“Toss It In” Pasta Salad – $5 Dinner Challenge

I was having a “what to have for lunch” moment the other day. I’ve been having salads for lunch lately. A lot of salads.  And while I love them for a variety of reasons, it was time for a change.  A salad wasn’t going to work for me, hence the “what to have for lunch” moment.

Then it occurred to me that I have quite a few boxes of pasta in my stockpile from recent sale.  I thought about making up an entire box of pasta, but that’s just a little too much for me.  And then I found a box that was half full of elbow noodles…perfect!  2 lunches worth of pasta salad…some for me to eat that day, and the rest for Steve to take for lunch the next day. (This probably could have made 3 portions for myself, or been enough for the whole family.)


Now what to put in it…I opened the produce drawers and discovered that I still had the cucumber and tomato that I’d bought the week before to make a Quinoa Taboulleh (which I still had not made. Obviously.)  And while they were not in bad shape, they certainly needed to be eaten. Soon.

So cucumbers and tomatoes it is.  And as I looked up into the rest of the fridge, my eyes fell on the ranch dressing that I mixed up with testing and fine tuning the homemade ranch dressing mix.

It was then that a little light from heaven shone down…right into my fridge. And my heart and belly leapt with joy!

Pasta with Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Ranch…maybe a little shredded cheese.

Yes, please.

(Remember, I’ve been craving ranch dressing lately!)

As we move into “Pasta Salad Season,” I urge you to try a pasta salad with ranch dressing. It’s a lovely, lovely thing.  Toss in whatever goodies you like…cukes, tomatoes, boiled egg, ham, turkey, bacon, onions, it doesn’t matter…just “Toss It In”!

Ah…now you see where I get the name. Pretty much anything that goes on a Cobb Salad will work in the pasta salad…even the lettuce!  Just let the pasta dominate, not the lettuce! 😉

And easy “one dish” lunch for you all…

What’s your favorite kind of pasta salad?!? Will you be trying any new pasta salads this summer?!

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“Toss It In” Pasta Salad

Yield – 4 servings

Preparation Time – 10 minutes

Cooking Time – 0 minutes


  • 2 cups elbow macaroni or other small shells pasta ($.25)
  • About 1/3-1/2 cup homemade ranch dressing ($.30)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced ($1)
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and diced ($1)
  • Couple slices turkey delimeat, chopped ($.50)
  • About 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese ($.67)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Cook the pasta as directed on the box. Drain and add to serving bowl.
  • Toss the ranch dressing in with the pasta.  Then toss in the diced tomatoes, diced cucumber (peeled if you prefer), chopped turkey and shredded cheese.
  • Serve it up!

Cost $3.72

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  1. Charlene says

    I just made the same thing – “Toss It In” Pasta Salad yesterday. I like to make a lot of it because my husband eats it like candy.

    1 12 oz box rainbow rotini
    1/2 red onion
    1 cucumber
    1 green pepper (a red would add some color)
    black olives
    shredded cheese
    left over salad dressings (use up those last dribbles)
    good italian dressing (or cheap italian and good italian spices)

    Mix and let set with salad dressings (marinade)

  2. says

    Your pasta salad is very resourceful and I’m sure very delicious! My favorite pasta salad includes:
    -olive oil
    -grape tomatoes
    And the real kicker of the bunch:
    -crumbled feta

    It’s a simple, light, and refreshing summer go-to dish!

  3. Erin G says

    My favorite is with spiral rotini pasta, pepperoni bits, cubed white cheddar, chopped olives, and green pepper. Mix with a caesar Italian dressing to taste. Delicious!

  4. Michelle says

    This was our dinner Sunday night and my lunch yesterday. We had some leftover BBQ chicken. I added hard boiled egg, carrots, cheese, pickles, red onion, garbanzo beans, peas, a bit of mayo, and black pepper. It’s delish!

  5. Becki says

    In the summer I add diced cooked chicken, chopped celery and madarin oranges to cooked and drained pasta. We like Miracle Whip (light) mixed in. YUM!

  6. Adrienne says

    I love meals like this, we make a lot of pasta salad in the summers. Our favorites so far are pasta salads with tomatos, pepperoni, cucumbers, diced red onions, cubed cheddar cheese, italian salad dressing and suddenly salad (found in the spices area of the grocery store), or Chicken Bacon Ranch pasta salad- cooked, cubed chicken (I always use leftovers), diced bacon, ranch dressing, chopped tomatoes,cucumber and topped with a bit of cheddar cheese if you want. I do have some new recipes I can’t wait to try, chipotle chicken pasta salad is on the top of my list!

  7. says

    I can’t wait to try this using frozen pasta, that I make in bulk and freeze for quick meals like this one. And I’m going to try the homemade dressing, too.

  8. says

    That sounds delish!

    I am all about “toss it in” pasta. My friends ask for recipes and I never have one to share! LOL My fave of recent cooking is one I made for a cookout last weekend:

    2 boxes pasta cooked, drained, chilled
    3 avocados diced and tossed in lime juice (to prevent browning)
    4 eggs hard-boiled, cooled, shelled, diced
    8(ish) slices of bacon chopped (I bought pre-cooked)
    1/2 onion minced
    1/2 cucumber diced
    1 cup(ish) of Mayo with Olive Oil
    1/3 cup(ish) low far blue cheese dressing
    salt & pepper
    Toss it all together & serve chilled. :)

    I called it Cobb Pasta Salad and it was YUMMY!

  9. missy says

    I need a little help making a little recipe book for christmas at the ICAP office in Kingsbury county in South Dakota .
    I’m making it myself to hand out for chrismas


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