The BEST Italian Pasta Salad is easy to make, loaded with all the good stuff, and tossed in zesty homemade dressing. It will be the star of your potluck!

Looking for more pasta salad recipes? Try our Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, Pesto Pasta Salad, or Tuna Pasta Salad.

Cold Italian pasta salad with rotini noodles, mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and salami in a clear glass bowl.

What I love about this recipe:

  • Homemade Italian dressing is quick to make with simple pantry ingredients and really sets this pasta salad apart from the rest!
  • EVERYONE loves it! Talk about a crowd pleaser; all ages love this pasta salad!
  • Make ahead and travel friendly makes it perfect for any potluck!

How to make Pasta Salad:

Make dressing: combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley, onion, lemon juice, basil, oregano, salt, sugar, pepper.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain water and rinse pasta in cold water. Allow to cool, then pour half of the salad dressing and toss to combine.

Homemade Italian pasta salad dressing being poured over a bowl full of cooked rotini pasta.

Add remaining ingredients: mozzarella cheese pearls, salami, black olives, red onion, cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley, parmesan, pepperoncini (optional), and additional dressing, to taste. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer, before serving.

The ingredients for Italian pasta salad, in a bowl, including cooked pasta, cherry tomatoes, olives, cheese, onions and salami.

Make Ahead Instructions:

To Make Ahead: Italian Pasta Salad can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.

Recipe Variations:

  • Add Meat/Protein: add cooked chopped ham or chicken.
  • Veggie substitutions: Add chopped bell pepper, shredded carrot, or cooked sautéed veggies, like zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, or any other veggies you like.
  • Meatless Italian Pasta Salad: Leave the meat out and add extra vegetables!
  • Swap the noodles: use bowtie, penne, or any favorite bite-size noodles.

More Pasta Salads:

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Recipe

Cold Italian pasta salad with rotini noodles, mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and salami in a clear glass bowl.
Prep 10 mins
Cook 15 mins
Refrigerate 1 hr
Total 1 hr 25 mins
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Ingredients
 
 

  • 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 chopped parsley chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • pepperoncinis , sliced (optional)

For the Italian Salad Dressing (or substitute about 1 ½ 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

Make Ahead Instructions: Italian Pasta Salad can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
Meat/Protein: add cooked chopped ham or chicken, for additional protein.
Veggie substitutions: Add chopped bell pepper, shredded carrot, or cooked sautéed veggies, like zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, or any other veggies you like.
Meatless Italian Pasta Salad: Leave the meat out and add extra vegetables!
Swap the noodles: use bowtie, penne, or any favorite bite-size noodles.

Nutrition

Calories: 664kcalCarbohydrates: 48gProtein: 23gFat: 42gSaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 1544mgPotassium: 368mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 550IUVitamin C: 9.7mgCalcium: 251mgIron: 1.9mg

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Have you tried this recipe?!

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*I first shared this recipe in May 2016. Updated August 2018 and June 2021.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is delicious and easy to make. And of course very adaptable. I’ll be taking it to a potluck luncheon tomorrow but I’m holding back a few scoops for our dinner at home tonight. Shhh. Don’t tell

  2. This turned out great. I used fresh basil because I gave some growing. Steamed some broccoli, carrots and English peas and added too. Huge hit tonight at the lawn concert/wine group. The raspberry/peach sangria went great with it!

  3. Adding this to our meal plan this week because we have extra salami that needs to be used! There’s no button to save it though, to add it to my collections!

    1. It’s a great one!! I’m seeing the button from my account- can you double-check that you are signed in? Let me know if you still don’t see it and I’ll get our IT people to look into it. You can also add the recipe straight from your recipe box by clicking “Add item” and typing in the name of the recipe.

  4. 5 stars
    THE SALAD AND THE DRESSING ARE DELICIOUS. A TIP I LEARNED MANY YEARS AGO, NEVER RINCE THE PASTA !!!! THE STARCH THAT YOU ARE RINSING OFF IT WAS ADHERES THE DRESSING TO THE SALAD.

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