Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Rotini Pasta Salad

This rotini pasta salad recipe combines the flavors of a bacon avocado club with a fully loaded pasta salad. It's a simply scrumptious side dish that will knock your socks off!

Rotini Pasta Salad in a bowl

Perfectly tangy with fresh pops of tomato and creamy avocado, this Italian chicken pasta salad has all of the flavors you are craving.

Even better, it’s incredibly easy to put together for a last-minute meal or potluck. Chop the fresh ingredients while you cook the noodles and bacon, then combine everything in one bowl.
 

Rotini Pasta Salad

While this recipe makes more than enough chicken bacon pasta salad for a full meal, you could enjoy a smaller serving with your favorite sandwich!

It’s also a wonderful option for potlucks — along with any of my other pasta salads — and tastes delicious with cookout favorites like steak and grilled chicken.

Craving something a bit different? Instead of making a traditional pasta salad with rotini, try this tortellini version or one that tastes just like a Muffaletta sandwich!

Both are just as easy to throw together and ready in under 30 minutes.

chicken bacon pasta salad ingredients

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Rotini - A tri-color box typically comes in a 12 oz size, but the all-white rotini is 16 oz. Either size will work for this recipe. Obviously, the larger box will yield more, so you may want to use a little less dressing with the smaller box.
  • Bacon - Substitute diced salami or grilled chicken for the bacon, or use all three! For a vegetarian option, replace the crumbles with fresh Parmesan.
  • Cheese - Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Pepper Jack are all fantastic substitutes. You could even use a combination of your favorites!
  • Italian Dressing - We love Newman's Own, but if you have a favorite brand, feel free to use it. Or, you can make homemade Olive Garden salad dressing.
  • Pepperoncini - These pickled chiles are scrumptious and just mildly spicy. If you're sensitive to spicy foods, feel free to leave them out.
Rotini Pasta Salad ingredients in a bowl

Kitchen Tools You Will Need
  • Pot and Strainer for the noodles
  • Large Bowl - I like to use a clear glass bowl so the pasta salad can be the star of the show!
  • Salad Tongs - These bamboo hands help to toss everything gently and are attractive enough for serving as well.
  • Citrus Juicer - This gets every last drop out, which makes juicing lemons so much easier.
chicken bacon pasta salad tossed in a bowl

Easy Pasta Salad FAQ

 
Is pasta salad good for you?

There isn’t a simple answer, but I can say that this particular recipe has fewer calories than a typical rotini pasta salad while still tasting absolutely scrumptious!

What really makes this a healthy pasta salad recipe is the balance of meats, grains, and veggies. Plus, instead of a heavy mayo-based dressing, our recipe calls for a light Italian dressing. The whole dish is built to help you achieve your five-a-day!

healthy chicken pasta salad dressing poured over salad

Kitchen Hack - Slicing Grape Tomatoes

This hack is so easy, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it sooner!  It works for any small varieties like cherry or grape tomatoes. 

Grab two rimmed lids - the ones from storage containers work great - and flip one upside down.

Place a handful of tomatoes on top, then cover with the other lid so the rims are facing each other. Hold the top lid in place with one hand while you slide a serrated knife between the lids.

You’ll have perfectly halves in seconds! This trick works with pitted olives and cherries as well.

How do you keep pasta salad from drying out?

It’s all about the dressing! Add enough to the bowl so everything is well coated. Then, keep extra on hand so you can add a splash or two to leftovers as needed.

chicken bacon pasta salad overhead photo

Prep Ahead Instructions

This salad tastes even better when chilled, so it’s the perfect meal prep recipe!

Since the rotini absorbs the dressing as it sits, I recommend tossing it with half of the dressing to start, then chill it. If you feel it needs more, you can add the rest of the dressing just before serving.

You could also portion out the entire bowl for lunches. Still add only half of the dressing, then divide the rest into small containers to mix into each serving.
 

How To Store Rotini Pasta Salad

Whether you make this recipe ahead of time or divide it up for meal prep, rotini pasta salad can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.

Keep extra dressing on hand to refresh leftovers as needed or simple add a drizzle of oil for moisture.

healthy chicken pasta salad in a bowl

Enjoy!

With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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Rotini Pasta Salad wide photo



Yield: 8-10
Author: Donna Elick
Rotini Pasta Salad

Rotini Pasta Salad

This rotini pasta salad recipe combines the flavors of a bacon avocado club with a fully loaded pasta salad. It's a simply scrumptious side dish that will knock your socks off!
Prep time: 20 MinTotal time: 20 Min

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) box tri-color rotini
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 8 ounces colby jack cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped pepperoncinis
  • 1/2 (6 ounce) can whole black olives, sliced and drained
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 16 ounce bottle of your favorite Italian dressing

Instructions

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the rotini noodles until they are soft. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water until they have cooled completely.
  2. Place rotini in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Dice the avocado and immediately squeeze ½ of a lemon over the pieces. Toss them to coat with the lemon juice - this will prevent browning on the avocado.
  4. Add diced cheese, avocado, tomatoes, pepperoncinis, olives, and bacon.
  5. Toss to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  6. Pour half of the bottle of dressing over the salad and toss again, adding in the chopped parsley and stirring gently (the avocado will get smashed up if you toss the salad to vigorously.)
  7. Refrigerate salad until ready to serve. Toss with remaining salad dressing (to taste).
DONNA'S NOTES
  1. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  2. For the Italian dressing, you can use your own homemade recipe or use a bottle. We like Newman’s Own or Berenstein’s Italian dressings - they both make a cheese and garlic version that would be perfect with this recipe.
  3. Substitute diced salami or grilled chicken for the bacon (or use all three!) Fresh parmesan cheese would be another great addition.
  4. The pasta will absorb the salad dressing as it sits. This salad is especially great chilled. I recommend tossing with a good ½ bottle of dressing and then let it sit. Then add the remaining dressing (or enough to suit your personal taste) just before serving.
  5. We like the tang and crunch from the pepperoncinis, but you can omit them if you don’t care for them.
  6. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Pepper Jack are all great cheese options.
  7. The tri-color rotini box comes as 12 ounce. while the all white rotini box is 16 ounce. Either one will work with this recipe. The 16 ounce. box of pasta will yield more. You might use a bit less than a full bottle of dressing with the 12 ounce. of pasta.

Rotini Pasta Salad closeup

Originally published March 2019, updated and republished April 2022

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