My homemade, copycat version of Ruby Tuesday’s pasta salad – rotini pasta, diced ham, peas and green pepper make for the perfect side dish for a summer party! Don’t forget to bring a pitcher of raspberry rosé sangria and the ingredients for some grilled peaches, too.
Generally speaking, I’m not a “chain restaurant” kind of girl. I live for finding little hole in the wall cafes, family-run diners and restaurants that only use locally-grown ingredients.
But I do have a couple exceptions, and the Ruby Tuesday salad bar is one of them. Sweet mother, do I love their salad bar.
On my first pass, I pile my plate high with olives, egg, peas, peppers, carrots and a smidgen of lettuce underneath it all. But on my second pass I load it up with the fruit salad and the pasta salad.
I can’t get enough of the pasta salad – I really don’t even know what it is about it that’s so addictive to me.
The Ruby Tuesday closest to me is… well, not close at all. I got a horrible craving for the pasta salad recently and my only mission was to come up with a copycat recipe (I know, you’re shocked).
And it might not 100% dead on, but this is pretty freaking close.
Tips for making copycat Ruby Tuesday pasta salad
You only need 8 ingredients, most of which you probably have hanging around the house anyway:
- Rotini pasta
- Ranch dressing
- Green bell pepper
- Frozen peas
Make sure you’re salting the water you’re cooking the pasta in. For 1 pound of pasta (like we’re using in this recipe), add at least 1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt.
Cook the pasta to just a little past al dente. You don’t want it to be mushy from being cooked too long, nor do you want it to be too tough because you didn’t cook it long enough.
Make sure you rinse the pasta in cold water after it’s done cooking. Once you rinse it in cold water, it’s going to stop it from cooking further – so make sure to taste it before you pull it from the heat.
Speaking of the cold water rinse, you don’t need to chill the pasta before dressing it. In fact, that would be doing yourself a disservice! You want to compile the salad with all the ingredients as soon as you can while it can still best absorb the flavors.
Does it matter what brands I use?
Overall, not really. Use whatever brands of ranch dressing and mayonnaise you prefer or have on hand.
For what it’s worth, I usually use Hellmans Real Mayonnaise and Hidden Valley Ranch.
What kind of ham should I use?
I always buy packages of Boar’s Head Boneless Ham Steaks and then dice them. An 8 ounce package is about 2 cups of diced ham.
But if you happened to have a freshly baked ham, you can absolutely use that!
Do I have to use rotini pasta?
To get as close to the real recipe, yes!
But outside of that, definitely not. You could always try it with another “short” pasta shape like fusilli, penne, cavatappi, or elbow macaroni. Nooks and crannies are your friends! Just make sure you’re using dried pasta instead of fresh – it holds up better to pasta salads.
Chilling is essential for the flavor
The hardest part about this recipe is waiting for it to chill before digging in. AND I HATE WAITING.
I’ve had many people comment that it didn’t taste quite right when they taste tested it before chilling it in the fridge – and you’re all completely right.
The flavors don’t meld together to get it just right until after it’s been in the fridge for at least an hour. The good news is that it’s totally worth the wait!
Plus, it’s so easy to make a giant batch to serve at a summer party and it can be prepared ahead of time so that you can worry about more important things the day of the party, like decorations, music and inflating pretzel-shaped pool floats.
… what? That’s just me? Fine.
- 1 pound rotini pasta
- 1 cup ranch dressing
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 green bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 cups ham, cooked and diced (about 1-8 ounce ham steak)
- ½ cup frozen peas
- Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside until completely cooled.1 pound rotini pasta
- In a very large bowl, combine ranch dressing, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.1 cup ranch dressing, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Add green pepper, ham, peas and stir to combine. Add pasta and stir again to combine.1 green bell pepper, 2 cups ham, 1/2 cup frozen peas
- Cover bowl and place in refrigerator to chill completely.
- Serve cold and enjoy!
- Make sure you rinse the pasta in cold water after it’s done cooking – this will stop the cooking process completely, and it will help it cool more quickly.
- People have given some AWESOME recommendations in the comments – some from real life former Ruby Tuesday employees. Check them out if you want to make this more authentic – I’m not including them in my recipe card since it wasn’t my idea and I actually love my version as is, and I don’t want to give away their secrets without credit :)
The recipe was originally published in June 2015 and republished in April 2019 with some shiny new pictures.
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