Everyone always loves this cold Italian Pasta Salad recipe made with a simple homemade Italian dressing, rotini noodles, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, pepperoni or hard salami, onion, and pepperoncini. It’s the perfect pasta salad recipe to serve as a side for a BBQ or potluck.
Italian Pasta Salad
This simple and classic pasta salad is the perfect side to just about any meal, vegetarian side (leave out the salami) or even as a main dish. I love a good cold pasta salad as a side with anything I cook on the grill! Often I serve it with my favorite Black Bean Burger or with these simple marinated chicken tenders.
Many people use bottled Italian dressing for their pasta salad but I prefer to make this homemade Italian pasta salad dressing because the flavor is SO MUCH BETTER! It doesn’t have that same artificial tang that the store-bought kinds do, and I always have these simple dressing ingredients on hand.
The first time I made this for my husband he said it was the BEST pasta salad he has ever had. That’s high praise, but I think it’s well deserved 🙂
How to make Italian Pasta Salad:
First make the Italian salad dressing by combining the olive oil, red wine vinegar and spices. The salad dressing will last for up to 2 week in the fridge.
Next, cook the noodles in a pot of boiling water, according to package instructions. When the noodles are done cooking it’s important to rinse them with cold water, after draining them. Rinsing them with cold water will help cool them off so that they don’t continue to cook, and it will keep them from sticking together. Allow the noodles to cool off before tossing them in some of the dressing.
Add the cooked pasta to a bowl, and add the remaining pasta salad ingredients and dressing. Toss everything to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour. This Italian Pasta Salad is best served cold.
What to put in pasta salad:
A good pasta salad recipe is made by combining ingredients that complement each other well, but pasta salads are also really easy to adapt. If you don’t like salami, add pepperoni or summer sausage, or leave it out entirely to make this a vegetarian pasta salad.
You could add other ingredients you may have on hand, like cucumber, bell peppers, chunks of ham, or pine nuts.
Consider trying these pasta salad recipes:
- Healthy Chicken Pasta Salad
- Creamy Pesto Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Italian Pasta Salad
- BBQ Chicken Pasta Salad
- Pasta Primavera
Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 pound rotini pasta , uncooked
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese pearls (or chopped into pieces if you can't find pearls)
- 8 ounces salami chopped, or substitute summer sausage)
- 6 ounces black olives , sliced
- 1/2 red onion , diced
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes , halved
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley leaves chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- pepperoncinis , sliced (optional)
For the Italian Salad Dressing (or substitute about 1 1/2 cups bottled zesty italian dressing):
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Make the salad dressing by combining all ingredients. Store the dressing in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Shake before using.
For the pasta salad:
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain water and rinse pasta with cold water. Allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Add pasta to a large bowl and pour half of the salad dressing over it. Toss to combine. Add remaining ingredients and dressing and toss everything to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer, before serving. Store in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
Have you tried this recipe?!
RATE and COMMENT below! I would love to hear your experience.
*I first shared this recipe in May 2016. Updated August 2018.