Chopped Italian Pasta Salad
Loaded with veggies, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella, this Chopped Italian Pasta Salad belongs on your picnic table this spring and summer. Simple to make and bursting with zesty flavor, a great side dish for any barbecue.
Pasta salad is a wonderful thing. Really…it’s so simple to make that sometimes we overlook the obvious. Like how I should have shared my favorite pasta salad recipe with all of you a long time ago. But it’s one of those things that’s so simple to make I forgot about it really, until the weather hit 70 degrees and I was suddenly craving it. And I had to make it, like, right away. And fire up the grill.
April is such a tease, really. Don’t you agree. When we have a couple warm days and are finally able to lounge around the backyard basking in the sun….I do it with a little caution. Like those days are numbered and we’re going to be smacked in the face with plunging temperatures and have to bust out the winter coats again. Days like that suck the wind out of my sails. That’s why, when the temps hit 65 and sunny….I’m all about the outdoors. Picnics, barbecues, fruity spiked beverages….just sitting around watching the grass turn green. Literally, we just had the lawn fertilized so we could actually watch the lawn turn green as the day went on. Then the craving began….Chopped Italian Pasta Salad.
I’ve been making this (and taking it to barbecues) for 20 years. Or more…but I didn’t really want to age myself to much so let’s stick with 20 years and say I started making this when I was 3 years old. 🙂 Anyway, the “chopped” part came in last year when I made it for Katie’s graduation party. My old version I used to just throw in large chunks of veggies and used a rotini type noodle, which was good but you could only eat one thing at a time. A piece of broccoli, a chunk of cucumber, a couple noodles. I like to combine the ingredients on my fork to create the perfect bite, so I decided to go smaller. Smaller pieces of veggies, smaller cheese, tiny pasta….it was perfect. And fast, because I used a bottled Italian dressing. 🙂 You can totally whip up a homemade vinaigrette in minutes if you prefer but sometimes convenience foods allow me to put more time into making my dish more spectacular. This is one of those times.
Chopped Italian Pasta Salad is great made a few hours ahead of time because it’s gives the pasta some time to absorb the flavors of the dressing. You’ll also want to be sure not to overcook the pasta so it doesn’t become mushy and fall apart when it sits a bit. One more tip….don’t use the entire bottle of dressing all at once, I like to save about 1/3 of it to toss with the salad right before serving. The salad does absorb a lot of the dressing while it sits to this is a great way to punch up the flavor. It would be great served with my Grilled Lemon and Herb Lamb Chops.
So…barring any freak snowstorms or deep freezes in the next few weeks….spring has finally sprung. It’s time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, fire up the grill, make your neighbors salivate with the smell of your steak wafting through the breeze and start eating more salad. With carbs thrown in for good measure. Invite your friends, toss back a few cold ones….and make some memories. It’s going to be a great summer.
Chopped Italian Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces ditalini or other small pasta, cooked
- 2 cups finely chopped broccoli
- 1 large zucchini, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2.25 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
- 8 ounce container fresh mozzarella pearls, drained (or chopped mozzarella cheese)
- 1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
- 1 16 ounce bottle Zesty Italian Dressing, divided (I used Kraft)
- In a large bowl, toss the pasta, broccoli, zucchini, bell pepper, olives, cheese and pepperoni until combined. Pour 2/3 of the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 6 hours.
- Pour the remaining dressing over the salad and toss to combine right before serving.