Perfect Make Ahead Italian Vegetable Pasta Salad

Published:  06/20/2023

Pasta salad with vegetables

Perfect Make Ahead Italian Vegetable Pasta Salad

Introducing the Perfect Make-Ahead Italian Vegetable Pasta Salad for Boating!

Whether you're planning a full-day boating excursion or a relaxing afternoon cruise, my Make-Ahead Italian Pasta Salad is your go-to option. It's easy to pack, refreshing, and offers a delightful combination of nutrition and taste that will keep you energized throughout your nautical adventures. 

This recipe is specifically designed to be the ultimate boating companion, offering convenience, freshness, and an explosion of Mediterranean flavors that will elevate your on-water dining experience.

What sets this pasta salad apart is its make-ahead nature, allowing you to prepare it in advance and keep it chilled until you're ready to set sail. It's the ideal solution for boating enthusiasts who want to spend more time enjoying the open waters and less time worrying about meal preparations.

Pasta Notes to Ensure Perfect Pasta

  • Rotini, fusilli, cavatappi, bow tie, and rotelle shapes work best because all the curves catch the dressing. 
  • For color and interest, I like to use this tricolor rotini from Amazon.
  • Want to reduce carbs in your diet? Feel free to use a good quality whole wheat pasta or reduce the amount of pasta you use and increase the amount of veggies.
  • Because pasta quickly absorbs liquids, overcooked pasta will be too soft. To prevent this, you should cook your pasta one minute less than the instructions say. This gives it enough tenderness to hold up to the chilling process, but not so much that the dressing dissolves its structure.
  • Salt your water with 1 Tbs of salt for every 4 quarts of water right before it boils. Once it fully boils, add the pasta and stir. Bring the pasta back to boiling, stir again and reduce the heat to summer. You should still see some bubbles. Begin tasting the pasta for doneness 1 ½ minutes before the time indicated on the package to cook fully. But remember, for this salad, pasta should be cooked about 1 minutes before fully cook to retain shape. 
  • Once the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta quickly, toss it in a little oil (so it doesn’t stick together), and spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet so it cools quickly.  Let it sit for 15 minutes. This creates the perfect texture. 

RV, Camping and Boating Notes: 

  • Pack the pasta in a glass bowl with a lid like this. I prefer the square bowls since they better optimize space in a small boat galley fridge or cooler and are stackable. 
  • Pack the vegetables and mozzarella balls in a glass bowl with a lid. 
  • Pack the salad dressing in a 16 ounce glass jar.  These jars are woonderful for maximizing space in a galley fridge or cooler. 
  • When ready to serve, assemble and toss together in a large bowl. For just 2 people just mix together what you think you'll eat for just that meal. 

So, grab your boat, gather your loved ones, and embark on a culinary journey with my Make-Ahead Italian Pasta Salad. Get ready to savor every bite, surrounded by the beauty of nature, and enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean while you cruise along the water.

Perfect Make-Ahead Italian Vegetable Pasta Salad Recipe

Serves 8

  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • ¾ cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 cup bell peppers, diced in ½ inch dice
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese balls, pearls or ciliegine cut in half
  • 1-pound uncooked pasta. See cooking note
  • Salt for pasta cooking water

Italian Pasta Salad Dressing  

  • 1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil 
  • ¼ c white vinegar 
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 Tbs coarse sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp each dry oregano and dry basil 
  • Black pepper to taste 


  1. Cook pasta. See Pasta Notes for details. Cook, drain, oil and spread pasta on a cookie sheet to cool. Once cool, transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 
  2. Chop all the vegetables and put those and the mozzarella balls in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 
  3. Make dressing. In a large jar, shake all the ingredients together. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. You will probably have extra dressing. 
  4. Don’t dress the salad too far in advance. When ready to assemble, place pasta and vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Pour some (not all) dressing on the pasta and veggies, toss and taste. Don’t overdo the dressing. You will probably have extra dressing that you can use to marinate chicken in or add to a green salad. 


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Categories:   COOKBOOK  Food  Healthy Boat Living 

Tags:   #mealplanning #recipes

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