An array of beautiful colors signal the variety of nutrients inside this cold pasta salad. Best of all, you can mix this all up ahead of time and enjoy for several days.
I know I’m not alone in choosing to skip vegetables because of time constraints. Even if you’re working from home, a convenient lunch is important to staying efficient and in the work mindset. Doing a little work ahead of time means this salad is all prepped and assembled with proteins and veggies together, ready to spoon directly into your lunch bowl. While it may take an hour or so to make on a lazy Sunday afternoon, your effort from fridge to table when you’re ready to eat will be roughly 1 minute!
- 1 box (16 oz) of your preferred pasta, Gemelli pasta pictured here
- 1 carton grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 broccoli crowns, chopped small
- 1 can black or green olives, halved
- 1 cup pepperoncini, chopped
- 1 can garbanzo beans or other preferred beans, rinsed
- 1/2 – 1 cup of thick cut salami, diced
- 1/2 – 1 cup of thick cut pepperoni, diced
- 1-2 packages dry Italian seasoning made w/ oil, vinegar and water according to package directions
Additional ingredients you can add or replace:
- 1 container (16 oz) feta cheese crumbles or thick cut Swiss, pepper-jack or cheddar cheese, diced
- 1 orange or, if you like the flavor, green pepper, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 cup sugar snap peas with ends removed, chopped
- Pre-mixed Italian salad dressing like Olive Garden brand
Boil pasta according to package directions until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water to remove excess starch and stop any additional cooking. Set aside to add last so you don’t overwhelm the salad with pasta. Mix seasoning/dressing packets and set aside. Wash/rinse all vegetables (peppers, broccoli, tomatoes) and chop, toss them into a large bowl. Rinse beans and toss in with vegetables. Drain and chop pepperoncini peppers and olives and toss into the large bowl. Dice salami and pepperoni and toss int the large bowl. Add desired amount of pasta and refrigerate any leftovers for another use. Toss desired amount of dressing with all ingredients, refrigerating any leftover dressing to add as needed later. Chill for 2 hours before serving, this salad becomes more flavorful over time!
- Using a chopper of some kind will significantly cut down on the amount of time it takes chop and dice your ingredients. The one pictured below is nothing fancy but gets the job done fast! You may also find some of these ingredients pre-chopped at your local grocery, just make sure they’re really fresh, especially if you’ll be eating this dish throughout the week.
- I prefer to buy my meats at the deli counter of my local co-op. I get 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices that are easy to then cut into cubes myself. The meats don’t work particularly well in the chopper mentioned above. Same goes for any hard cheeses.
- My favorite brand of Italian salad dressing mix is from Good Seasons. It is a dry mix that you make into a dressing yourself.
- Keep extra dressing on hand in case the noodles soak up all of the dressing throughout the week and you need to add more.
- If adding cheese, do so a day at a time or before each meal. This ingredient in particular will deteriorate with the acids in the dressing over time. Keep it fresh by adding any cheese as you go.
- Looking for a whole grain version of this pasta salad? My favorite way to make it whole grain is with cooked Barley which is still delightfully chewy like pasta. Find barley in the rice or pasta aisle. Quick-cook barley will be ready in 10 minutes but won’t stay firm for as many days as regular barley which cooks in approximately 50 minutes. Cook according to package directions and rinse in cold water before adding additional ingredients.
- Whole wheat pasta is a good option for this salad but I do not find rice based pastas to hold up very well. Regardless of the pasta or grain you choose, do not overcook. Even slightly mushy pasta will make this salad much less enjoyable.
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Addie Kelzer is a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. She believes that by making fitness and good food practical, her clients will hold the power to positively change their health and the health of those closest to them.