This Italian pasta salad is loaded with meat, cheese and vegetables, all tossed together with noodles in a homemade Italian dressing. A quick and easy side dish that’s perfect for feeding a crowd!
Pasta salad is a classic summer staple that pairs well with grilled meats and makes a great picnic offering. I often make pesto pasta salad, Greek pasta salad and this hearty Italian version when I’m entertaining family and friends.
When it’s warm out, there’s nothing better than a fresh and colorful Italian pasta salad! It’s full of bold and zesty ingredients, and the homemade dressing really takes this recipe over the top!
How do you make Italian pasta salad?
Pasta salad is all about the dressing. To make the dressing simply whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese, minced red pepper, dried parsley, dried onion, dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, sugar, and black pepper. This Italian dressing is so good you will want to pour it on everything!
Cook rotini pasta and cool the pasta. Then you’ll want to mix the cooled pasta with salami, pepperoni, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, parsley and mozzarella balls. Pour the dressing over the salad. Now the salad is ready to serve! Feel free to add a little salt and pepper to taste as desired.
Tips for Italian pasta salad
- Any short pasta will work for this salad, other great options include farfalle, fusilli, penne or elbow macaroni.
- You can add other Italian style ingredients to your salad such as sun dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh spinach leaves, prosciutto or pepperoncini peppers.
- You can make a vegetarian version of this salad by omitting the meat and adding some extra veggies. You might also want to include garbanzo beans or kidney beans.
- The homemade dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I typically make the dressing in advance to make my prep work easier on the day of my party.
How long does pasta salad last?
The pasta salad can be kept in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Cover the bowl of salad tightly with foil or plastic wrap, or you can transfer the pasta salad to a resealable container. Just be aware that the pasta will continue to soak up the dressing as it sits, so I find that this salad is best served the same day that it is made.
Does pasta salad need to be refrigerated?
Pasta salad will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees F, the pasta salad should only be left out for 1 hour. If you’re making the pasta salad in advance, it should stay refrigerated until you’re ready to serve it. Any leftovers should also be stored in the fridge.
What goes with pasta salad?
Pasta salad is most often served as a side dish. This salad would be great with smoked brisket, jerk shrimp kabobs, grilled chicken tenders or pulled pork sandwiches. You can also serve this pasta dish as a main course and offer some sliced baguette bread on the side, or a grilled or roasted vegetable side dish.
This salad is the perfect blend of savory meats and cheese with cool and refreshing veggies. I always get a ton of requests for the recipe!
More summer salad ideas
Italian Pasta Salad
For the salad
- 1 pound rotini pasta
- 1 cup chopped salami
- 3/4 cup mini pepperoni
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/4 cup red onion finely diced
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives halved
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 3/4 cup small mozzarella balls halved
- 1 1/4 cups homemade or store bought Italian dressing dressing recipe follows
- salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced red bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced dried onion or 1 teaspoon fresh minced onion
- 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- For the dressing:
- Combine all of the ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously to combine. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- For the salad:
- Cook the rotini in salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cool water.
- Place the pasta in a large bowl and add the salami, pepperoni, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, parsley and mozzarella balls. Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Salad can be made up to 4 hours in advance.