Creamy, hearty, and delicious! Ranch Pasta Salad is the perfect side to bring to all your summer celebrations – from 4th of July to Labor Day!
I’m definitely a self-proclaimed carb lover. Give me all the breads, all the potatoes, allllllll the pasta. Cold pasta salad is my summertime love language, especially one made withe homemade ranch dressing like this Ranch Pasta Salad recipe.
It’s the perfect blend of yummy veggies, ham, and cheese all bound together by my favorite type of dressing! This pasta salad is going to be your new favorite recipe to share with friends and family. (This BLT Pasta Salad is a very close second place winner, too!)
RANCH PASTA SALAD
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As much as I don’t want to admit it, summer is coming to a close. Time to say goodbye to hot days at the beach, backyard BBQs, and those oh-so-yummy fruity cocktails. But, with every goodbye comes some really wonderful hellos! Hello to a new (and very unique) school year, all things pumpkin and apple, and my favorite – crisp fall air.
While this summer has been VERY different than any other summer, it was still filled with family, fun, and lifelong memories. We managed to follow through with some of our favorite family traditions this summer all while staying safe and socially distant.
One summer tradition that I really look forward to every year is our annual neighborhood Labor Day potluck/BBQ. Picture it – kids having water balloon fights in the street, friends sharing favorite recipes, everyone relaxing and looking forward to the upcoming fall weather. It’s my family’s version of perfection.
My go-to contribution to the potluck has always been a variety of cold pasta salad. I love how versatile pasta salads are – you can basically put anything in them without messing them up! This year I’m making a crowd-favorite: Ranch Pasta Salad. Kids love it, parents love it, and it’s full of delicious extras you can’t help but love!
What Goes in Pasta Salad?
Sure, you could totally sub in a bottle of premade ranch dressing or mix up some dressing from a dried ranch seasoning packet for this pasta salad recipe. However, I find that mixing up my own is not only SUPER simple but also so much more decadent. Sometimes, I’ll even whip up a double batch of the dressing. That way I have some on hand in the fridge for my lunchtime green salads!
For the dressing:
- Heavy whipping cream
- Plain Greek yogurt – if you don’t have any Greek yogurt on hand you can swap in some sour cream
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Diced chives
For the salad:
- Rotini pasta
- Grape tomatoes
- Medium black olives
- Diced ham
- Extra sharp cheddar cheese
Additional Ingredient Ideas…
I mentioned earlier why I love pasta salads so much – they are literally SO versatile!
You’ve got some frozen peas laying around? Thaw ’em and throw them in.
Do you love peppers? Chop them up and add them right in, they’ll add a great taste!
One way to elevate this cold pasta salad is to add in some of my secret weapon… BACON! I don’t do this every time I make this recipe, but really, who doesn’t love a bacon ranch pasta salad? I know I’m not saying no!
If you’re serving a crowd that may have vegetarians, leave out the bacon and the ham. Instead, throw in some yummy veggie extras. Broccoli florets, chopped asparagus, chickpeas, the options are endless!
How to Make Pasta Salad
When you’re making Ranch Pasta Salad, you’ll want to give yourself a least two hours before serving this salad. Really, only a few minutes of that is actual hands-on prep work and there’s only an hour of chilling time. Believe me when I say letting this pasta salad chill for at least an hour will truly help the flavors come through. Two hours let’s me go, “Ah! I need to start the pasta salad!” and still get everything done on time.
- Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Then you’ll cook the pasta according to package directions until it’s al dente. After cooking, drain your pasta and let it sit at room temperature to cool down a bit.
- While the pasta is cooking, you’re going to make the creamy ranch dressing. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. Then pop this in the fridge to chill.
- Next, add your cooled pasta and the pasta salad ingredients to a large bowl. (Not the dressing yet!!!) Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
- When you’re ready to eat, fold the chilled dressing into your chilled salad until everything is completely coated in dressing.
- Sprinkles a few more chives on top, serve, and enjoy!
Now you’re asking yourself – couldn’t I just chill the salad and the dressing all together? Yeah, sure, you CAN do that, but it’s not the best way of making this cold pasta salad and here’s why.
Pasta is an excellent absorber. Even just 15 minutes of the pasta and ranch dressing being mixed together will cause it to dry out a bit. Instead, I suggest just waiting to combine the two until you’re ready to serve. Your pasta salad will be creamier and that much more delicious!
How Long is Pasta Salad Good For?
If I’m making this pasta salad for a party, I’ll typically make it day-of to ensure freshness and creaminess. But, sometimes (rarely…) there are leftovers. I’m not complaining in the slightest though… ranch pasta salad is still great for a few days post-party!
If you store it in an airtight container (my favorite set is linked below!), it’ll stay delicious for 3-5 days. Pro-tip – when you’re mixing up your pasta salad, reserve a little bit of your ranch dressing in the fridge. That way, when you’re eating leftovers a few days later, you can add in some more dressing!
Need some more Labor Day Side Dish inspiration? Check out these other Real Housemoms favorites!
- Parmesan Cilantro Corn
- Creamy Ham & Cheese Pasta Salad
- Quick & Easy Black Bean Salad
- Easy Bacon & Avocado Pasta Salad
- Easy Wedge Salad
- more SIDE DISH recipes…
Tools used to make this Ranch Pasta Salad recipes
Large Pot: I love my stainless steel pots. They bring water to a boil SO quickly, making pasta prep super easy!
Mixing Bowls: These mixing bowls are perfect for mixing and serving. I love the varied sizes so I always have the right size bowl for all my mixing needs.
- 1 pound rotini pasta
- 1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cup medium black olives drained
- 1 cup diced ham
- 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese cubed
- ⅓ cup craisins
- Fresh chives for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook rotini according to package direction until al dente. Drain and let cool to room temperature, about 12 minutes.
- While pasta is cooking - whisk together whipping cream, Greek yogurt, mayo, garlic powder, onion, powder, and chives in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge to chill.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together cooled pasta, tomatoes, olives, ham, cheese, and raisins. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour in the fridge.
- Unwrap salad and pour dressing over top. Use a large spoon to fold dressing into salad until ingredients are completely coated. Sprinkle chopped chives on top for garnish, and serve immediately.