Kick up 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.
Table of Contents
Why This Recipe is Best
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.
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.
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.
- Perfect for making ahead, so it’s ready to go when you are.
- Very versatile – Use any small pasta shape you love, play around with which veggies to add and you can even swap out the shrimp for another protein.
- The homemade Italian dressing is killer, but a store-bought dressing or a Greek dressing would work well too.
- Pasta – 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.
- Shrimp – This is a great go-to protein, but you could leave it out if you want this to be a side dish. Or see the FAQ below on other proteins you can use instead.
- Vegetables – You need 3 cups total and can use your favorite combination, or just what you have on hand. Some of my favorites include cucumber, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, carrots, celery, broccoli and spinach.
- Italian Dressing – It’s so easy to make your own and the flavor is hard to beat! But it’s fine to substitute a store-bought Italian dressing or swap it out for a Greek style dressing if you prefer. Use what you love!
- Parmesan Cheese – This is our go-to, but you could try this salad with crumbled feta or goat cheese as well.
Step 1. Cook and cool the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, but cook for 1 minute less, until just al dente. Rinse under cold water to cool the pasta.
Step 2. Assemble the salad. Add the cooled pasta to a large bowl and add the diced vegetables, cooked shrimp, Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
Step 3. Chill and serve. If you have time, chill the pasta salad in the refrigerator for several hours before serving, as the flavors will marinate and make it even yummier. Serve and enjoy!
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 then 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 using a medium size shrimp, such as 41-60, or a smaller size, like 60-80, so the pieces are already bite-sized.
Yes, this is great for making ahead because the taste actually improves as the salad sits in the fridge for a few hours to allow all the flavors to marinate.
This salad will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Serve straight from the fridge.
You can make this salad with any of your favorite proteins, such as chicken, ham, turkey, salmon, salami or pepperoni. Or leave out the shrimp, without replacing it, to serve this as a side dish.
More Potluck Recipes
- Grandma’s Potato Salad recipe is perfect to bring to your next bbq!
- Pistachio Fluff Salad: don’t forget the sweet “green” salad!!
- Roasted Corn Salad: this is a great side dish at any summer meal
- Apple Delight: layers of sweet apple pie filling, cheesecake, and more.
- Macaroni Salad: just like mom made with tuna and eggs!
Shrimp Pasta Salad
- 16 ounce bow tie pasta cooked (or any pasta of choice)
- 1 cup Italian dressing I use homemade
- 3 cups diced vegetables any combo (I love using cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, green pepper, broccoli, whatever you have on hand)
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 8 ounce shrimp cooked, tails removed (de-veined)
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse in cold water.
- Dice veggies and add to pasta in a large bowl. Top with italian dressing, parmesan cheese and shrimp. Enjoy.
Say goodbye to PB&J, Shrimp Pasta Salad is the easy, nutritious and delicious choice for your family’s summer picnics!