will come through and make the pasta salad the best.
Kraft Tuscan House Italian Dressing– I think this and the Spanish olives are what really make people go crazy for this pasta salad. These two flavors are unique to most other peoples dishes.
I first bought this dressing years ago because it was on sale, and then surprise, surprise, it turned out to be a great pasta salad dressing! And lucky for me (and you) this dressing is very inexpensive. Kraft does 2 for $5 sales all the time (at least where I live), so I always make sure to have this in my cupboard.
As with every ingredient, I know how you are (because I am the same way), you will probably want to use some other dressing you like, or want to be fancy and make your own. Of course, you can do that, but don’t get upset if your salad doesn’t get eaten at the potluck…not that your favorite dressing isn’t wonderful, but the meld of these flavors together is tried and true, and that is why I am sharing it with you.
Putting It All Together
This is really simple, so this will be a short section.
What I like to do is start the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking you can chop all the ingredients.
When the pasta is done strain it and run it under cold water until it is no longer warm at all.
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.
One other suggestion. If you make this a few hours before the event, give it a stir before you get there. Sometimes the pasta will seemingly soak up all the dressing, so you may want to give it another splash or two and a stir.
A word of caution- The dressing has a bold flavor, so you don’t want to overdo it. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take it out.
Ok! Now you are ready to go be the star of your social gathering. Just watch that pasta disappear. Remember not to gloat, you don’t want to make the other contributors feel too sad. Poor things have to go home and eat their potato salad for the next three days.
Spicing it Up
Due to this recipe being one to please the masses, I would avoid making it spicy. But if you are going to be among some spicy friends (or just making it for yourself) you can easily add your favorite diced hot pepper. I would probably use jalapeno, as that is my typically my pepper of choice. It is readily available and usually has a good level of heat to include in food without overpowering it.
For the size of the above recipe I would probably chop up half of one jalapeno as small as possible. It will add a little crunch and heat, but won’t affect the flavor much. Keep in mind, the seeds are the hot part. So if you want it spicy put in all the seeds. The less seeds you use the less spicy the dish will be, and some bites might be hotter than others.
If you do feel like just making this to keep at home for yourself or the family, (you can easily cut the recipe in half or in thirds if needed) it would go great with my Grilled Tri Tip Recipe!
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment below.