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Broccoli Ranch Pasta Salad

Sometimes a classic Broccoli Ranch Pasta Salad just hits the spot!! This perfect summer side dish is creamy, flavorful, loaded with healthy veggies, and so easy to make! Perfect for any picnic or BBQ, this is our go-to pasta salad recipe for quick meals and easy entertaining. 

Bow tie pasta salad with broccoli in a bowl.

I could live on pasta salads in the summer! Honestly, if my husband didn't complain that he needs meat for dinner, I could rotate between my tuna pasta salad, Mexican pasta salad, my coleslaw orzo salad, and this amazing Broccoli Ranch Pasta Salad all summer and just call it dinner. 

This salad is a favorite around here for several reasons:

  • It is the easiest to make. Ranch dressing is perfect for pasta salad.
  • It has loads of fresh veggies for flavor, nutrients, and crunch.
  • It has cheese. Trust me when I say to adding grated cheese to creamy pasta salads does something amazing to the overall flavor.
  • It goes with everything! (Try it with this awesome grilled chicken or with Instant Pot BBQ ribs)
  • It makes a large batch, perfect for easy entertaining.
  • It can be prepared in advance and will last in the fridge for a few days!

Ready to make it?

Broccoli ranch pasta salad on a serving spoon.

Related recipe: Instant Pot Potato Salad

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz uncooked pasta, such as bow tie
  • 1 large head broccoli
  • 2 large bell peppers (I used red and orange)
  • ⅓ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ⅓ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (use the freshly grated kind, or the kind from the fancy cheese section of the store, don't use the green package Parm)
  • ⅔ cup Ranch dressing (or to taste)
  • 2 scallions
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Ingredients for broccoli ranch pasta salad.

Related recipe: No-Mayo Potato Salad with Feta

Other pasta salad add-ins to try:

The ingredients above are great for a basic pasta salad, but if you're feeling fancy, you can try adding any of the following to this salad:

  • Finely minced onion (2-3 tablespoons)
  • Diced fresh parsley (¼ cup)
  • Cooked bacon (4-6 slices, or more! More bacon never hurts)
  • Sliced almonds or sunflower seeds (for crunch - toast them first for the most flavor!)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Thawed cooked peas and/or corn
  • Grated carrot
  • Sliced salami, ham, or pepperoni
  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Related recipe: Couscous and Shrimp Salad

How to make pasta salad:

Step 1: Cook pasta al-dente according to the package directions. Drain and rinse in cool water until no longer hot.

Step 2: While pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients: clean the bell peppers, remove the seeds, and pith, and chop them into small ⅓ inch pieces. Chop the broccoli into small pieces.

Chopped bell peppers in a bowl.

Step 3 - optional: If you don't love raw broccoli or prefer the softer texture of slightly cooked broccoli, cook the broccoli in the microwave on medium for 2-3 minutes to steam them. Allow to cool.

Chopped broccoli florets in a bowl.

Step 4: In a large bowl, combine the chopped peppers, broccoli, shredded cheeses, and cooked pasta, as well as any other add-ins you like. Add the Ranch dressing and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, if desired (I find that I don't need salt when using Ranch dressing), or add additional dressing if needed.

Broccoli pasta salad with ranch dressing in a bowl.

Step 5: Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours before serving.

Related recipe: Easy Grilled Calamari Salad

What kind of pasta to use for pasta salad

For this pasta salad, I used bow tie pasta (farfalle). However, many non-noodle pasta shapes will work great for a pasta salad! Other favorites are any kind of twisted pasta, such as rotini, orecchiette, or even elbow macaroni.

The only kinds of pasta I don't like in pasta salads are tube shaped pastas, such as penne or ziti. 

Bow tie pasta in a bowl.

Another bow-tie pasta recipe to try: Varnishkes Recipe (Bow-Tie Pasta with Buckwheat)

Why add cheese to pasta salad

The trick to the BEST pasta salad dressing is to add shredded cheese to the salad so it mixes up with the creamy dressing. This is SO much better than adding cubed cheese because the shredded cheese really combines with the dressing and adds flavor to the whole salad. I use this trick in my Fennel Dill Salad, as well as in my Broccoli Salad recipe.

For this broccoli ranch pasta salad, I used a combination of cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese. The cheddar adds a nice rich creaminess, and the Parmesan adds a little sharpness. For this recipe, I recommend using either freshly grated Parmesan, or the kind from the cheese section in the deli part of the grocery store. Teal Parmesan tastes so much than the crumbled packaged stuff in the green container. 

I love using my microplane zester to easily grate cheese!

What to serve with pasta salad

We typically enjoy pasta salad as a summer side dish, so it goes perfectly with:

However you decide to serve this pasta salad, I hope you love it as much as we do! If you end up making it, please take a picture and tag me on INSTAGRAM or FACEBOOK. You can find me at @babaganoshblog on both. I love seeing your creations!

Broccoli Ranch Pasta Salad
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Broccoli Ranch Pasta Salad

This broccoli ranch pasta salad is the perfect side dish for summer meals and BBQs, and goes great with everything! Easy to make, and this recipe can be prepared in advance.
Prep Time13 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 side dish servings
Author: Kate
Cost: $1 per serving

Ingredients

  • 12 oz uncooked pasta , such as bow tie
  • 1 large head broccoli
  • 2 large bell peppers (I used red and orange)
  • 2 scallions
  • cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • cup shredded Parmesan cheese (use freshly grated or deli Parmesan cheese)
  • cup Ranch dressing (or to taste)
  • Salt & pepper , to taste

Instructions

  • Cook pasta al-dente according to the package directions. Drain and rinse in cool water until no longer hot.
  • While pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients: clean the bell peppers, remove the seeds, and pith, and chop them into small ⅓ inch pieces. Dice the scallions. Chop the broccoli into small pieces.
  • Optional: If you don't love raw broccoli or prefer the softer texture of slightly cooked broccoli, cook the broccoli florets in the microwave on medium for 2-3 minutes to steam them. Allow to cool or rinse under cold water.
  • In a large bowl, combine the chopped peppers, broccoli, scallions, shredded cheeses, and cooked pasta, as well as any other add-ins you like. Add the Ranch dressing and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, if desired (I find that I don't need salt when using Ranch dressing), or add additional dressing if needed.
  • Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours before serving.

Notes

Other tasty add-ins:
  • Finely minced onion (2-3 tablespoons)
  • Diced fresh parsley (¼ cup)
  • Cooked bacon (4-6 slices, or more! More bacon never hurts)
  • Sliced almonds or sunflower seeds (for crunch - toast them first for the most flavor!)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Thawed cooked peas and/or corn
  • Grated carrot
  • Sliced salami, ham, or pepperoni
  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Nutrition

Calories: 247kcal (12%) | Carbohydrates: 32g (11%) | Protein: 7g (14%) | Fat: 10g (15%) | Saturated Fat: 2g (10%) | Cholesterol: 9mg (3%) | Sodium: 221mg (9%) | Potassium: 332mg (9%) | Fiber: 3g (12%) | Sugar: 3g (3%) | Vitamin A: 1168IU (23%) | Vitamin C: 85mg (103%) | Calcium: 70mg (7%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)

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Little Cooking Tips

Monday 3rd of August 2015

When Panos saw that you used cheddar and parmesan in this pasta salad, it was automatically decided that this will be served in our household within the next two days:) Wonderful pasta salad dear Kate, we love it! Have a great week ahead! Panos and Mirella xoxoxo

Kate

Tuesday 4th of August 2015

Thank you :) Yes, cheese definitely helps this pasta salad be delicious. To be honest, I wanted to add more cheese but it just seemed excessive because I wasn't sure if my friends loved cheese as much as I did. Next time I make this for myself - more cheese!

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