Tri Color Pasta Salad is a creative way to match dishes with a theme. So why not try out some colorful pasta this summer? Between the yummy noodles, zesty dressing, fresh vegetables, and tasty meats, it’ll be long gone before the fireworks start! From start to finish, this patriotic pasta salad takes just 25 minutes to prepare.
Tri Color Pasta Salad
Tri color pasta usually refers to rotini noodles that are dyed with natural flavors like tomatoes and spinach. 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!
This colored pasta 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.
Colorful pasta salad with Italian dressing is a summertime favorite, through and through.
It typically includes seasonal veggies and is served chilled, so it’s no wonder why it’s an instant picnic classic.
Ingredient Notes 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 this tri colored pasta dish 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 bowtie 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 & 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 tri color pasta 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!
How to Make Tri Color Pasta
Step 1: Cook the noodles according to the package directions, then rinse with cool water.
Step 2: Divide the noodles into 3 equal portions. Place two portions in separate Ziploc bags and set the third portion aside for now.
Step 3: Add a few drops of the desired color to each bag and reseal. Knead until every noodle is uniform in color, adding more food coloring if needed.
Step 4: Rinse each batch of colored pasta until the water runs clear and drain well.
Colorful Pasta 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, you can also add more dressing 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 colors from bleeding together, give each batch of colored pasta a quick rinse under running water before combining them together.
Storing and Handling 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 patriotic tri color pasta salad!
Tri Colored Pasta FAQ
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.
On its own? Sure! It’s pretty easy to modify this pasta salad to be entirely vegan as well.
Just be sure to use a vegan-friendly Italian dressing, and leave out the pepperoni and cheese.
Instead, bulk it up with some more vegetables and add in your favorite meatless alternatives.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Red White and Blue Food Ideas
Patriotic Tri Color Pasta Salad
- 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 halves
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes (or mozzarella pearls)
- ¾ cup pepperoni slices, cut into fourths
- ½ cup black olive slices
- 16 ounces Italian dressing
- To 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.
- Separate pasta into 3 equal portions (about 3 cups each).
- 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.
- Mix the remaining third portion of noodles with the olive/vegetable oil. This helps prevent the coloring from bleeding into the white pasta.
- 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.
- Keep refrigerated and use within 5 days.
Rinse the food colored noodles well, as this helps prevent the colors from bleeding.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published June 2022, updated and republished June 2023
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