Italian pasta salad is loaded with flavorful ingredients, tossed in a tangy dressing, and it’s a cinch to make! It’s a favorite for cookouts, potlucks, and weekday lunches!
A lot of pasta salad recipes are pretty simple in the ingredient department, pairing pasta with a creamy dressing and maybe an add-in or two. Italian pasta salad is different, though—it’s absolutely packed with veggies, meats, and cheeses!
Italian pasta salad is a dish typically made with cooked pasta, black olives, peppers, tomatoes, red onions, meats like salami or pepperoni, and mozzarella or Parmesan cheese. It’s then tossed with zesty Italian dressing before serving. This type of cold pasta salad is also sometimes referred to as an antipasto salad because it’s made with a lot of the same ingredients that appear on an antipasto platter!
Classic Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
What makes Italian pasta salad such a winning dish? Well, for one, it’s simple to make. All you need is cooked pasta, your choice of veggies and mix-ins, and a bottle of salad dressing. This flexibility means that there are endless possibilities when it comes to flavor combinations.
As if that’s not enough, Italian pasta salad is also a great dish for feeding a crowd. It can be easily doubled or tripled, and it can be served at room temperature, making it ideal for potlucks and picnics. Because it can be made ahead, you can focus on assembling the rest of your meal! (Maybe you’ll even have time to make a homemade dessert—Apple Pie from scratch, perhaps?!)
Finally, Italian pasta salad just tastes good! The combination of tangy dressing, fresh veggies, savory cheese and meat, and al dente noodles is irresistible.
See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Dried rotini pasta – You can use another shape of pasta if you prefer!
- Hard salami
- Cherry tomatoes – Grape tomatoes or diced Roma tomatoes are fine too.
- Black olives – Use canned black olives or kalamata olives for a stronger flavor.
- Red onion
- Bell pepper – Use a combination of green bell pepper and red bell pepper to match the colors of the Italian flag!
- Small mozzarella balls – If you can’t find these, you can use bite-sized cubed or shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley
- Italian dressing – Use store-bought or homemade Italian dressing.
- Salt & black pepper – Red pepper flakes can be used, too, if you want a little heat in your salad.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
1. Prep the Ingredients
Wash and cut the vegetables, cut the rest of the ingredients, and cook and drain the pasta.
2. Toss the Salad
Add all of the ingredients to a large mixing bowl and gently stir to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper; add more salad dressing if needed.
Serve the Italian pasta salad immediately or place it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.
How to Store Leftover Italian Pasta Salad
If you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Italian pasta salad will keep for 3 to 4 days. When you’re ready to eat it again, give it a good stir to coat all the ingredients in the dressing. You can also add more herbs or vegetables to freshen it up before serving!
Italian pasta salad is a popular dish that can be made in a variety of ways. The most basic recipe includes cooked pasta, olives, cherry tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella cheese, but there are so many options from here—some recipes toss the salad in olive oil and red wine vinegar, others are loaded with raw vegetables like broccoli, cucumber, and sliced celery, while still others are made with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and artichoke hearts. For a more substantial dish, you can add grilled chicken or garlic shrimp, or try a cured Italian meat like pancetta, salami, or pepperoni.
This recipe isn’t ideal for freezing; while technically speaking, you can freeze it, the texture won’t be as good once it’s thawed. If you don’t think you can eat the whole salad within a few days, you can make the recipe in half!
You can make Italian pasta salad the night before, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, cook the pasta slightly less than you would for regular pasta salad. This will help prevent it from getting mushy when it sits in the dressing. Second, add a little extra olive oil to the salad. This will help keep the pasta from sticking together overnight. Next, consider adding some additional fresh vegetables and herbs just before serving. This will brighten up the color and make sure the texture is on point!
More Easy Pasta Salad Recipes
Italian Pasta Salad
- 16 oz dried rotini pasta cooked and cooled
- 10 oz hard salami diced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ cup black olives sliced
- ½ cup red onion diced
- 2 cups bell pepper diced
- 8 oz fresh small mozzarella balls
- 2 oz parmesan cheese grated
- ½ cup parsley chopped
- ½ cup basil chopped
- 1 cup Italian dressing
- salt & black pepper to taste
- Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and gently mix to combine. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. (Add more dressing if needed)
- Can serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.