Packed with colorful ingredients like salami, fresh vegetables, olives, and mozzarella pearls, this Classic Italian Pasta Salad Recipe offers the perfect combination of textures and flavors. Tossed in a tangy and herb-infused dressing, this summer pasta salad is a crowd-pleaser!
Italian pasta salad is a versatile and refreshing dish that has become a staple at gatherings across the globe. It's a combination of cooked pasta and a medley of ingredients, all tossed together in a flavorful dressing. What makes cold pasta salad so special is its versatility - you can customize it to suit your taste preferences by adding your favorite vegetables, meats, cheeses, and herbs. Whether you're serving it as a side dish, bringing it to a picnic, or enjoying it as a light meal on a hot day, pasta salad is a go-to option for any occasion!
When it comes to the best classic Italian pasta salad, this recipe takes the crown. The secret lies in the careful selection of ingredients that provides the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The combination of chopped salami, crisp cucumbers, juicy grape tomatoes, colorful bell peppers, tangy red onions, sliced black olives, creamy fresh mozzarella pearls, and grated Parmesan cheese creates a delicious blend of savory and refreshing elements. Tossed in a zesty dressing infused with olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, garlic, and a touch of Dijon mustard, every bite is a pop of Italian goodness that will have something for everyone.
As the temperature rises, this classic Italian pasta salad becomes an ideal choice for summer dining. Its vibrant colors and fresh ingredients make it a perfect addition to barbecues, potlucks, picnics, and outdoor parties. The chilled pasta and the cool, crisp vegetables offer a satisfying and light meal that won't weigh you down on hot days.
This versatile dish also pairs well with a variety of main courses, such as grilled chicken, seafood, or even as a standalone vegetarian option. Whether you're enjoying it by the poolside, at a backyard gathering, or as a quick weekday dinner, this classic Italian pasta salad is exactly what you need to enjoy in warmer weather months.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- This recipe for the best classic Italian pasta salad is a flavor-packed dish that combines a blend of ingredients, from the savory salami to the creamy fresh mozzarella pearls, creating a tasty balance of textures and flavors.
- The tangy and herb-infused dressing takes this pasta salad to the next level, with its zesty combination of olive oil, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning, adding a burst of refreshing flavors that perfectly complement the vibrant ingredients.
- Whether you prefer to add roasted bell peppers, grilled chicken, or even swap the salami for a vegetarian option, you can make it your own and cater to your taste preferences.
- Perfect for summer, this pasta salad is a light and refreshing dish that will keep you cool and satisfied on those hot days.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Rotini Pasta - The rotini pasta serves as the base of the salad, providing a satisfying and chewy texture that holds the dressing and other ingredients well.
- Salami - Adds a deliciously savory and slightly smoky flavor to the pasta salad providing a meaty and rich element.
- Vegetables - English cucumber, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, and red onion provide an array of fresh textures and flavors along with a crunchy garden-fresh taste.
- Black Olives - Bring a briny and salty taste to the pasta salad.
- Mozzarella Pearls - Adds a delicate and smooth texture to the pasta salad, along with a subtle richness and mild saltiness.
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese - Adds a nutty and salty flavor to the salad.
- Fresh Parsley - Brings a fresh and aromatic element that complements the flavors of the other ingredients, adding a vibrant touch.
- Olive Oil - Serves as the base of the dressing, providing richness and a smooth mouthfeel. It also helps to coat the pasta and other ingredients evenly.
- Lemon Juice - Adds a tangy and citrusy element to the dressing.
- Italian Seasoning - Adds a robust and aromatic Italian flavor profile to the dressing.
- Sugar - A small amount of sugar is added to balance the flavors of the dressing, balancing out the acidity.
- Red Wine Vinegar - Contributes a tangy and slightly fruity flavor to the dressing adding acidity and depth.
- Minced Garlic - Lends a pungent and savory taste to the dressing.
- Dijon Mustard - Brings a hint of tanginess and spiciness to the dressing while helping to emulsify the dressing. This creates a smooth and creamy consistency.
- Salt & Pepper - Enhance the overall taste and ensure that all the flavors in the salad are properly seasoned.
How To Make Italian Summer Pasta Salad
Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box to al dente. Drain and set aside.
Prepare the dressing: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, sugar, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and black pepper until fully combined and emulsified.
Assemble the pasta salad: Add the chopped vegetables and remaining ingredients to a large bowl. Then, add the cooled pasta and dressing over the top. Toss until well coated. Serve cold, and enjoy!
- To ensure the pasta salad has the perfect texture. Cook the rotini pasta just until it is al dente, which means it's cooked but still slightly firm to the bite. This will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy when mixed with the other ingredients and dressing.
- Chop the vegetables and olives, all roughly the same size, to ensure an even texture throughout the pasta salad.
- After mixing the pasta, vegetables, and dressing, it's best to let the salad chill in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together and for the dressing to coat the ingredients fully.
- When dressing the pasta salad, start with a portion of the dressing and mix it well. If you prefer a more heavily dressed salad, add more dressing gradually until it reaches your desired level of moisture. It's a good idea to reserve a small amount of dressing to add just before serving, as the pasta may absorb some of the dressing during chilling.
- Mediterranean: Give your Italian pasta salad a Mediterranean twist by adding some marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and Kalamata olives.
- Pesto Pasta: Swap the Italian seasoning in the dressing with a generous dollop of homemade or store-bought pesto. The vibrant flavors of basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan in the pesto will infuse the pasta salad with a delightful and aromatic twist.
- Caprese: Transform the pasta salad into a Caprese-inspired dish by replacing the salami with diced fresh tomatoes and adding some torn fresh basil leaves. Drizzle the salad with a balsamic glaze or reduction for a tangy-sweet finish.
- Protein Powerhouse: To make the pasta salad a heartier meal. Try to incorporate some grilled or roasted chicken breast, cooked shrimp, or additional cubed salami.
- Vegetarian: If you prefer a vegetarian version, omit the salami and add an array of roasted or grilled vegetables. Consider using zucchini, eggplant, red onion, and colorful bell peppers. Toss the vegetables with olive oil, garlic, and Italian herbs, then roast or grill until tender and mix into the salad.
Storing & Freezing
To store the Italian pasta salad, transfer it to an airtight container. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Before serving, give it a gentle toss to redistribute the dressing or add more as needed.
Freezing can alter the texture of the ingredients and result in a less desirable taste and appearance. Therefore, freezing is not recommended.
Yes, you can make this pasta salad ahead of time. In fact, it's even better when it has had some time to chill and let the flavors blend together. Just be sure to store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 48 hours until you're ready to serve.
While rotini pasta works well in this recipe due to its spiral shape that holds the dressing and ingredients, you can substitute it with other short pasta shapes like penne, fusilli, or bowtie pasta.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
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Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- 16 oz rotini pasta
- 10 oz salami (chopped into ¼ inch pieces)
- 1 cup English cucumber (quartered and sliced)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes (halved)
- 1½ cups bell peppers (diced, I like two use two different colors)
- ½ cup red onion (chopped)
- 8 oz black olives (drained and sliced)
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls
- ½ cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
- ½ cup parsley (chopped)
- In a large pot, cook pasta according to the package directions on the box for al dente. Drain in a large colander and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta down. Then set aside.
- Add, olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, sugar, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and black pepper to a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined and set aside.
- Add cooked pasta and the remaining pasta salad ingredients to a large bowl. Then pour dressing over the top. Mix until well combined!
- Serve cold, and enjoy!
- If you can't find pearl-sized fresh mozzarella, don't worry! You can easily substitute it with fresh mozzarella in brick or ball shape. Simply cut it into small cubes, and you're good to go!
- Can't track down salami? No problem! Mini pepperonis make a tasty alternative. They offer a similar flavor and are a great stand-in for this recipe.
*All nutrition information provided is automatically calculated and is an estimate and will vary based on ingredients, brands, and changes in cooking methods listed in the recipe. If you need exact numbers on your ingredients, I would recommend calculating them with your prefered nutrition calculator.