Bowtie Pasta Salad is a simple, crowd-pleasing dish packing tons of flavor and an Italian flare. It comes together quickly with very little prep work thanks to a few fresh and a few ready-made ingredients.
This Italian pasta salad features Farfalle noodles, Italian dressing, a mix of colorful vegetables, and Mozzarella cheese. The perfect make-ahead dish for potluck gatherings for both the spring and the summertime! If you love pasta salads, you’ll want to check out our other carby faves — Greek Pasta Salad and Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad!
WHAT’S IN BOWTIE PASTA SALAD?
- Farfalle (Bowtie) Pasta
- Italian Dressing
- Grape Tomatoes
- Mozzarella Cheese
- Black Olives
ABOUT “BOWTIE” PASTA
You’ll find bowtie pasta in boxes labeled “Farfalle” at the grocery store. Pronounced “far-FALL-lay,” this Italian-coined pasta translates to “butterflies” in English. However, Bowtie seems to be the more common nickname for Farfalle pasta in the United States.
This pasta shape is perfect for pasta salad as it tends to trap and hold on to dressings. Note, a little bowtie pasta goes a long, long way. For this pasta salad, you’ll only use about half of the pasta package.
WHICH DRESSING TO USE FOR PASTA SALAD?
Ironically, this pasta salad features ingredients you would often find on an Italian platter called an antipasto platter. Mozzarella cheese, grape tomatoes, and olives are all perfectly complemented by the tangy flavor of Italian dressing.
For this Italian Bowtie Pasta Salad, in particular, Olive Garden Signature Italian Dressing works beautifully as it is well-seasoned, rich, creamy and loaded with great Parmesan flavor. This dressing is sold in most grocery chains, but if you’d prefer another Italian dressing to this one, any one will do.
HOW TO MAKE BOWTIE PASTA SALAD
- Cook and Rinse the Pasta – When it comes to pasta salad, mushy is not the texture we’re striving for. Be sure not to overcook the pasta. Cooking the pasta to the point of al dente will ensure it has a nice bite to it. For extra flavor, add a pour of salt to the water before bringing it to a roaring boil. Then, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Once the pasta is cooked, you’ll drain it and rinse it under cool running water. Rinsing the pasta will help it to cool down faster and speed up the remaining preparations for your Bowtie Pasta Salad.
- Dress and Cool Completely – As soon as the pasta is lukewarm you can add it to a large bowl and dress it with a portion of the Italian dressing. The warm pasta will absorb the dressing and add even more flavor to the noodles. Allow the pasta salad to cool completely before adding the remaining ingredients, particularly, the cheese. One of the best parts of this Bowtie Pasta Salad are the bites of diced Mozzarella cheese, especially after it has had ample time to marinate in the Italian dressing. More on this below.
- Add Ingredients, Toss, and Chill – There is very little prep work involved when it comes to this Bowtie Pasta Salad, and once you’ve cooked and cooled the pasta the only small tasks that remain are to halve the grape tomatoes, dice the cheese into little squares, drain the olives, and chop the basil!
- Chill – Chill the pasta salad for at least 2-3 hours. Pasta salad should always be served cold, and bonus, that extra time in the refrigerator will allow flavors to mingle. If you’ve never had marinated cheese, get ready to have your taste buds rocked.
Bowtie Pasta Salad can be made up to a day in advance. If you’d like the basil to stay bright green and vibrant looking, wait to add until the day you are serving it. If you find the pasta has absorbed too much of the Italian dressing come time to serve, feel free to add an extra drizzle and toss before serving.
5 MORE PASTA SALADS YOU’LL LOVE
- Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad is a family-friendly side dish Ranch lovers will swoon for. It features pasta salad coated in a quick and easy Ranch dressing (homemade or store-bought), crispy bacon, and more!
- Greek Pasta Salad featuring bowtie noodles, cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and Feta cheese is the perfect make-ahead potluck recipe or light lunch idea.
- Basil Pesto Pasta Salad is a creamy pesto pasta salad, made fresh and healthy with ingredients like grape tomatoes and green beans.
- Antipasto Pasta Salad is a zingy make-ahead pasta salad loaded with fresh Mozzarella, Sopressata, artichokes, and roasted red peppers.
- Tuna Pasta Salad is kept classic with canned Albacore tuna, peas, pasta shells, and dill. Best of all, it comes coated in a delectable, creamy mayonnaise dressing that cannot be beaten!
A quick and easy Bowtie Pasta Salad with Italian dressing packed with flavor and Italian flare thanks to a few fresh and a few ready-made ingredients! The perfect make-ahead dish for potluck gatherings come spring and the summertime.
- 3 cups uncooked Farfalle pasta
- 3/4 cup creamy Italian dressing (such as Olive Garden Italian Dressing), separated
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 (8 ounce) block Mozzarella cheese, cut into a 1/4" dice
- 1 (6 ounce) can pitted black olives, drained
- 1/4 cup finely chopped, fresh basil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a roaring boil and cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cool running water until just warm to the touch.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with a 1/4 cup of Italian dressing and a generous pinch of salt. Set aside and allow to cool completely while you prepare the vegetables.
Add the tomatoes, Mozzarella, olives, and basil the bowl, along with the remaining 1/2 cup of Italian dressing. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
SOURCES: The Spruce Eats | What is Farfalle?