Fresh and Easy Cheddar Broccoli Pasta Salad packed with crisp vegetables, fresh cheddar, and tossed with a simple homemade mayonnaise dressing.
Once all the ingredients are mixed refrigerate for a few hours or consume right away!
We absolutely love pasta recipes, they are so easy and go well with all the veggies! From our Creamy Chicken Fajita Pasta, Zesty Italian Pasta Salad, to Baked Pepperoni Pasta - there's something for everyone and guaranteed to satisfy even picky eaters. This Cheddar Broccoli Pasta Salad is not an exception!
In this post you are going to learn how to make an easy pasta salad along with tips and tricks, how to cook pasta for a salad, do you need to rinse pasta before adding it to salad, and overall, what is the best pasta for pasta salad.
Why We Love This
- It's the perfect refreshing veggie pasta salad. If you're looking for a great way to implement broccoli and other healthy veggies in your menu (think ''ideal'' pasta salad for kids!) then you just have to try this refreshing salad.
- It is loaded with fresh, simple ingredients that are all combined in a creamy mayo salad dressing and served with cheese.
- The cold pasta salad recipes are the best thing for picnics and potlucks as they are easy to make ahead and keep in the fridge before ready to use.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta - Rotini pasta is the most popular pasta type for cold salads as their texture allows the dressing to get stuck in nicely which gives the most flavor. Penne or farfalle (bowties) or any other short noodles would also be a great option here.
- Bacon - cooked separately until crispy, crumbled and added in the last stage, just right before serving so it doesn't loose it's texture and become soggy.
- Cheese - Colby jack, Monterey or any type of shredded or cubed Cheddar would be delicious here. You could also use snack cheese cubes (either regular or with added flavors e.g. herbs, paprika), and more parmesan instead.
- Broccoli - cauliflower is another great alternative OR even a potential addition to the salad. If using both divide the broccoli and cauliflower equally so you'll get about 1 & ½ cups of the florets.
- Tomatoes - cocktail, cherry, red vine or plum tomatoes. usally the ones with stems are the best and more ripe. A little trick, don't to rush to remove the stems from your tomatoes. Keep them until the very end and cut off only when ready to add to the pasta salad. This way, they keep fresh for longer.
- Mayonnaise - is essential ingredient to make the pasta salad dressing rich, thick and creamy. Alternatively, for a Vegan option, you may want to try a Vegan Mayonnaise (tastes almost like a regular one but slightly lighter!) or full fat Coconut Milk.
- Vinegar - use a milder and light vinegar in here, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar are all great here. However I am not sure if white rice vinegar would work as it is more popular in Asian dishes.
Prepare pasta according to package directions.
Prepare your veggies and blanch the broccoli. Take a medium saucepan/pot and fill with water, enough to cover the broccoli. Add salt and take it to a boil. Reduce the heat and lower the veggies into the water.
Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes, remove the vegetables with kitchen tongs, and place them into ice-cold water. Once cooled drain and pat dry with a towel. Set aside.
Sauce. In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, sour cream, parmesan, salt, and pepper.
Once the pasta has been cooked and drained well, place it in a large bowl.
Pour in the dressing, add the veggies, and cheddar. Stir well.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
Before serving, add crumbled bacon, stir and serve immediately!
Enjoy the cheddar broccoli pasta salad on it's own or as a side dish to your main course!
- Don't overcook the pasta. Pasta should be cooked al dente as this way it will absorb the creamy pasta dressing better and not become soggy or mushy quickly.
- As it is a cold salad, pasta should be chilled once cooked. When you have cooked the pasta and drained it from excess water, drizzle a little olive oil and stir until most of the pasta is covered. BUT do not go overboard with it as the olive oil can prevent the dressingsticking to the pasta. Keep in the fridge before use.
- Let the veggie pasta salad absorb the creamy dressing. Chill the ready made pasta salad for 1 or two hours, it will allow the pasta to soak all the delicious flavors and be at it's best when serving.
Make Ahead Tips
If you are planning to enjoy this veggie pasta salad later, you can store it in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for up to 3 days. If you know you are not going to eat the whole salad right away, the best thing is to add the creamy salad dressing as you go.
If serving just for two on the first day add only a part of the dressing to the salad. Keep things separate and your salad will be the freshest on day 3.
However if you already mixed everything together, it is fine as well but may turn soggy after 1-2 days.
What goes well with pasta salad? We like to enjoy the pasta salad on its own or served as a side dish for:
- any grilled meats
- With delicious deli roast beef sandwiches
- grilled salmon or tuna
- burgers- such as Juicy Bacon Cheddar Burger or Salmon Patties / Salmon Burger
- Barbecue chicken
- Sandwiches, wraps, toasts, paninis
- Fried foods such as fried chicken wings, thighs and etc
- Hot dogs
- Corn on the cob either grilled, boiled or baked in the oven
- As an appetizer choice along with cheese boards, tapas
What makes pasta salad taste better? All the tasty add-ons that you can add here!
This is an easy cheddar broccoli pasta salad that mostly consists of veggies and a little crispy bacon crumbles. However, the choices are not limited here and you can customize it depending on what are you serving the pasta salad with.
Out favorite variations include:
- Fresh or dried herbs - They can do wonders! Think basil, dill, parsley, green onions, cilantro, thyme, rosemary.
- Protein - tuna, grilled chicken, italian sausage (e.g. pepperoni or similar cured sausages), fried chicken, white beans, chickpeas. We do love our pasta salads with lots of meat in it!
- More veggie options - artichoke hearts, olives, cucumbers,
No, we wouldn't recommend rinsing pasta for pasta salad at all. Never. Rinsing will remove the thick starch content that helps all the sauce to absorb better and make the best veggie pasta salad for your dinner. After cooking, as I mentioned before, drizzle the pasta with olive oil as it helps the noodles to stick to each other, stir to coat and keep in the fridge before ready to use.
All the short noodle types are the best for pasta salads as they have all those little curves that help the creamy dressing to get stuck in them. Fusilli, farfalle, rotini, and penne are simply ideal for a cold pasta salad.
If in a rush, you can easily chill your cooked pasta quickly. After cooking, remove the water by placing your noodles into a colander. Once drained transfer the whole colander with pasta into a large pot filled with ice-cold water and chill for few minutes. Drain the water, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and store in the fridge before ready to use. Don't forget to cover it first!
Thank you for reading,
Easy Salad Recipes
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Did you make this Cheddar Broccoli Pasta Salad? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below. Thank you!
Cheddar Broccoli Pasta Salad
- 8 oz pasta rotini or similar
- 5-6 bacon slices cooked and crumbled
- ½ cup green peas frozen or canned
- 1 cup broccoli florets cut into bite size pieces
- 1 cup tri-color bell peppers diced
- ½ small red onion diced
- ½ cup Cheddar Mix or Colby Jack Cheese shredded
- 6 cherry or plum tomatoes cut in half
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon apple cider or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon sour cream or Greek yoghurt
- 2 tablespoon parmesan grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Prepare your veggies and blanch the broccoli. Take a medium saucepan/pot and fill with water, enough to cover the broccoli. Add salt and take it to a boil. Reduce the heat and lower the veggies into the water. Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes, remove the vegetables with kitchen tongs, and place them into ice-cold water. Once cooled drain and pat dry with a towel. Set aside.
- Sauce. In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, sour cream, parmesan, salt, and pepper.
- Once the pasta has been cooked and drained well, place it in a large bowl.
- Pour in the dressing, add the veggies, and cheddar. Stir well.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
- Before serving, add crumbled bacon, stir and serve immediately! Enjoy!
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