Kitchn Love Letters

The Store-Bought Dressing I Use to Make Pasta Salad All Summer Long

published May 30, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

With one clink of a glass, I’m brought back to my aunt’s backyard on a hot summer day, surrounded by family at a table that’s shaded with a fraying, sun-faded umbrella. The glass, though, isn’t a flute filled with Champagne or sparkling wine. In fact, it isn’t a drinking glass at all. It’s a black-lidded glass cruet and it contains my favorite herb-laden dressing, made with a packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing & Recipe Mix.

Credit: Jessica Prudenti-Montalvo

Good Seasons dressings (originally called Four Seasons) were developed in 1954 at the Brown Derby Restaurant by chef Robert Kreis. They were available in four flavors and sold by mail order, according to the Kraft-Heinz consumer relations director. The company’s signature fluted glass cruet was sold alongside the dressing packets, which contain a blend of herbs and spices. Fun fact: On the front of the cruet you’ll find the etchings of a dressing recipe; three lines — each with a corresponding letter (O, V, and W) — signify how much oil, vinegar, and water to add to the herb blend. The recipe can also be found on the packet.

The company was in its heyday in the early 1990s, with new flavors introduced as late as 1997, but has since faded into the backdrop. The bright yellow box, though, has had its place in every pantry I’ve known since my childhood. And now, as an adult, it’s the one I grab whenever I need an easy, delicious dressing for pasta salad.

Credit: Jessica Prudenti-Montalvo

Once mixed, the dressing is a thick concoction with a taste that’s unmistakably tangy, subtly sweet, and vaguely reminiscent of chopped salads from my local pizzeria. When tossed with your favorite pasta shape (I love a classic rotini!) and various pasta salad accouterments (thinly sliced olives, red peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, some fresh herbs, even bacon), it’s a star at any backyard buffet.

Credit: Jessica Prudenti-Montalvo

My usual combo is olive oil and red wine vinegar, but I’ll also swap in other ingredients to amp up my pasta salad game: Apple cider vinegar gives the dressing more punch while sesame oil lends a unique toasty flavor. For a creamier dressing, I’ll add a dollop of Dijon mustard or a few tablespoons of tahini. Beyond pasta salad, try drizzling some over vegetables hot off the grill, use it as a base for a marinade or dip, or even as a piquant addition to broths or soups.

Best of all, the packets are shelf-stable and can be stored longer than other refrigerated salad dressings. In all my decades of using it, though, that has yet to be an issue.

Buy: Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing & Recipe Seasoning Mix, $4.98 for 4 pouches at Amazon

What’s your favorite store-bought pasta salad dressing? Tell us in the comments below.