The Throwback Creamy Pasta Salad Everyone Will Rave About

by Dawn
10 Servings
28 min

Old school recipe for classic, creamy pasta salad with pepperoni, cheddar chunks, peas and mayonnaise. This post contains affiliate links.

This pasta salad is a classic. It's creamy, it's flavorful, and if you're looking for the ultimate pasta salad recipe, this is it!

Pasta salads are great because they can be eaten at any time of year - in fact, they make a perfect summer dish for picnics and barbecues.

up close of pasta salad in a bowl topped with cheese chunks, pepperoni quarters, parsley, chopped red peppers and more.

This throwback pasta salad uses traditional ingredients like mayonnaise and pepperoni to give it that nostalgic flavor we all love so much.

Each bite reminds me of my childhood and I can't get enough. Let me show you how to make this in just a few simple steps.

full photo filled with spiral pasta salad with pepperoni quarters, cheese cubes, parsley, black olives, red onions

The old school pasta salad is very easy to make and it can be stored in the fridge for a few days. First, we whip up the dressing while the pasta is boiling. Then, we'll prepare all of the chopped veggies and ingredients. Let's make this.

bbqterie tray with bowl of pasta salad, fresh fruits


Here are the ingredients we will be using to make this recipe.

Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or Best Foods are my favorites and it really makes a difference)

White Wine Vinegar - needed for some extra tang.

Salt and Pepper - must have basic seasonings for almost any dish.

Granulated Sugar - surprising underdog that makes the dressing pop.

pasta salad ingredients laid out on table. Dry pasta, cheese brick, whole pepper, hellmann's mayo

These items are added to a bowl and mixed while the pasta is cooking and right before you start preparing all of the other ingredients.


All of these ingredients have been hand selected based on my memory of pasta salads from my childhood. They all come together beautifully for the perfect throwback side dish for all of your summer occasions.

overtop view of a classic style creamy pasta salad with cheese and pepperoni

Rotini - is one of my top picks to make pasta salad with because it's fun to look at and even more fun to eat. The tiny ridges soak up the pasta dressing in all the right ways.

Red Pepper - is perfect for a nice pop of color and flavor. You can also swap for orange or yellow, too. I like the milder taste of these colors vs. green pepper. They aren't only good in fajitas.

Sharp Cheddar Cheese - has the perfect zesty flavor and is a must to include in any pasta salad.

Pepperoni - isn't always included in pasta salads, but I distinctly remember it being served at all of our family gatherings. Every recipe is better with a generous amount of these spicy little bits if you ask me. It's also fantastic in dips.

bowl of pasta salad with spiral pasta, pepperoni, black olives, onions

Black Olives - are not only one of my favorite things ever, especially the kind that come right in a can. They add a twist of flavor to any kind of salad.

Red Onions - adds a nice bite to the salad. Dicing them real small allows for the perfect balance without being too overwhelming.

Frozen Peas - thawed out are the perfect pop of color and texture for this salad. You could use canned instead, but you won't get the vibrant color and mouthfeel. Note that I totally forgot to include these when I took my photos, but please don't skip them in this recipe, they are the BEST.

bbqterie board with grilled chicken sandwiches on buns, sliced watermelon, fruits, pasta salad, cheese and crackers


  1. First, it's time to cook your pasta “Al Dente” style according to package directions. Once that is done, rinse and drain with cold water.
  2. Then, in a large bowl, let's make the dressing by mixing mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Once that is fully combined, add the cooked pasta and mix until it's fully coated.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the pasta and mix it together until completely combined and all of the ingredients are coated.
  4. Once everything is completed, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to enjoy.
tray of barbecue items with chicken sandwiches, bowl of pasta salad, watermelon and more

If you want to make serving this pasta salad extra fancy, consider adding it to a summer charcuterie style meal. It's easy to do if you start with a simple serving tray like this marbled set and build it up with all of the foods you are serving. Use smaller dishes to help separate foods and be sure to add fun garnishes like pickles to make the meal extra appetizing.

bowl of creamy pasta salad loaded with ingredients from chopped pepper to sliced pepperoni

Print the recipe below to get the exact measurements.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and share it with your friends.

Finally, please let me know how the pasta salad turned out for you and what your memories of pasta salad are from your childhood!

The Throwback Creamy Pasta Salad Everyone Will Rave About
Recipe details
  • 10  Servings
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 8 Minutes Total time: 28 min
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  • 1.5 Cups Mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or Best)
  • 2 TBSP White Wine Vinegar
  • 1.5 TSP Salt (to taste)
  • 1 TSP freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1.5 TSP white granulated sugar (to taste)
  • 16 OZ Rotini Pasta
  • ¾ Cup Red Pepper Chopped
  • ¾ Cup Frozen Peas, Thawed (not cooked)
  • 8 OZ Brick Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Cubed
  • 20 Large Pepperoni Slices, Chopped into Quarters
  • 3.8oz Can sliced Black Olives
  • ⅓ Cup Red Onion, Diced

Prepare the pasta “Al Dente” according to package directions, then rinse and drain with cold water.
In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add the cooked pasta and mix to coat.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until completely combined and all too the ingredients are coated.
Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
  • You can swap out the frozen peas for canned, but they will not have the same texture or pop of color.
Want more details about this and other recipes? Check out more here!
  • Lea25367630 Lea25367630 on Jun 01, 2023

    Tip: toss pasta with the veggies and a simple vinaigrette. Refrigerate and folding less mayo in just before serving. The dressing tames the onion and the pasta absorbs its flavor

  • Donna Simpson Cephas Donna Simpson Cephas on Jun 02, 2023

    Great recipe. We use all the same ingredients except the mayo; we use a good Italian dressing or just mix vinegar and EEOV with some spices. Love Dukes mayo so I may try this recipe next time.

    • Dawn Dawn on Jun 02, 2023

      Yummy! I should try with some oil and vinegar to see how that tastes, too. Thanks for sharing!