Saturday, June 18, 2022

Patriotic Tri Color Pasta Salad

Tri Color Pasta Salad is a creative way to match dishes with a theme. So why not try out this 4th of July pasta salad recipe this summer? 
Between the yummy noodles, zesty Italian dressing, fresh vegetables, and tasty meats, it’ll be long gone before the fireworks start! From start to finish, it takes just 25 minutes to prepare. 

patriotic tri color pasta salad

Tri color pasta usually refers to rotini noodles that are dyed with natural flavors like tomatoes and spinach. Usually, it comes in a combination of orange, green, and white colors.

For this recipe, however, we use food dye on regular rotini pasta to make a festive Memorial Day or 4th of July dish that’s red, white, and blue all over!

Tri Color Pasta Salad ingredients

Tri Color Pasta Salad

This recipe is great for a BBQ side dish, but the addition of pepperoni and cheese makes it perfectly filling as a main course as well.

It usually includes seasonal veggies, and is served chilled, so it’s no wonder why it’s an instant picnic classic!

I also love Tuna Pasta Salad, which I enjoy eating all year round. Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce is a fantastic fall treat, while Cheesy Pesto and Chicken Pasta gets me through the cold winter months.

pasta and food coloring for tri color pasta salad recipe

4th of July Pasta Salad Ingredients and Substitutions

I make my tri color pasta salad with Italian dressing, some cheese, and some veggies. A bit of olive oil coats the noodles, while food dye is what gives them their color. I also throw in some pepperoni for added flavor and to make it a bit more filling!
  • Rotini Pasta - This is my preferred pasta for dishes like these, but you can use whatever you like! I recommend using a small shape, like bow tie pasta or elbow macaroni.
  • Red and Blue Liquid Food Dye - Otherwise we can’t have red white and blue pasta salad! I really recommend using just 3-4 drops at a time and adding a bit more as needed. Too much, and the colors will be way too bright and unappetizing!
  • Cherry Tomatoes and Black Olives - Two fool-proof ingredients for pasta salad with Italian dressing, as any Italian lover will tell you! Cucumbers, bell peppers, and banana peppers are also delicious and would fit in perfectly.
  • Mozzarella Cheese - Cut into little cubes that you can easily grab with your fork, or use mozzarella pearls to make this super easy. And if you want a different cheese altogether, try white cheddar or provolone.
  • Pepperoni - A bit of protein makes the dish more substantial and filling, like a full meal on its own! Other cured meats work great as well — you can use salami, ham, or prosciutto. Or a mix of them all!
  • Italian Dressing - Your favorite bottled or packaged dressing will do the trick. Or, try out my copycat Olive Garden Italian dressing!

red and blue rotini in ziploc bags

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Customize for different holidays. 
Switch up the dye color for any holiday. You can use red, white, and green on Christmas, or pink and blue for Easter! 
Using all spinach rotini for Saint Patrick’s Day, or a mix of pink and red for Valentine’s Day would be adorable, too.
Add the dressing while the pasta is warm. 
Noodles that are still warm and squishy will absorb the dressing’s flavors far more easily than noodles that have been chilled. 
Also, if you want more flavor, you can add more dressing just before serving, for double the dressing and double the delish!

Slightly undercook the pasta.
Cook the rotini until al dente, or just a bit underdone. This helps to avoid a totally mushy mess of tri color pasta salad.
Rinse the colored noodles.
To prevent the dyed pasta colors from bleeding together, give each different colored batch a quick rinse under running water before combining them together. 

ingredients in a bowl


and Handling of Leftovers

Since this dish is served chilled, you don’t need to worry about reheating anything. Simply transfer leftovers into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. And that’s it! Serve as much as you’d like, when you’d like.

I recommend adding a bit more Italian dressing before serving up any leftovers. It’ll help to plump up the noodles and revitalize the flavors in your July 4th tri color pasta salad!

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Salad Bowl - A large clear bowl will allow your festive pasta salad to be the star of the show!

  • Silicone Spatula - A sturdy silicone spatula makes mixing this salad thoroughly and gently a breeze.

  • Food Coloring - To make it perfect for a 4th of July pasta salad, you’ll need red and blue liquid food colors.

tossing 4th of July pasta salad

Tri Color Pasta Salad FAQ

What goes in a Tri Color Pasta Salad?

You can put your own spin on a salad recipe like this one, but I make my 4th of July pasta salad with Italian dressing, some cheese, and crunchy veggies.

A bit of olive oil coats the noodles, while food dye is what gives them their color. I also throw in some pepperoni for added flavor and to make it a bit more filling!

What sauce goes with tri color pasta?

In my opinion, Italian dressing is always the way to go! It’s so zesty and creamy, with just enough acidity to brighten the whole thing.

I know that some people like to use pesto, which would also be tasty.

hot dog and pasta salad on a plate


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Tri Color Pasta Salad wide photo

Yield: 6
Author: Donna Elick
Patriotic Tri Color Pasta Salad

Patriotic Tri Color Pasta Salad

Tri Color Pasta Salad is an easy side, and this recipe kicks it up in red white and blue! It’s festive, filling, and perfectly patriotic!
Prep time: 15 MinCook time: 10 MinTotal time: 25 Min


  • 16 ounces rotini pasta, cooked and rinsed
  • 3-4 drops red liquid food coloring
  • 3-4 drops blue liquid food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or vegetable oil
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes (or mozzarella pearls)
  • 3/4 cup pepperoni slices, cut into fourths
  • 1/2 cup black olive slices
  • 16 ounces Italian dressing


  1. In a large ziploc bag, add 3-4 drops of red food coloring and 1 tablespoon water. Repeat in another bag with the blue food coloring and remaining 1 tablespoon of water.
  2. Separate pasta into 3 equal portions (about 3 cups each).
  3. Place ⅓ of the pasta (1 of the 3 portions) into the bag with the red coloring and seal the bag. Place another third portion of pasta into the blue bag and seal. Gently knead the bags to mix the pasta with coloring. Continue until the pasta is uniform in color. If the pasta needs additional color, mix 1 drop of food coloring with 1 tablespoon of water and add it to the bag until the desired color is reached. Rinse noodles and drain well.
  4. Mix the remaining third portion of noodles with the olive/vegetable oil. This helps prevent the coloring from bleeding into the white pasta.
  5. Place all pasta into a large bowl and add the tomatoes, cheese, pepperoni, olives, and dressing. Mix until well combined. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
  1. Keep refrigerated and use within 5 days.
  2. Don’t add too much food coloring or the colors will be too bright and almost toxic looking. Start with 3-4 drops of food coloring and then continue adding if needed. Rinse the food colored noodles well, as this helps prevent the colors from bleeding.
  3. You can color the noodles differently for other holidays: Christmas - red and green, Easter - pink and blue, Valentine’s Day - red and pink, etc.
  4. Substitute bow tie pasta or elbow macaroni for the rotini.
  5. You can use store bought dressing or a prepared, packaged mix.
  6. Substitute white cheddar or provolone for mozzarella
  7. Substitute salami, ham or prosciutto for pepperoni.

Tri Color Pasta Salad closeup

Originally published June 2022

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