Italian Pasta Salad

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This chilled Instant Pot Pasta Salad, made with fresh cucumber, tomatoes, and parmesan, is dressed with Italian dressing and makes a great make-ahead barbecue side dish. 

Picture of Instant Pot pasta salad with rotini, sliced cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, parmesan, and fresh parsley, in a large wooden serving bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This Italian pasta salad recipe is endlessly versatile and packed with fresh summer flavor. It’s make-ahead friendly and a great way to serve a crowd at a cookout!

We’ve been making pasta in the Instant Pot for years, and we love entertaining in the summer, so it makes sense to make a refreshing chilled pasta salad for barbecues and cookouts.

I love using the Instant Pot to make this pasta salad because I can cook the pasta and veggies and dress the salad all in the pressure cooking pot. It transports nicely in the cooking pot as well.

Ingredients for making Instant Pot pasta salad, including rotini noodles, cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, yellow squash, cucumber, Italian dressing, matchstick carrots, green onion, lemon, parmesan, and salt.

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED

Grab these ingredients to make the best Instant Pot pasta salad:

  • Rotini. You’ll use a full box of short-cut pasta for this salad. 
  • Carrots. We like to buy pre-cut matchstick carrots. 
  • Veggies. We like a mixture of yellow squash, cucumber, green onions, and grape or cherry tomatoes. 
  • Cheese. Our favorite is Parmesan. 
  • Parsley. For a delicious and fresh pop of herby flavor.
  • Lemon zest. This is optional but adds some nice brightness to the salad. 
  • Italian dressing. We use Olive Garden’s Signature Italian

If you’re looking for a more traditional macaroni salad that includes hard-boiled eggs, try our Amish Pasta Salad. You can use it as a base and dress the salad with your favorite flavors.

Rotini noodles in an Instant Pot, with bowls of cucumber, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, and matchstick carrots for making pasta salad.

How to Make Italian Pasta Salad in an Instant Pot

This easy recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Power Pressure Cooker XL.

You’ll start by cooking the pasta in the pressure cooker. Add the noodles, water, and salt to the pot and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes, then release the valve with a quick pressure release. 

Next, carefully remove the pressure cooking pot from the Instant Pot housing. Reserve some of the pasta water in the pot, then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot, along with the squash and carrots. Place the lid on top and let the veggies soften up for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in about two-thirds of the Italian dressing. 

Cool the pasta salad to room temperature. You can serve this dish at room temperature or chill it in the fridge. (Note that if you chill it, let the salad come up to room temperature for about half an hour before serving so the dressing loosens up a bit). 

When you’re ready to dig in, top the salad with the remaining Italian dressing, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cheese. You can top the dish with sliced green onions, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. 

Important Tips for Making Instant Pot Pasta Salad

  • We add some of the dressing while the pasta is still warm to allow the noodles to soak up the flavor. Then you’ll chill the salad and add the rest just before serving to ensure the pasta isn’t dry. 
  • Feel free to season this dish with any of their favorite pasta salad seasonings. For example, Italian or Greek seasoning will both work. Dried or fresh herbs like basil, tarragon, cilantro, or rosemary are also delicious. 
  • Feel free to use any of your favorite veggies!
  • We use matchstick carrots because they cook so quickly. They’ll be soft but still have a little crunch in your salad. 
  • We love how a sprinkle of lemon zest on top of the salad looks, but it’s not a must.
  • Our favorite Italian dressing is the Olive Garden Italian, but you can use your favorite pasta salad dressing or make your own. Here’s a great recipe for homemade Italian dressing
Overhead Picture of Instant Pot pasta salad with rotini, sliced cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, parmesan, and fresh parsley, in a large wooden serving bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions about Italian Pasta Salad

Can I use a different type of pasta?

You don’t have to use rotini for this recipe. Any kind of short pasta will work, from bow-tie (farfalle) to macaroni to fusilli. I recommend pastas with lots of little ridges for the dressing to sink into and that aren’t too large or small.

However, when you change the pasta you may need to adjust your cook time. Before you cook, be sure to use our simple formula for making perfect Instant Pot pasta to find your perfect cook time. 

How should I store leftover pasta salad?

Store any leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let it sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off.

Can I freeze pasta salad?

We don’t recommend freezing this salad, because the pasta’s texture may change after it’s defrosted. 

What are some other pasta salad mix-in ideas?

You can easily mix up this recipe with tasty additions. We love canned sliced olives, mini pepperoni, diced ham or turkey, bell peppers, or greens. 

Picture of Instant Pot pasta salad with rotini, sliced cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, parmesan, and fresh parsley, in a large wooden serving bowl.

MORE Instant Pot Pasta Recipes

It’s quick and easy to make all kinds of pasta dishes in your pressure cooker, like these:

Picture of Instant Pot pasta salad with rotini, sliced cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, parmesan, and fresh parsley, in a wooden bowl, placed in front of an Instant Pot.

Do you LOVE this recipe?
Leave us a review below to tell us why!


Picture of Instant Pot pasta salad with rotini, sliced cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, parmesan, and fresh parsley, in a large wooden serving bowl.

Pasta Salad | Instant Pot recipe

Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy pasta salad, Instant Pot pasta salad, Instapot pasta salad, pasta salad recipe, pressure cooker pasta salad
This Instant Pot Pasta Salad recipe is an easy BBQ side dish with Italian dressing, parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, and crunchy vegetables.
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Ingredients

  • 1 package 16 oz uncooked rotini
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 1 cup small diced yellow squash
  • 1 cup small diced cucumber
  • 1 cup sliced grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small can 2 oz sliced olives, optional
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 green onion very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley or minced fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest optional
  • 1 bottle 16 oz Italian Dressing (we use Olive Garden’s Signature Italian)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Add the pasta, water, and salt to the pressure cooking pot. Lock the lid in place, select High Pressure and 5 minutes cook time.
  • When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker and use a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid.
  • Remove the cooking pot from the housing. Reserve some of the pasta water; set aside.
  • Pour the pasta into a colander and allow to drain. Add the carrots and squash to the pressure cooking pot, then top with the hot cooked pasta. Cover with the lid and allow the carrots and squash to cook under the hot pasta. After about 5 minutes, add two-thirds of the Italian dressing and gently stir until the pasta is evenly coated with dressing. 
  • Allow the pasta to cool to room temperature. The salad can be served at room temperature or chilled. (If you are chilling your pasta salad, remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you want to serve it.)
  • Just prior to serving, add the remaining Italian dressing, diced cucumbers, tomatoes, olives (if using), and parmesan cheese. Gently stir until well mixed. (At this point, if the pasta salad is thicker than you like, add some of the reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.)
  • Garnish with green onion slices, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 57kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 528mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g

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