You just need 30 minutes to make this Rotini Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes! Let it chill and marinate, then wow your guests with this delicious Italian pasta salad without mayo! Everyone will love the sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
My go-to rotini pasta salad recipe was love at first bite! I've been making this for a decade now, and it always brings a "wow" factor.
Hello, pasta salad with olives, tomatoes, Parmesan, basil and a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette!
The sun-dried tomatoes bring a vibrant flavor that’s slightly sweet and tart. The Parmesan and olives carry a salty, savory vibe. The fragrant basil adds a pop of garden-fresh flavor.
And the vinaigrette provides the perfect, light texture for this summer pasta salad.
If you prefer pasta salad without mayo, this recipe is for you! (And if you prefer potato salad without mayo, don't miss this Italian Potato Salad with Green Beans!)
Pasta: I always use rotini here, but you can make a tri-color pasta salad, penne pasta salad, bowtie pasta salad, or farfalle pasta salad. Just use a medium-sized pasta.
I don't recommend using brown rice pasta or bean pasta, though. They harden when chilled or at room temperature. Not good for cold Italian pasta salad!
Olive Oil: I prefer using regular olive oil, which has a more neutral flavor than extra virgin. This is one of the adaptations I made to the original recipe, which comes from Ina Garten, via Pioneer Woman.
Vinegar: I use white balsamic vinegar. The original recipe called for red wine vinegar, so you could substitute that. Aged, dark balsamic vinegar would probably taste good, but the color of the dressing might take away from the presentation.
Olives: Another adaptation I made was to use plain black olives instead of kalamata olives, which I find too salty. But you can substitute them, if you wish!
Make the pasta salad dressing
- In a food processor, add the drained sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Pulse just enough to break up the tomatoes. Then drizzle in the olive oil as you pulse some more, until you have a blended sun-dried tomato dressing.
Make the rotini pasta salad
- Cook the rotini until al dente, then drain. Add the pasta to a large serving bowl (affiliate link).
- Stir the sun-dried tomato dressing into the pasta. Add sliced olives, grated Parmesan, halved grape tomatoes and ribbons of basil.
- Stir until combined, then cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours.
- To save time, purchase sliced black olives, instead of whole olives.
- Make sure to cook the pasta al dente (to the tooth, not soft) so it will stay firm over a few days. Taste the rotini three minutes before the al dente time listed on the package to check if it's done.
How to serve rotini pasta salad
The sun-dried tomato pasta salad is best served at room temperature after it has marinated in the refrigerator for a few hours. Before serving, give it a good stir to recoat the rotini with that delicious pasta salad vinaigrette.
How much to make
This recipe makes enough for eight generous side-dish portions. If serving this pasta salad for a crowd along with several sides, you should have enough for 12-16 people.
What to serve with it
Try serving this Mediterranean pasta salad at your next summer BBQ or picnic, along with Super Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs or Slow Cooker Carolina Pulled Pork. And don't miss this 4th of July Menu Ideas post, which includes many recipes that would pair well with the pasta.
Frequently asked questions
I don't recommend freezing this pasta salad, because frozen tomatoes become mushy when thawed.
The sun-dried tomato dressing can be made a 1-2 days ahead of time and refrigerated. If you wish, you can assemble the pasta salad and refrigerate it the day before you serve it. Once made, it should keep for four days.
More Italian salads to try
- Cauliflower Rice Caprese
- Caponatina (Eggplant Caponata)
- Italian Carrot Salad with Basil
- Italian Bean Salad
And don't miss my collection of 33 Italian Side Dishes! Enjoy.
If you try this Rotini Pasta Salad, please leave a comment and a rating!
Rotini Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 1 7-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes (preferably plain; drained)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup olive oil (I use regular instead of extra virgin.)
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
- 3 2.25-ounce cans sliced black olives (drained, rinsed and patted dry)
- 1 ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 10-15 basil leaves
- 1 pound rotini pasta (or penne, farfalle, etc.)
- If you need to grate the Parmesan, do that first, using your food processor or blender, if desired. Measure out 1 ½ cups and set it aside.
- Fill a large pasta pot just over halfway with water, add about a teaspoon of salt, and put it on the stove over high heat, covered.
- In a food processor or blender, add the drained sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pulse a bit to break up the tomatoes. Drizzle in the olive oil as you pulse to combine everything. It's best to wait to adjust the seasonings until after the dressing is stirred into the pasta salad, since the cheese and olives will be salty.
- When the water boils, add the pasta to the pot and give it a stir. Cook uncovered, until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. (Check it for doneness three minutes before the al dente time listed on the package.)
- While the rotini is cooking, rinse your tomatoes, pat them dry, and slice them in half. Drain, rinse, and pat dry your olives. Rinse your basil leaves, roll them up, and slice them into ribbons.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander in the sink. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and stir in the sun-dried tomato dressing. Add the Parmesan, tomato halves, olives, and basil and stir to combine. Refrigerate the pasta salad, covered, until serving time.
- The pasta salad is best at room temperature after it has had time to marinate for a few hours. Stir it again before serving. Store leftover pasta salad in the refrigerator for up to four days. Do not freeze it, because the fresh tomatoes will get mushy.