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
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Add the chopped spinach and tomatoes. Mix it up.
Pour the Italian dressing over it and stir.
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.
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?
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.
For More Delicious Recipes
We’re big fans of salads in this house. Another of our favorites is this Greek olive and feta salad that explodes with flavor with every bite.
- 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)
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Rinse with cold water and drain. Pour into a medium-size mixing bowl.
- Add chopped spinach and tomatoes. Mix well.
- Pour the Italian dressing over the salad. Zest the lemon into the salad. Stir.
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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.