This easy Pasta Salad recipe is full of fresh, colorful and flavorful ingredients all tossed in a homemade Italian dressing. It takes just a few minutes to make this homemade pasta salad. It's always a hit and tastes even better when made the night before.
Easy Pasta Salad Recipe
It just doesn’t feel like summer every year until I’ve made this easy-peasy Italian Pasta Salad recipe. It’s packed full of perfectly cooked rotini pasta, fresh veggies and Italian ingredients like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, parsley, salami and mozzarella cheese. Everything is doused in our homemade Italian dressing and left to chill in the fridge while the flavors mingle.
This cold pasta salad side dish is perfect for bringing to any summer party, BBQ or potluck because it’s quick, easy, can be made the night before, and everyone loves it. If you want to add even more ingredients, pepperoncini and diced bell peppers would taste great. Otherwise, feel free to omit or swap any of the ingredients you’d like.
Still craving cold pasta salad? Give this Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad a try.
Ingredients in This Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- Pasta - the typical pasta to use for pasta salad is spiral pasta or rotini. You could also use penne, bowtie pasta, mostaccioli or even macaroni.
- Cherry Tomatoes - you can use any color or type of cherry tomatoes. Typically I cut them in half so that they are easier to eat.
- Mozzarella Cheese - you have a few options when it comes to mozzarella cheese for pasta salad. You can cut mozzarella cheese sticks into bite-sized pieces, or cut chunks from a brick of cheese, use fresh mozzarella balls or even use shredded cheese.
- Black Olives - you can use whole black olives and slice them yourself, or just purchase a can of pre-sliced olives.
- Cucumbers - I usually peel the skin off and then dice into bite-sized pieces. You can feel free to leave the skin on if you prefer.
- Red Onion - cut into small diced pieces so you don’t eat a large chunk of raw onion.
- Salami - you want the pieces to be small chunks so either slice and quarter from a stick of salami, or you can slice deli salami into smaller pieces.
- Parsley - fresh parsley tastes great in pasta salad and adds nice color.
Homemade Italian Dressing
- Olive Oil - this recipe calls for extra virgin olive oil because it tastes so much better.
- White Wine Vinegar - the best substitution for this would be red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
- Mayonnaise - regular full fat mayo tastes best, but you can definitely substitute low fat or fat free if you are looking to cut some calories.
- Parmesan Cheese - freshly grated Parmesan cheese tastes best.
- Sugar - just a little sugar goes a long way in cutting the acidity from the vinegar in this dressing.
- Garlic - fresh garlic tastes best, but the jarred minced kind will work too.
- Dried Herbs - I like to use dried Italian herbs like oregano, parsley and basil. You could also substitute your favorite Italian seasoning.
- Salt and Pepper
- Red Pepper Flakes
How to Make Pasta Salad
- Cook the pasta to al dente. Prepare the pasta according to package directions, cooking until al dente. Drain and rinse the cooked pasta under cold water, then transfer cooled pasta to a large bowl.
- Add the rest of the prepared salad mix-ins. Add the cherry tomatoes, olives, mozzarella cheese, salami, cucumbers, black olives, and red onion to the bowl with the cooked pasta and toss.
- Make the dressing. To make the Italian dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, minced garlic, oregano, basil, parsley, grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Toss the salad. Pour the dressing over the pasta and vegetables and mix until everything is evenly coated. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
- Chill. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Pasta salad gets better as it sits because the flavors have time to mix and mingle. We recommend letting the salad chill in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, but overnight is even better.
When you are finished cooking pasta for pasta salad, it’s best to rinse the noodles under cold water. This stops them from cooking any further, but it also rinses off some of the residual starches left on them from the pasta water that can cause the noodles to stick together.
The most common pasta to use for pasta salad is rotini or spiral pasta. You want to choose pasta that is smaller, with little nooks and crannies to hold the dressing. Other options would be bowtie pasta, farfalle, penne, macaroni, fusilli or mostaccioli.
- Refrigerator: store leftover Pasta Salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Make-Ahead: this can be made ahead from 2-24 hours before serving. The Italian salad dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance.
Tips and Variations
- You can forego the homemade dressing and use your favorite store-bought Italian dressing. It's delicious either way!
- Use your favorite veggies. You can add little bites of broccoli or cauliflower to this recipe for pasta salad.
- Use your favorite chunks of cheese for this recipe. Pepper jack is a fun twist. Sharp cheddar or white cheddar works great too.
- Add some grilled chicken, baked chicken or rotisserie chicken to this salad to make it a main dish.
Pasta Salad Recipe
- 16 oz Spiral Pasta cooked al dente
- 2 cups Cherry Tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cup Mozzerella Cheese cubed, pearls or shredded
- 1 cup Black Olives sliced
- 2 medium Cucumbers diced
- ½ medium Red Onion diced
- 1 cup Salami sliced and quartered
- 2 Tablepoons Parsley chopped
Homemade Italian Dressing
- ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Parmesan Cheese finely grated
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1 clove Garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon Dried Oregano
- ½ teaspoon Dried Parsley
- ½ teaspoon Dried Basil
- ¾ teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper or to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- Prepare the pasta according to package directions, cooking until al dente. Run cold water over the cooked pasta to cool, then drain and transfer cooled pasta to a large mixing bowl.
- Add the cherry tomatoes, olives, mozzarella cheese, salami, cucumbers, black olives, and red onion to the bowl with the cooked pasta and toss.
- To make the Italian dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, minced garlic, oregano, basil, parsley, grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- Pour the dressing over the pasta and vegetables and mix until everything is evenly coated. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!
More Of the Best Salad Recipes
- Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
- Fall Harvest Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
- Berry Salad
- Winter Fruit Salad
- Chicken Salad
- Grilled Chicken BLT Salad
- Cucumber Avocado Salad
- Warm Potato Salad
- More Salad Recipes
- More Side Dish Recipes
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This Italian Pasta Salad is filled with fresh, flavorful ingredients all tossed in a homemade Italian salad dressing. It's perfect for bringing to your next summer get together because everyone loves it and it can even be made the night before.