Pasta Salad

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This roasted corn, zucchini, and avocado Pasta Salad tastes so light and fresh. It’s drizzled with an easy two-ingredient zesty Italian vinaigrette.

Overhead image of Pasta Salad with serving spoons in .

Pasta Salad

My mom did not make homemade dressings very often growing up, so we usually had a good amount of store-bought dressings in the fridge to pick from. One that was always in the fridge was Zesty Italian dressing for her “famous” pasta salad. She brought this salad to every summer event and truthfully, she’d make it all winter long too. Cooked and cooled pasta got tossed with whatever veggies we had in the garden or leftover in the fridge, a ripe avocado, and lots of Italian dressing.

This recipe I’m sharing today is very similar to the one she made for us growing up and it’s a trip down memory lane making it for my own kids. They absolutely love it! The best thing about this salad is how customizable it is to make; you can add just about whatever veggies you like, and swap out the pasta for what you have on hand.

Process shots-- images of the pasta being cooked; zucchini sautéed; tomatoes being halved; and the dressing being made.

Pasta Salad FAQs

If you’re making it in advance, store the dressing separately and toss it 20-30 minutes before eating. Once dressed, this salad doesn’t store well; the veggies lose their crispness and the avocado begins to brown. The pasta soaks up the dressing, making it soggy.

Up-close shots of all the components of this salad: avocados, tomatoes, zucchini, and corn.

Tomato-cutting hack

To make chopping the tomatoes easier and quicker, I like to use a little hack. Here’s what you need:

  • Two plates with raised bottoms
  • A sharp serrated knife

Flip one plate upside down on the counter and place the tomatoes in the bottom raised section. Place another plate right side up on top of the tomatoes. Push your top hand down on top of the plate applying gentle pressure, and then cut through the center of the tomatoes. Remove the top plate and *voila* plenty of perfectly-halved cherry tomatoes with very little effort!

Overhead image of the dressing being poured and fresh Parmesan cheese being shredded on top.

Recipe tips

  • Add your favorites: This salad is loaded with veggies. If you aren’t a fan of any of the ingredients, leave them out and simply increase the quantities of the other salad additions. This salad is very easily customizable and you can make it exactly how you’ll love it!
    • Some other veggie addition ideas: olives, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, raw diced broccoli
    • Other salad additions: add some protein by adding in chickpeas, shredded rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced salami, or chopped pepperoni
    • Use a different pasta: if you can’t find rotini, try miniature shells, miniature farfalle, or fusilli.
  • Salt the pasta water: Since this pasta salad is eaten cold, the flavors can get muted. Make sure the pasta is well-salted as it cooks, since salting is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. Read about how to properly salt your pasta water here. As a general rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon salt to 4 cups of water. Also, don’t be afraid to add more salt to the finished salad if it needs it.
  • Cook the pasta to al dente: Since the pasta sits in dressing, it tends to get soggy if overcooked. Pasta also gets a little firmer when served cold, so don’t under cook it or it can end up a bit crunchy! I boil the pasta right to the package directions of what al dente is (for rotini, that is 7-8 minutes). 

Dressing options

If you’d rather not use a store-bought dressing for this pasta salad, I recommend the Italian dressing recipe from this Olive Garden Salad — it’s a reader favorite dressing!

Overhead image of Pasta Salad ready to be eaten.

More delicious pasta salads

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Pasta Salad

5 from 13 votes
This roasted corn, zucchini, and avocado Pasta Salad tastes so light and fresh! It's drizzled with an easyTwo-ingredient zesty Italian vinaigrette.
Print Recipe

Pasta Salad

5 from 13 votes
This roasted corn, zucchini, and avocado Pasta Salad tastes so light and fresh! It's drizzled with an easyTwo-ingredient zesty Italian vinaigrette.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword Pasta Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Servings 6 -8 as a side
Calories 497kcal
Cost $5.53

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (16 oz; 473g) Zesty Italian Dressing
  • 1 package (.7 oz; 19g) dry Italian dressing seasoning mix (See Note 1)
  • 1 package (16 oz; 454g) rotini pasta
  • 2 corns on the cob
  • 2 small (2 -3 cups, 371g) zucchinis, cut into quarters
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (264 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large avocado, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 3-4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced

Instructions

  • DRESSING: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the Zesty Italian Dressing with the Italian dressing seasoning mix (See Note 1) and whisk until combined. Place in the fridge while preparing the rest of the salad.
  • PASTA: Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Make sure to generously salt the water (I add 1 teaspoon to every 4 cups of water). Don't forget to salt the pasta water or the whole salad will taste under-seasoned. Drain, rinse under cold water, and toss with 2 tablespoons of the prepared Italian dressing. Set aside.
  • CORN: You can cut it straight off the cob and add into the salad raw (more crunchy!) or grill it. To grill the corn, preheat a grill to medium high heat, around 400 degrees F. Once hot, clean the grill grates. Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Pour about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on each corn cob and rub that oil into all the sides. Very lightly sprinkle salt and pepper on all sides of the corn. Place corn on bare grill grates (don't wrap in foil) and close grill. Allow to cook (temps remaining at 400F) for about 3 minutes per side undisturbed. Using tongs, rotate and continue cooking on each side, for about 12 minutes total. When all sides are browned, remove from the grill onto a plate. Let cool in the fridge and then cut off the cob.
  • ZUCCHINI: Add the chopped zucchini to a large, preheated skillet. Do not add any oil or butter but try to spread it in an even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired and allow it to sit, over medium-high heat, without stirring. Let the zucchini roast for a few minutes before stirring. Continue to let it sit and brown in between stirring it until the zucchini is lightly browned and roasted outside. Set aside to a plate to let cool in the fridge.
  • TOMATOES AND AVOCADO: Halve the cherry tomatoes and thinly slice or chop the avocado. If desired, toss the avocado with the lemon juice to keep it from browning.
  • ASSEMBLE: Place the cooled pasta in a large bowl. Add the corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and avocado. Stir in the dressing to preference (we add it all!) and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper if needed;top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese if desired.
  • STORAGE: This salad is best enjoyed the same day you've made it.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: This is the Italian seasoning/dressing mix I use. Don't follow package directions to make it, simply follow the directions in this recipe. Alternatively, make an Italian dressing from scratch following this recipe.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 8servings | Calories: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 3.4g | Fat: 47.3g | Cholesterol: 23.8mg | Sodium: 393.9mg | Fiber: 3.1g | Sugar: 2.6g

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Simple Roasted Corn, Zucchini, and Avocado Pasta Salad
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21 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This pasta salad looks amazing! I love all the goodies in here, corn and avo are some of my summer favorites 🙂

  2. Mhmm this looks delicious, Chelsea! Pasta salad with lots of colors is so quintessentially summer and you know I love anything that has creamy avocados in it ;). I live in California so our produce here is out of this world and I can’t wait to head over to my Farmer’s Market to pick up the ingredients!

  3. Wow this salad looks so good – I love any excuse to eat pasta and love that all the veggies in this make it pretty healthy. Pinning.

  4. I loooove a good pasta salad! It is a staple for Summer! I love that you added avocado, such a fun twist on a classic!

  5. I’ve made the ordinary pasta salad for picnics etc but I really love the idea of adding some avocado. I bet roasting the corn and zucchini gives a good flavor too! I can’t wait to try this one.

  6. 5 stars
    Have made this pasta salad for quite a few family events and cookouts. Every time I whip it up, I double it and think it is going to be way too much as a side (the 6-8 servings/recipe estimate is spot on); and every time, all of it somehow disappears. This has become my (and my mom’s) go-to summer side. We usually have it with grilled marinaded chicken or even salmon and it complements the meats wonderfully. Thanks for a great staple recipe!

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