Classic Italian Pasta Salad

With a zesty homemade dressing, rotini pasta, fresh vegetables and mozzarella, this Classic Italian Pasta Salad is a guaranteed hit at any summer potluck or picnic! Not only is it packed with flavor but it comes together quickly and easily too!

A bowl of Italian pasta salad with fresh mozzarella, tomato, olives, and pepperoni

An Easy Pasta Salad

This Classic Italian Pasta Salad is one of my go-to dishes for summer. Whether I make it as a side dish at home or bring it to a get-together, it’s always a hit. It’s a great, classic salad for a reason, with lots of flavor from all of the vegetables, and fresh mozzarella balls. We all know cheese makes everything better!

One of the best things about this salad is that it’s an easy dish to adjust according to your preferences. You can easily add in more veggies or omit those you’re not a fan of. And if you love cheese, go ahead and add in some more mozzarella balls. Your guests will thank you!

This tasty salad comes together in about 30 minutes. I usually chop up the vegetables while the pasta boils, then quickly toss it all together. It does need to chill for at least 1-2 hours, though I recommend overnight. I usually prepare it the night before so it’s ready to go the next day. It’s so much more flavorful that way, I think!

I make this classic pasta salad with a homemade Italian dressing but if you want a shortcut, you can absolutely substitute that with your favorite store-bought Italian dressing! Just do whatever is easiest for you, because I guarantee this salad will disappear in minutes either way!

What You’ll Need

The ingredients for this salad are versatile – feel free to mix and match your favorite ingredients, and take out anything you don’t like! I’ll often adjust ingredients according to what I already have in the fridge.

For the Pasta Salad:

  • Tricolor rotini – You can also substitute any other pasta of your choice.
  • Cherry tomatoes – You can also chop up any other garden tomatoes too.
  • Fresh mini mozzarella balls – If you’re a cheese lover, feel free to add more than the recipe calls for!
  • Sliced olives – Black or green both work or you can leave these out for the picky eaters too.
  • Pepperoncinis – I prefer the flavor of these but you can also sub in chopped bell peppers.
  • Mini pepperonis – Or cut regular pepperoni into quarters.
  • Red onion – Add flavor, color and crunch.
  • Parmesan cheese – Freshly shredded parmesan will give the best flavor.

For the Homemade Italian Dressing

  • Extra-virgin olive oil – The base of the dressing.
  • Red wine vinegar – Adds some zing to the flavor.
  • Italian seasoning – Homemade or a packaged seasoning works.
  • Sugar – Just a hint of sweetness.
  • Garlic powder – To add flavor.
  • Salt & pepper – A pinch of each for taste.
  • Red pepper flakes – Adds just a hint of heat to the dressing.
All of the ingredients for homemade Italian dressing in a glass bowl

How to Make Classic Italian Pasta Salad

This pasta salad comes together in just a few easy steps! It takes just under a half an hour to prepare but be sure to leave plenty of time for the dish to chill for optimal flavor.

  1. Prepare the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.
  2. Combine all salad ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the pasta and all of the other salad ingredients.
  3. Prepare the dressing. To make the homemade Italian dressing, simply whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Assemble the salad, refrigerate and serve. Add the dressing to the salad and toss until coated. Refrigerate until it’s time to serve.
Italian dressing being poured over pasta with vegetables in a glass dish

Tips for Success

Italian pasta salad is a summer staple in my home, so naturally I’ve come up with a few tips to preparing the best salad.

  • Prepare ahead of time. This salad should sit for at least 1-2 hours but I prefer to prepare it the night before, so that there’s extra time for the flavors to soak into the pasta.
  • Change the ingredients according to preference. You can easily substitute the meat, cheese and vegetables for any of your preferences. Ham and salami can be used with or in place of the pepperoni and you can switch the cheese too, if you don’t have fresh mozzarella.
  • Use a short pasta. I prefer rotini for my pasta salad but any short pasta will do. I recommend avoiding spaghetti or linguine as it makes it difficult to serve and I’ve found that the dressing doesn’t “stick” as well.
  • Use bottled Italian dressing. If you’re short on time or don’t have all of the ingredients on hand, you can use 1 1/4 cups of your favorite bottled Italian dressing.
Two wooden spoons mixing a big bowl of Italian pasta salad

Serving Suggestions

I love to serve this pasta salad at summer picnics, BBQs and potlucks. It’s always a crowd favorite that disappears quickly!

I just serve it directly from a big serving bowl and since it makes such a big portion, everyone is served a heaping scoop.

It works well with pretty much any potluck dish and especially anything that comes off the grill – burgers & hot dogs, chicken, steak or even fish.

A bowl of Italian pasta salad with fresh mozzarella, tomato, olives, and pepperoni

How to Store Leftovers

Classic Italian pasta salad will last 3-4 days in the fridge. Keep it well covered to avoid drying out and stir each time before serving. The longer it sits, the more the pasta will absorb the Italian dressing so the flavors will become stronger. After several days the acid in the dressing will start to break down the pasta and vegetables, changing the texture, so I do recommend eating any leftovers within 4 days.

Print
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A bowl of Italian pasta salad with fresh mozzarella, tomato, olives, and pepperoni
Recipe

Classic Italian Pasta Salad

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 10-12 servings
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

With a zesty homemade dressing, rotini pasta, fresh vegetables and mozzarella, this Classic Italian Pasta Salad is a guaranteed hit at any summer potluck or picnic! Not only is it packed with flavor but it comes together quickly and easily too!


Ingredients

For the Pasta Salad:

  • 1 lb (16 oz) tricolor rotini pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz fresh mini mozzarella balls
  • 1/2 cup sliced olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped pepperoncinis
  • 1 cup mini pepperonis
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

For the Italian Dressing:

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions, then rinse under cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, pepperoncinis, pepperoni, red onion and parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the pasta and gently toss until well coated. Refrigerate for an hour or two before serving, or overnight. Pasta salad will last for 3-4 days covered and refrigerated.

Keywords: homemade Italian dressing, easy potluck recipes, easy summer salads

More Easy Summer Salad Recipes:

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Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

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