This pasta salad is a gluten free, dairy free makeover of one of my favorite childhood side dishes. Whether you have food intolerances or not, this is a good one!
Her version has changed over the years. These days, you’re likely to find bits of fresh mozzarella, marinated artichoke hearts and other goodies tucked into her pasta salad. It’s always beautiful and colorful.
It was one of those things I really missed when we went gluten and dairy free. I only get a hankering for it a few times a year, but when I do, I want a version loaded with goodies and pulled together with a delicious dressing.
This is it.
I tend to favor a lot of goodies. There are SO many different things you can add to these salad. Try slow-roasted tomatoes instead of fresh ones, roasted red peppers for the peperoncinis, or white beans instead of pepperoni or salami. The beauty is that you can make it sliiiightly different each time. We make it vegan on a regular basis, and before our diet was changed, we loved adding little bits of cheese.
I like a combination of crunchy fresh veggies (like cucumbers or bell peppers), with the soft noodles, and the mixture of deep flavors like sun-dried tomatoes with the brightness of peperoncinis. It’s a pretty straight-forward method, but here are some highlights you should know…
Notes on the recipe:
DRESSING. Any bottle Italian or balsamic dressing will work beautifully here. I love the convenience of bottled dressing, and there are some delicious ones out there, but I often make homemade dressing to go with it (since I never remember to pick up a bottle of dressing when I’m at the grocery store). Our favorite homemade dressing for pasta salad is this amazing Lemon Basil Vinaigrette. It’s so fresh and bright.
PASTA. Our favorite gluten free pasta for pasta salad is the corn & rice kind. I’ve found that the brown rice and quinoa pastas we enjoy so much for warm dishes don’t stay soft enough for a cold salad. (If you’re not gluten free, you choose your favorite!)
SHAPES. At our local stores I can only find a few shapes of the corn/rice pasta, so penne it is. My heart will always be fondest of rotini, since I find the noodles are easier to spear and, well, my mom always used rotini. The good news is that I just found that Amazon carries GF rotini for a great price, so I may or may not have just placed a bulk order. You can choose your favorite shape!
HIGH QUALITY ADD-INS. If you’re looking for a shorter/cleaner ingredients list for your add-ins, our favorite brand for things like jarred roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and dye-free peperoncinis is Jeff’s Naturals. I get their products at Sprouts. (This isn’t paid or sponsored in any way, just sharing what we love).
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There are very few amounts here. You can make it a giant salad by adding lots and LOTS of add-ins, or you can keep it small by only adding a few. Mix and match your favorites!
- 8–12 oz pasta (gluten free or wheat-based), cooked and cooled
- Pepperoni or salami (or a mixture)
- grape tomatoes, sliced
- cucumber, sliced or diced
- sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, sliced
- olives (we love kalamata olives)
- Fresh basil, minced
- Your favorite salad dressing
Other optional add-ins:
- mozzarella or parmesan cheese
- bell peppers or roasted bell peppers
- green onions or chives
- Stir veggies and toppings into your cooked and cooled pasta. Stir in your favorite dressing. Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste. Chill until ready to serve, adding a little more dressing right before serving.