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Zesty Rotini Pasta Salad Without Mayonnaise

Zesty rotini pasta salad is the perfect side for most meals. Whether you serve it with a family dinner or bring it to a potluck, it will disappear quickly, especially if there’s someone who doesn’t care for mayonnaise!

Easy Pasta Salad Side Dish

Pasta salad with greens and tomatoes

The variety of ingredients with different textures make this salad special. It’s like a party in the mouth with an explosion of wonderful flavors.

Yet it’s super easy. I love how just a few ingredients come together so well to bring you a side dish that goes with so many main dishes.

It’s perfect as a side with a chicken dinner or any type of seafood. In fact, it’s good with just about everything.

It certainly makes me happy, and everyone who has ever tasted it asks for seconds.

Discovery of Something New

The first time I made this, I’d planned to make my traditional creamy macaroni salad. But I was out of mayonnaise (I know, it’s a travesty!), so I had to adjust the recipe.

After rummaging through the cupboard and fridge, I came up with this, and it worked out just fine.

In fact, I think it was better than fine. It’s now one of my favorite side dishes.

Every bite of this zesty rotini pasta salad is packed with flavor.

Although this might not be new to others, I grew up having the creamier version. In fact, I don’t remember my mom serving this.

After making this, I added it to my “favorite salads” list. Having more than one pasta salad option is always a good thing.

From what I recall, it was never on the salad table at any of my family reunions. I wish I’d thought to make this back when I attended them because I know my cousins would have loved it.

To Zest or Not to Zest

For a long time, I made it without the lemon zest. Then one day, I was watching the Food Network and heard one of the chefs saying you should never waste the lemon peel.

That got me thinking about how delicious it would be on this salad. So the next time I made it, I scooped some into a separate bowl and added a little bit of lemon zest.

Whoa. That was delicious. Without reservation, I added it to the permanent recipe.

Now that’s how I make it every single time. That is, when I have lemons.

Zest some lemon for extra flavor.

Choice of Rotini or Other Pasta

Since I make my creamy pasta salad with the elbow macaroni, I decided to do something different for this one. I love a variety of textures on my plate.

So when I saw that there was a gluten-free rotini, I did a fist-pump and grabbed it. And I quite like it.

However, if you don’t have rotini, you can make it with whatever you do have. With so many different shapes of pasta available, the sky’s the limit.

In fact, you can even use spaghetti or linguine if you break it into pieces that are easy to manage in a salad. I’m a firm believer in making use of whatever you have on hand.

If you’re watching your carbs, you can even make this with lentil pasta. I’ve been seeing it on the store shelves for a while, so I know it’s available.

What to Serve with Zesty Rotini Pasta Salad

This is a dish that goes with practically any main dish, such as these sesame ginger ribs. You can also incorporate it into the Mediterranean salad by adding a scoop on the side.

Another thing you can do is to mix in some chopped chicken or tuna to make a complete meal. One of the things I like about it is that if you serve this you don’t need to have another starch.

Zesty Rotini Pasta Salad Ingredients

This salad is surprisingly easy to make and only requires a few ingredients. In fact, you probably have some of them in your pantry or fridge.

I use rotini pasta, chopped spinach, chopped tomatoes, Italian dressing, and lemon zest.

The ingredients in this zesty rotini pasta salad include rotini, spinach, tomatoes,Italian dressing, and lemon zest.

If you want to add some heat, sprinkle in some cayenne. But it’s not necessary because it is so packed with flavor without it.

How to Make Zesty Rotini Pasta Salad

Cook the rotini according to the directions on the package. I like the pasta firm, so I keep a close eye on it and remove it from the heat as soon as it’s ready. Next, I rinse it in cold water, drain it, and pour it into a mixing bowl.

Drain the pasta and pour it into a bowl.

Add the chopped spinach and tomatoes. Mix it up.

Spinach and tomatoes in the bowl add flavor, nutrition, and color.

Pour the Italian dressing over it and stir.

Pour Italian dressing over the salad.

Zest some lemon to add an extra zing. You can serve it without the lemon, but trust me when I say it adds so much deliciousness.

Zest some lemon over the zesty rotini pasta salad.

Perfect Salad for Potlucks and Picnics

This salad is perfect for so many meals you serve at home. But don’t forget about it when you need something to bring to a potluck.

The bright colors add so much to the salad table. And besides, who doesn’t love pasta?

Serving of zesty rotini pasta salad with greens and tomatoes

Picnics are another occasion when this salad is the perfect item. You can unquestionably serve it with any barbecued meat or fried chicken. It also goes well with sandwiches and other finger foods.

There’s really nothing in it that will spoil, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it cold. However, it tastes better when served cold than warm or at room temperature.

What to Serve with Pasta Salad

There are so many different dishes you can serve with this yummy rotini salad. Here are some we enjoy:

How to Cook Frozen Tilapia – Forgot to thaw something for dinner? No problem! Just pull some tilapia out of the freezer and follow the recipe in the link!

Roasted Turkey Tenderloin – Around our house, we love a good turkey tenderloin. This recipe is easy and absolutely delicious!

Easy Pork Carnitas – Packed with flavor, this is a wonderful dish that absolutely goes with your favorite pasta salad!

For even more delightful dishes, try some of these: 23 Delicious Dishes That Go with Pasta Salad.

Yield: 4 servings

Zesty Rotini Pasta Salad

Zesty rotini pasta salad is a delicious addition to any meal.

This is the perfect dish to serve with dinner at home. It's also great for potlucks and picnics.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 2 cups of cooked rotini pasta (regular or gluten-free)
  • 1 cup of chopped raw spinach
  • 1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of Italian dressing (your favorite style)
  • Approximately 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest (more or less to taste)


  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Rinse with cold water and drain. Pour into a medium-size mixing bowl.
  2. Add chopped spinach and tomatoes. Mix well.
  3. Pour the Italian dressing over the salad. Zest the lemon into the salad. Stir.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 221Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 0mgSodium 300mgCarbohydrates 33gFiber 2gSugar 4gProtein 6g

The nutrition information is a product of online calculators. I try to provide true and accurate information, but these numbers are estimates.

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Miz Helen

Tuesday 4th of June 2019

I love the dressing with the lemon for your pasta salad, it looks so good! Hope you are having a good week and thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday! Miz Helen

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