Our zesty Italian Bow Tie Pasta Salad will wow your gatherings! This vegan-friendly delicious pasta salad is a burst of flavor, coated in Italian dressing, with a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese. Fresh peppers, olives, and grape tomatoes add color and crunch. Ready in a little over an hour, this scrumptious vegan pasta salad is ideal for BBQs, picnics, and potlucks!
Being vegan at a potluck can present challenges as the majority of dishes may contain animal products. And then there is the unknown – will I find anything to eat? Finding suitable options amidst the array of non-vegan choices can be difficult, requiring careful consideration and most often bringing a vegan dish to share with others.
When I bring vegan food items to a potluck or family gathering, I bring dishes that I know everyone will enjoy - vegans and non-vegans alike! Fresh fruit salad with poppy seed dressing, crunchy colorful rainbow salad with fresh crisp veggies, and peach dump cake with white chocolate and pecans are always big hits!
This bow tie pasta salad with Italian dressing is the ultimate crowd-pleaser, whether it’s a casual BBQ with friends or a family picnic at the park. Prepare a generous batch, and be ready to share the recipe because everyone will be asking for it! So, get your picnic basket or potluck dish ready and indulge in this scrumptious Bow Tie Pasta Salad. It’s a guaranteed hit for all your outdoor gatherings!
Ingredients needed to make Italian bow tie pasta salad
- bow tie pasta – You will start with 12 ounces of dry pasta for this recipe. If you are vegan then make sure to read the label for compliance.
- Italian dressing – The dressing will be divided – some to mix in with the cooked noodles when making the salad and more to toss in at the end. I know a lot of people like to make their own Italian dressing. I buy mine for ease of preparation and for the colorful bits of spices and tiny chopped veggies – Just read the ingredient list for compliance.
- vegan parmesan cheese – You can make your own parmesan cheese with cashews and nutritional yeast or if you are lucky enough to find it in your grocery store, Follow Your Heart makes a tasty parmesan cheese – both shreds and sprinkles. And Violife makes a hard parmesan cheese that you can grate. If you aren’t vegan then use the parm cheese of your choice, but be aware that parmesan cheese is not considered vegetarian because of the processing.
- Italian seasoning – This is an actual seasoning you buy in the store. In the USA – not in Italy. No self-respecting Italian cook would use anything called Italian seasoning. But it’s pretty handy to have on-had to season soups, salads, and sauces. If you can’t find it in the store, you can buy Italian seasoning on Amazon.
- grape tomatoes – You can also use cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes are a little smaller than cherry tomatoes so I usually cut the cherry tomatoes in half.
- black olives – You will be using one six-ounce can of whole pitted black olives. I always poke the olives to check for a missed pit – because what if….
- green pepper – You will be chopping the green pepper
Instructions for making your own Italian Bow Tie Pasta Salad
The exact ingredients with measurements can be found in the recipe card below along with more concise abbreviated instructions. Read on for more details, tips, and tricks so that you will feel confident making this recipe.
Step 1 – 2: Cook the pasta
Fill a large pot halfway with salted water, bring to a boil, and add the bow tie pasta. Boil over high heat for 8-10 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Al dente is definitely cooked but is a little firm and not mushy when you bite into it. You do not want mushy pasta for your pasta salad, so make sure to not overcook the pasta for this recipe.
How much salt should you use to cook pasta?
My mother used to add a large kitchen spoon of salt to the boiling water. Honestly, that’s more than I usually use because the idea of that much salt seems like…much. But The Modern Proper suggests one tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta/four quarts of water. This aligns with what my mother did and honestly probably makes your cooked pasta extra tasty.
Most of the salt will go down the drain when you rinse your cooked pasta anyway so follow your heart on this one. But keep in mind that the added salt is not factored into the nutritional information found in the recipe card below.
Drain the cooked pasta using a colander, and then rinse the cooked noodles under cold water. It’s important to rinse the cooked noodles for two reasons: 1. We don’t want overcooked soggy noodles and rinsing the cooked bow tie pasta under cold water will immediately stop the cooking process. 2. Rinsing the cooked noodles starts to cool them off quickly so that you can have dinner on the table pronto!
Step 3: Prep the vegetables and the other ingredients
While the pasta is boiling you can prep the other ingredients and have everything ready to go once the bow tie pasta has been cooked, drained, and rinsed.
Rinse and chop the green pepper into ½ inch pieces. Set the chopped green pepper aside. Rinse the grape tomatoes and measure out the other ingredients. Make sure to pat your rinsed tomatoes dry to prevent a soggy watery pasta salad.
Steps 4-7: Putting the bow tie pasta salad together
Add one cup of the Italian dressing, vegan parmesan, and Italian seasoning to a small bowl, and stir to combine. Remember that you are dividing the dressing and will be using the one-half cup later after the pasta salad has cooled in the refrigerator and is (almost) ready to serve.
Add the cooked and rinsed bow tie pasta noodles to a large bowl, pour the dressing over the cooked pasta, then toss to coat evenly. Add the rinsed tomatoes, olives, and chopped peppers, and toss again to thoroughly combine.
Cover the prepared pasta salad with a lid (if your bowl comes with a lid) or with plastic wrap. Place the bowl with the pasta salad in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
Steps 8-9: Serving and saving the vegan pasta salad
Just before serving your bow tie pasta salad, toss it with the remaining Italian dressing. I like to add a little more parmesan cheese OR have it on the table along with a black pepper grinder and red pepper flakes so that people can season it to taste.
This pasta will keep in the fridge for a few days if tightly covered but is best served within one day of making it. If placed on a buffet table along with other food items, this bow tie pasta should serve up to twelve people. If you are serving it as a main course then plan on four-six servings depending on what else you are serving alongside the salad. A slice of rosemary garlic bread or easy vegan pesto rolls would be perfect for serving with this pasta salad.
The printable recipe card
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Italian Bow Tie Pasta Salad, Vegan
- 12 oz bow tie pasta
- 1 ¼ cups Italian dressing divided
- ¼ cup vegan parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 6 oz can black olives
- 1 green pepper
- Fill a large pot halfway with salted water, bring to a boil, and add the pasta. Boil over high heat for 8-10 minutes, until pasta is al dente.
- Drain using a colander, and rinse noodles under cold water.
- While the pasta is boiling you can prep the other ingredients. Chop the green pepper into ½ inch pieces. Set aside. Rinse and pat dry the tomatoes and measure out the other ingredients.
- Add 1 cup of dressing, vegan parmesan, and Italian seasoning to a small bowl, and stir to combine.
- Add noodles to a large bowl, pour the dressing over the noodles, then toss to coat.
- Add the rinsed tomatoes, olives, and chopped peppers, and toss to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
- Before serving, add the additional ¼ cup of dressing, and gently toss.
- Top with extra vegan parmesan if desired.