Shrimp Pasta Salad

Kick up the pasta salad a notch by serving this Shrimp Pasta Salad. Gussied up with a homemade Italian dressing, you’ll love this pasta salad as a side dish or light meal.

Bowtie pasta in a bowl with shrimp, vegetables and italian dressing.

When you need something quick, easy and nutritious to take on your picnic, nothing fits the bill quite like a pasta salad.

I haven’t always thought of pasta salads as a picnic food.

Our old house in Ohio had a neighborhood pool down the street. While we didn’t spend as much time there as my kids hoped, we did try to make it down to the pool once a week in the summer.

I realized something though. As my kid would scarf down PB&J sammies with a can of pringles and a capri-sun. . . all the other families were eating pasta salad. It didn’t occur to me that this was a thing.

How did all those other moms have the time to make a pasta salad from scratch before running out the door?

Simple Shrimp Pasta Salad with a homemade Italian dressing. Perfect for lunch, dinner or potlucks!

Turns out the joke was on me.

Pasta Salad

Did you know how easy it is to make pasta salad? And did you know they taste even better if made ahead of time. I’m kicking myself for not doing this every summer.

WHY didn’t I think to do this back in those neighborhood pool years? Instead of being envious of those over achieving moms and their delicious salads…why didn’t I think that maybe they made them in advance. Like any smart person would do!?!

Well, now I’ve got a delicious, easy pasta salad for any pool day, potluck or summer lunch! The homemade Italian dressing sends this one over the top.

Shrimp Salad

Most pasta salad recipes contain cheese, but I wanted to make a salad with a little more protein if we’d be eating it for lunch.

Shrimp is the perfect protein to toss in with the noodles, cheese and veggies. Since it’s already in bite sized pieces, there’s no chopping or slicing required. My kids happen to love shrimp, too, so it’s one of those meals we can all agree on!

More Shrimp Recipes: Pepper Jelly Shrimp | Bang Bang Shrimp

Substitutes for shrimp

If you’re not a fan of shrimp, you can easily leave it out or substitute another diced or chopped meat. A few ideas:

  • Salmon filets
  • Chicken breast
  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Salami
  • Pepperoni

Making this as a side dish? Leave out the shrimp–no need to substitute.

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What kind of pasta to use in pasta salad

Any pasta shape will work here, as long as it’s on the smaller side. I almost always make this with bow tie pasta. Penne, elbow macaroni, small shells and rotini varieties would be delicious too.

Vegetables for Pasta Salad

The other beauty of this recipe is that you can use about about any combo of veggies you have in stock! Here are a few of my favorite vegetables to use in this Shrimp Pasta Salad:

  • Cucumber
  • Red onion
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach

Your favorite vegetables are even better when they’re tossed with this flavorful dressing, cooked shrimp and Parmesan!

Simple Shrimp Pasta Salad with a homemade Italian dressing. Perfect for lunch, dinner or potlucks!

Dressing for Pasta Salad

If you have the time, I highly recommended whipping up a bottle of my zesty Homemade Italian Salad Dressing. It brings the rest of the colorful salad ingredients together beautifully. You can make a bunch of it at once and keep the rest in the fridge for later.

Homemade dressing love aside, store bought dressing is also just fine here, especially if you have a preferred brand you’re nuts about. As long as YOU love it, that’s what counts.

How to store

Like I mentioned before, this is a fantastic make ahead meal choice. After sitting in the fridge for a few hours, the flavor is even better!

You can make this pasta salad up to 3 days in advance. Just be sure to store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve!

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Tips and tricks

  • Cook the pasta al dente. The noodles will soften very slightly as they marinate in the dressing, so I cook them for about a minute less than I normally would to keep the pasta salad from getting mushy.
  • While you can buy pre-cooked shrimp from the grocery store, I find the flavor is best if you cook it yourself. Use a simple stovetop or boiling method and cool the shrimp before you add it to this recipe.
  • Be sure the shrimp tails and veins are removed before cooking and adding them to the pasta salad.
  • I recommend the Italian dressing here. However, a Greek dressing or Vinaigrette would also be a tasty choice.

More Potluck Recipes

Shrimp Pasta Salad


  • 16 oz bow tie pasta, cooked (or any pasta of choice)
  • 1 cup Italian dressing (I use homemade)
  • 3 cup diced vegetables, any combo (I love using cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, green pepper, broccoli, whatever you have on hand)
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8oz shrimp, cooked, tails removed (de-veined)


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse in cold water.
  2. Dice veggies and add to pasta in a large bowl. Top with italian dressing, parmesan cheese and shrimp. Enjoy.

Did you make this recipe?

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Say goodbye to PB&J, Shrimp Pasta Salad is the easy, nutritious and delicious choice for your family’s summer picnics!

About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

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Posted on May 14, 2015

Comments & Reviews

  1. Pasta salads are my favorite go-to dish to bring to summer barbecues! They’re so tasty and refreshing with all those veggies compared to the usual burgers and hot dogs. This shrimp one looks delicious! 

    1. Thanks Jessica. The shrimp adds such a light, yet filling addition to this salad 🙂

  2. Looks easy and absolutely delicious! The perfect summertime side dish for any meal! 

  3. This looks awesome! You just cannot go wrong with classic pasta salad and I love how cool and savory it is 🙂

  4. I have often used imitation crab in pasta salad, the shrimp is a great way to make pedestrian pasta salad more highbrow.  

  5. I love simple recipes like this! Why don’t I make more pasta salad with just…salad dressing? Somehow that wasn’t intuitive enough for me, lol!! Looks great Aimee!

  6. I keep telling myself that I need to find a good homemade Italian dressing recipe to try. I think I just found a good one and a good shrimp salad recipe to try, too!

  7. I love pasta salads so I know this one is going to be awesome! Love the shrimp AND homemade dressing – awesome!

  8. Don’t worry your not the only one that would make PB and J’s with Pringles. Yum chips inside of PB & J’s are the best ever! I love pasta salads so much more now that I know how to cook. This looks amazing and homemade dressing. Ahhh get out! Love this!! Pinned!! 

  9. We pretty much live on pasta salad in the summer!  A big batch only lasts a few days with this crowd!  I never thought to add shrimp to pasta salad though…although then I would have to eat the whole batch.  Hhhmmmm…not a bad idea 😉

  10. How on the earth have I never thought to put shrimp in pasta salad? That is like my two favorite loves ever! And that dressing? I sort of want to bathe in it! Pinned!

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