Italian Pasta Salad

Published Date: April 20, 2023

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A black bowl filled with Italian Pasta Salad.

Italian Pasta Salad is a summertime staple that’s filled with deliciously crisp and fresh flavors that’s made with a homemade zesty dressing! The perfect side dish to bring to BBQs and picnics!

A black bowl filled with Italian Pasta Salad.

This Italian Pasta Salad is one worth bringing to all of the warm-weather gatherings that have already started to fill up your calendar! The light, bold dressing coats perfectly cooked pasta, fresh veggies, mozzarella pearls, and salami to create the best pasta salad you’ll ever have!

Though it’s ready in just 40 minutes, you can also make it ahead of time for easier party prep! There are also easy variations and substitutions that you can make to ensure you create a pasta salad that’s filled with everything you love!

Perfect Easy Italian Pasta Salad

Taste: Your taste buds will be impressed by the big and bold flavor this pasta salad packs in! Pasta, fresh veggies, cheese, and salami are covered in a zesty homemade dressing that’s made from ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, Italian seasoning, and garlic pepper.

Texture: Each bite is filled with delicious texture, from the al dente pasta to the tender mozzarella pearls and crunchy fresh vegetables! All of which are smothered in the smooth, light Italian dressing.

Overhead photo of Italian Pasta Salad in a black bowl on a table with wooden salad spoons.

Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients

Italian Salad Dressing: To keep this recipe quick and simple, I opted for a homemade Italian salad dressing that could be made with pantry staple ingredients. This dressing has an olive oil and apple cider vinegar base that’s built up with Italian seasoning, granulated sugar, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.

Ingredients to make Italian Salad Dressing on a marble counter.

Noodles for Pasta Salad: I prefer making this Italian Pasta Salad with farfalle noodles; however, many different kinds of pasta would also work just fine.

When choosing noodles for pasta salads, you want the pasta to have ridges or texture, as this allows the dressing to cling better in the nooks and crannies, making for a more flavor-packed bite. Therefore, pastas like penne rigate, cavatappi, fusilli, and rotini pasta are all great options.

Meat and Veggies: To create this hearty pasta salad, sliced red onions, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped English cucumber, fresh mozzarella pearls, sliced salami, kalamata olives, and chopped fresh parsley are added to the pasta and dressing!

Overhead photo of ingredients to make Italian pasta salad on a marble counter.

How To Make Italian Pasta Salad Recipe Step-By-Step

Step 1: Prepare the homemade dressing by combining the extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Italian seasoning, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk thoroughly and then set it aside.

Ingredients to make Italian dressing in a bowl being stirred together.

Step 2: Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Then drain the pasta into a colander and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta quickly.

Pasta in a white collander.

Step 3: In a large bowl, pour the dressing over the cooled pasta, and stir to coat.

Pasta topped with Italian dressing in a glass bowl.

Step 4: Add the red onion, cherry tomatoes, English cucumber, mozzarella pearls, salami, olives, and parsley to the bowl of pasta. Toss together until evenly combined and coated in dressing.

Italian Pasta Salad prepped in a glass mixing bowl.

Serving Zesty Italian Pasta Salad

Chilled Italian Pasta Salad is delicious enough to eat alone yet also pairs well with just about anything! I find that this is the most popular side dish at cookouts and picnics; therefore, it goes great with any grilled or smoked meat!

Serve it up with hamburgers, grilled or fried chicken, steak, ribs, sandwiches, and pork loins!

Making Ahead

Making this Pasta Salad ahead of time is a perfect choice; in fact, that’s my favorite way to prepare it! Doing so gives the salad plenty of time to chill in the fridge, which allows for a perfectly cold pasta salad.

It also gives extra time for all the flavors to meld together, creating a more delicious pasta salad! I find that making this recipe the night before or a day ahead is just the right amount of time.

Storing Pasta Salad

Store this Italian Pasta Salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. If you plan to enjoy this over several days, you may want to mix up more dressing to store separately. This way, you can add more dressing to the salad if the pasta seems a bit dry.

A wooden spoon with a scoop of Italian Pasta Salad being scooped out of a bowl.

Cold Pasta Salad Substitutions and Variations

Cheese – Though we use mozzarella pearls in this pasta salad, feel free to swap them out for a different cheese! Feta cheese would also be great in this easy pasta salad recipe, as would cubed cheddar, Colby jack, or even shredded parmesan cheese.

Olives – Black olives would also be fine in this recipe. You could also use Castelvetrano’s, pimento, garlic-stuffed olives, and any other olives you love.

Peppers – For a little kick of heat, add in some sliced pepperoncini! To add more color and crunch, dice up some red bell peppers to mix in.

Meat – Pepperoni, ham, hard salami, or other cured Italian meats would be great additions to this pasta salad.

Vinegar – If you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand, use red wine vinegar instead to make the Italian vinaigrette.

Spice – If your crowd doesn’t mind a bit of spice, I highly recommend adding a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the dressing mixture.

Fresh Herbs – This recipe uses fresh parsley, but you could use basil or a mix of both. Oregano would be a nice addition, also.

Doubling Is Perfect For Potlucks!

It goes without saying that this Classic Italian Pasta Salad Recipe makes for a great contribution to potlucks! Whether that potluck is at the office, at a family reunion, or at any summertime gathering with family and friends.

As is, this recipe provides eight servings, so to bring it to a potluck to share, I’d suggest doubling the recipe. Doing so will ensure that you can comfortably feed a crowd!

Italian Pasta Salad up close.

Italian Pasta Salad FAQs

Should You Rinse Your Pasta?

When making a warm dish, you shouldn’t rinse your pasta since the starchy water encourages your sauces to stick to the pasta. However, when making a cold dish such as this pasta salad, you will want to rinse it with cold water to cool it down.

The cold water will cool the pasta down quickly, allowing you to enjoy it sooner! This can be done by placing your pasta in a colander and then running it under cold water.

Can I Use Store-Bought Dressing?

The homemade dressing in this recipe really packs in big and bold flavors with pantry staples! Though, if necessary, you can make this recipe using a store-bought Italian dressing.

Some store-bought options to consider include Kraft Zesty Italian, Wishbone Italian, Ken’s Steak House Italian dressing, and even Olive Garden’s signature Italian dressing.

Can This Be Left Out At A BBQ Or Picnic?

Yes, since this Pasta Salad has an oil-based dressing, it is ok to leave it out at barbeque or picnics. However, to enjoy it chilled, you may want to pop it intermittently in the fridge or cooler to cool it back down.

A black bowl filled with Italian Pasta Salad.

Try These Other Delicious Pasta Recipes

A black bowl filled with Italian Pasta Salad.

Italian Pasta Salad

Italian Pasta Salad is a summertime staple that's filled with deliciously crisp and fresh flavors that's made with a homemade zesty dressing! The perfect side dish to bring to BBQs and picnics!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: classic italian pasta salad recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 357kcal



  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Pasta Salad

  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • ½ medium red onion cut into thin slices
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 English cucumber chopped
  • 4 ounces mozzarella pearls
  • 4 ounces salami slices cut into thin strips
  • ½ cup kalamata olives halved
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley


  • In a small mixing bowl, combine ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper to make the dressing. Set aside.
  • Boil 8 ounces farfalle pasta in salted water according to the package for al dente. As soon as the pasta is ready, drain the pasta into a colander and run cold water over the pasta for 1 to 2 minutes to cool it rapidly.
  • Combine the pasta and dressing in a large serving bowl. Then gently mix in the ½ medium red onion (sliced), 8 ounces cherry tomatoes (halved), 1 English cucumber (chopped), 4 ounces mozzarella pearls, 4 ounces salami slices (sliced), ½ cup kalamata olives, and ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley. Toss together until evenly combined and coated in dressing.
  • Allow the pasta salad to chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


  • 3/4 to 1 cup of store-bought dressing may be used in place of the homemade dressing.
  • Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 
  • Best if made 6 to 12 hours in advance for the flavors to meld.
  • Any short pasta can be used in this recipe, but I recommend using one that is texture and has ridges that will catch the dressing. 


Calories: 357kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 693mg | Potassium: 276mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 316IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 104mg | Iron: 1mg

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Gabby Hubbell Family Busy Family Recipes Author

From one busy family to another, I see you.

Hi, I’m Gabby! From crockpots to one-pot recipes, we’re eager to make dinner time a breeze for you and your family. Follow along for recipes even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy time and time again!
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