Instant Pot Pasta Salad

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Pasta salad in the Instant Pot? Believe it! This one has tender bites of pasta in tangy vinaigrette. It all comes together in the Instant Pot without any need for draining. 

pasta salad in a grey bowl

Warmer weather is coming and pasta salad is on the menu! Great for quick lunches, summer barbecues, potlucks and make-ahead meals, it’s a hard meal to beat. And the Instant Pot makes it so incredibly simple.

This recipe uses my go-to formula for cooking pasta in the Instant Pot. And the finished dish? It’s great paired with a fresh green salad for a plate that is packed with color and fresh flavor. If you need some ideas, try it with Greek Goddess, Italian House, Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula, or this fruit-filled Summer Salad.

How to Make Instant Pot Pasta Salad

  1. Make the vinaigrette – Make a simple vinaigrette with red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, honey, mustard, salt, black pepper, and olive oil. Or just use a store-bought vinaigrette.
  2. Pressure cook the pasta – Combine the pasta, water, and some salt in the bowl of a 6-quart Instant Pot. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release for 5 minutes and then release any remaining pressure.
  3. Add half the vinaigrette – Stir in half the vinaigrette, stir the pasta well, and let it sit, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes until the texture of the pasta is just right.
  4. Let the pasta cool completely.
  5. Stir in mix-ins – When the pasta is cool, stir in the remaining half of the vinaigrette and all of the mixing.
  6. Serve room temperature or chilled.
a spoonful of cooked pasta over an open instant pot

Instant Pot Pasta Salad is:

  • Tangy
  • Fresh
  • Filling
  • Colorful
  • One Bowl
  • Easy (!)

Ingredients

  • Italian Vinaigrette – Make your own vinaigrette using the recipe below, make a vinaigrette with your own favorite flavors using this post, or use a store-bought Italian Vinaigrette (I have a soft spot for Kraft’s Zesty Italian Dressing).
  • Dry Italian Salami  – Look for this variety of salami in a roll or pre-sliced. Either way works, though if it’s not sliced, it will take a bit more work for you to prep it. This comes in spicy and mild varieties and adds so much flavor to the pasta salad. Pepperoni will work too!
  • Cheese – I love the rich flavor of Sharp White Cheddar Cheese in this salad, but an Italian cheese like mozzarella is great as well. If using mozzarella, look for mozzarella pearls which are tiny balls of the cheese that you don’t even have to slice before using. 
  • Tomatoes and Basil – These add fresh flavor to the finished dish.  
ingredients for pasta salad on a grey countertop

Possible Variations

  • Make it vegetarian – Just skip the salami for a vegetarian version of Instant Pot Italian Pasta Salad or add canned chickpeas (drain them first) for a vegetarian protein. 
  • Add / change vegetables – Load this up with any vegetables you like. It’s best to cook them separately before adding them to the pasta salad, so saute them in a skillet or steam them in the microwave first. If you’re making a spring version, try peas and asparagus. For a fresh version with some crunch, try diced bell peppers.
  • Add seasoning – Change the flavors in the vinaigrette. Make it spicy with red pepper flakes, add extra Italian herbs, or even add some parmesan cheese for more savory richness.
  • Make it gluten-free – Use gluten-free pasta and this dish is instantly gluten-free.
stirring pasta salad in an instant pot

Cooking Tips

  • Use a pasta shape that has twists and curls in it. Those will hold the vinaigrette best.
  • Wait to add half the vinaigrette until just before serving. The warm pasta will soak up vinaigrette, giving it flavor. But for the sauciest result, wait to add the remaining half of the sauce until just before serving.

FAQs

How do I store pasta salad?

Store the pasta salad in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Take it out at least 30 minutes before serving so that it has time to come to room temperature.

Can I use a different shape of pasta?

Yes. Any shape will work, but be sure that it has a recommended cook time of 10 to 12 minutes. Using a pasta shape that cooks more quickly will result in a pasta salad that is soggy and noodles that are overcooked.

Why use the Instant Pot?

Cooking pasta in the Instant Pot means only one bowl to clean. And there’s no need to drain the pasta after cooking. It’s also a great method for hot weather when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen with a pot of boiling water.

Can I make this on the stovetop?

Of course! Just boil the pasta on the stovetop according to package directions, drain well, and proceed with the recipe as written.

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5 from 5 votes

Instant Pot Pasta Salad Recipe

Pasta salad in the Instant Pot? Believe it! This Italian Pasta Salad is made with a tangy Italian vinaigrette. Served warm or at room temperature, this is an easy lunch, side dish, or potluck favorite.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Natural Release: 10 minutes
Total: 26 minutes
Servings: 8

Equipment

  • 6-quart Instant Pot / pressure cooker
  • Mixing Bowl

Ingredients 

Italian Vinaigrette (see note):

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (look for pre-mixed blend or use a combination of dried herbs to make your own Italian Herb Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

Pasta Salad:

  • 16 ounces pasta (any variety with a 10-12 minute recommended cook time; I like fusilli, rotini, or cellentani)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces dry Italian salami, chopped or cubed
  • 8 ounces cubed cheddar, mozzarella, or feta cheese
  • 3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped or thinly sliced

Instructions 

  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, honey, mustard, salt, and black pepper. Add the olive oil, while whisking. (Alternatively, you can combine all of the ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake until the vinaigrette is smooth.)
  • Combine pasta, water, and salt in the bowl of an Instant Pot. Give everything a stir. 
  • Close and lock the lid.
  • Set the pressure valve to Sealing.
  • Pressure cook on high for 4 minutes.
  • Leave the pasta on natural release for exactly 5 minutes. (Note: Be very careful not to let it sit for any longer or the pasta will overcook.)
  • Use manual release to release any remaining pressure. (Note: Hot and starchy pasta water may spray out of the pressure valve when you release it. Cover the valve with a dish towel as it releases to keep this contained and minimize the mess.)
  • Open the lid and add half the vinaigrette (reserve the other half). Give the pasta a good stir, 20 to 30 times. (This will get rid of any dry spots that remained where the pasta was sticking out of the water during cooking. If adding sauce, stir it in at this point.)
  • Return the lid to the top of the pressure cooker (no need to lock it just set it on top) and leave the pasta for 5-10 minutes more. (Note: This step is the most important because the pasta will absorb the vinaigrette and any remaining liquid. It will also continue to cook just a bit in the residual heat of the machine. This is the key to pasta that is cooked, but not overcooked.)
  • Unplug the machine (or turn it off completely so that it is no longer warming). Remove the lid and let the pasta cool completely. (You can transfer it to another bowl if you want to cool it down more quickly.)
  • Just before serving, stir the salami, cheese, tomatoes, remaining vinaigrette, and basil into the pasta.
  • Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Notes

Vinaigrette shortcut – You can use store-bought Italian vinaigrette to save time. (I’m partial to Kraft’s Zesty Italian Dressing with this recipe.)
Extra Add-Ins – Feel free to add your favorite pasta salad add-ins. Here are just a few that work well in this recipe:
  • olives
  • chickpeas
  • steamed broccoli florets
  • cucumbers
  • bell peppers
  • red onions

Nutrition

Calories: 406kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 751mg | Potassium: 350mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 775IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 236mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $9.00
Calories: 406
Keyword: easy dinner, instant pot, lunch, pot-in-pot, potluck recipe
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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