We love a good make ahead meal for our day of travel and a great option is a rotini pasta salad.
I love rotini pasta for making a salad in advance. It is quick to cook and stands up well to sitting for a couple of days in the dressing without getting mushy. And it works with so many different flavor profiles. Want Italian? Think antipasto. Want Greek? Feta is your friend. Want Mexican? Add black beans and corn!
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Make Ahead Items
We are huge proponents of making items ahead of time when possible. This gives us more time to be lazy around the campfire…or have something ready to eat as soon as we get back from a hike. Two of our favorites are the Pressed Picnic Sandwich and Roasted Veggies with Orzo Pasta. However, there are times when we need something a bit quicker to make. That is when I turn to this Rotini Pasta Salad and Pinwheel Sandwiches!
What we love about the Rotini Pasta Salad:
- It comes together quickly
- Ingredients are extremely versatile
- Flavors meld together beautifully
The Ingredients for Rotini Pasta Salad:
- Rotini pasta (or whatever shape you prefer)
- Bell peppers (and assorted other veggies)
- Olive oil (extra virgin of course)
- Seasonings (your choice)
- Cured meats (optional)
- Firm cheese (optional)
- Various other ingredients (tomatoes, olives, etc.)
The Process for Rotini Pasta Salad:
- Cook a big bowl of pasta al dente. Rinse in cold water and allow it to cool.
- While pasta is cooking, slice vegetables into bite sized pieces. You want between 1 and 2 cups total diced crunchy vegetables.
- Lightly coat the pasta with some olive oil and seasonings. We enjoy Penzey’s Garden Salad Seasoning. Alternately, use an oil-based salad dressing of your choice. Our favorite is Garlic Expressions (which is also amazing on steamed broccoli!).
- Stir together your pasta and your vegetables, along with any other ingredients (tomatoes, olives, meats, cheeses, etc.) you have chosen to include.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- Place in refrigerator overnight to allow flavors to meld.
FAQ and How to Customize our Rotini Pasta Salad:
Q: We don’t like raw bell peppers. What could we use instead?
A: If you like roasted peppers, I highly recommend using those instead. You can buy them already roasted or roast your own. In fact, any veggies that you will eat roasted are a great option. If roasted veggies aren’t your thing, what about broccoli and/or cauliflower? When I use those, I also throw in olives. Yum!
Q: I don’t have rotini pasta available. Can I substitute another type?
A: Of course you can! I think shells are one of the cutest pasta shapes to eat and will sometimes use them or bow ties instead. I’ve not used anything smaller than that unless I’m making an orzo salad but honestly you can use any type of pasta you have and enjoy eating.
Q: Can I make this a one dish meal?
A: You definitely can. A common way to do so would be to add meats and cheeses. We recommend sausage and asiago for an Italian version or salami and feta for a Greek version. The husband also makes a fantastic Asian noodle salad but that would be a completely different recipe.
Suggested Main Dish:
We love to eat this one with pinwheel sandwiches or our pressed picnic sandwich. It would also go well with hot dogs and/or hamburgers.
Since we don’t require a campfire for this meal, let me recommend two desserts that don’t either. The first one would be best made on your first night as it requires a bunch of COLD ingredients: baggie ice cream. We first made this in cub scouts and there are recipes all over the internet.
The second one would be to make dessert in advance and bring it along. We love no bake energy bites. There are so many varieties, and they can be made to your family’s tastes. Think about what sorts of granola bars you like and use those as your inspiration.
This one doesn’t require any specialized equipment outside of a normal kitchen. You will want a stovetop to boil your pasta. You will need a cutting board and knife to cut up your vegetables. And then you require a covered bowl for mixing and storing everything. But as long as you make this in advance at home, you should be good to go.
More Make Ahead Recipes to Enjoy:
Never underestimate the power of a rotini pasta salad.
Having one of these made in advance and ready to eat when you are can soothe the soul of the hangry beasties. And, if you are lucky enough to not have hangry beasties at your campsite, will you come feed mine? We are always starving by the time we get to the campground and are ready to set up camp which means tempers can flare and rotini pasta salad will help. Tag us on instagram @campinganswer and let us know what you put in your pasta salad!