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Penne pasta tossed with sweet tomatoes, salad mix, dried cranberries, and sliced red onions then seasoned with Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt, and ranch dressing. This pasta salad is easy to make and the perfect dish for potlucks.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Some recipes are classics. You just can’t go wrong with them.
Some recipes, like this particular one, are ones that I always come back to when I need something quick and delicious. Hopefully, this will be yours too.
My friends like to plan potlucks because they’re just so convenient. I mean, if every guest brings a little something to share with everyone, there would be plenty of food. And I know whenever we’re asked to bring something, it’s tempting to volunteer to bring utensils, drinks, or dessert. How much easier can it get?
But not everyone can bring utensils, drinks, or dessert. Otherwise, we’d have nothing else to eat. As much as I love my sweets, I’m not sure even I can last a whole meal full of cookies, cakes, and sodas.
So I always volunteer for a main dish. This dish. Pasta salad.
I love pasta salad because they’re so easy to customize. You can take the ingredients you have in your pantry or in your fridge and toss them with pasta and salad dressing. And tada! You have a main dish. They take so little effort to make. After all, the only cooking you have to do is boil the pasta. But don’t they look so darn good? And so well put together too. A combination of sweet and savory, this pasta salad is absolutely delicious. Something you and your fellow potluckers (did I make up another word?) would enjoy.
The other day, I went to Smart & Final to buy the ingredients for this pasta salad. Smart & Final, both a warehouse and a market, is rebranding itself to ensure people know who they are and what they offer. I love that they even offer Instacart so that you can shop online and have your grocery delivered.
I bought the two pound bag of First Street pasta, but for this recipe, you only need a pound. It makes plenty of pasta salad, and you’re not trying to feed everyone at the potluck until they’re full. Other potluckers will be bringing their own dishes too.
Boil the pasta according to the directions on the package until the pasta is al dente. You don’t want the pasta to be overcooked otherwise they will break apart.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain the water and run the pasta through cold water. Running the pasta through cold water would keep the pasta from sticking to each other. Set the pasta aside for now.
While the pasta is cooking, you can prep all the other ingredients. Cut the red onions and tomatoes.
Toss the pasta with your favorite salad mix, or just lettuce, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, Italian seasoning, crushed red peppers, and a little bit of salt. Once all the ingredients are well incorporated, you’ll want to pour on the dressing. I used my own Garlic Buttermilk Ranch Dressing in larger quantities, but the store bought ones are just as good.
You want to make sure that the pasta is well coated with the ranch dressing. Otherwise, the pasta will be dry. Plus, you might want to have extra on hand. Pasta tends to soak up all the dressing.
You can serve the pasta as is, or you can chill it in the fridge for about a half hour.
What sort of dishes do you usually bring to potlucks? I’d love to hear ideas from you.
- 1 pound First Street penne pasta
- 2 ½ cups salad mix (or torn lettuce)
- ⅔ cups dried cranberries
- 1 tomato, diced
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onions
- 3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ -2/3 cups ranch dressing
- Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, remove the pot from heat and drain the water. Run the pasta under cold water to prevent the pasta from sticking to each other.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the red onions and tomato.
- Once the pasta is cool, add the salad mix, dried cranberries, sliced red onions, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and salt. Toss the ingredients until they are well combined.
- Add the ranch dressing and toss the ingredients until the pasta is well coated with the dressing.
- Chill the salad if desired for 30 minutes.
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I didn’t use to like pasta salad. I don’t know why. But one day, it was like a light switch clicked on in my brain and suddenly, I thought it was AWESOME.
Just as I think your pasta salad looks awesome Andrea. Feel free to make and bring PLENTY to this week’s FF 😉
Thanks for the like, Andrea! I’ve been looking for a fresh veggie twist with pasta and this is just what I want. thanks for posting ♥
Carolyn West says
Pasta salads are always my go-to for potlucks. I’ve never made one with ranch dressing, but I’d love to try it next time. I bet it makes it extra creamy and delicious. #client
Andrea| Cooking with a Wallflower says
It does make the pasta salad creamy. =) Thanks, Carolyn!
This looks soooo good!
Travels of a beauty addict says
This is my kinda cooking! I love the sound of this pasta salad, will be giving it a go!
Laurie Welch says
Oh man, I am reading this just after I ate dinner and it is making my mouth water. I love pasta dishes and this looks so light and refreshing. Hmmm…dessert? 🙂
Great recipe thanks! I’ve made something similar but with Italian dressing and adding peas, carrots, corn, broccoli, etc. Yummy and great for a potluck.
Sukanya Ramanujan says
I don’t what I like more- the recipes or the photographs!
Andrea| Cooking with a Wallflower says