The Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe: Made with fresh ingredients and bursting with flavor, this is the most perfect cold pasta salad!

Italian pasta salad in a bowl with a wooden spoon.

Italian Pasta Salad

One of my favorite family recipes is a classic Italian pasta salad Lt. Dan’s grandma, Mo, used to make.

Every time she served it she would change the recipe just a little bit. Yet her pasta salad always included fusilli pasta, little slivers of hard salami, black olives, tomatoes, and cheese.

Over the years, I’ve made her recipe, tweaking it as I go, just as Mo always did. Lt. Dan says my version of Mo’s pasta salad is “Legit” and that’s really saying something. To him, Mo was the queen of all things. She certainly left her mark on both of us.

Pasta salad ingredients with dressing in a bowl.

My Favorite Cold Pasta Salad Recipe

I know many families have an Italian style salad recipe that gets pulled out for picnics and large events.

I’m partial to Mo’s because it’s heavily loaded with fresh veggies and pops of rich flavor from the salami, olives, and soft mozzarella. And mine isn’t much different!

My personal adaptation is to add jarred “Grilled Piquillo Peppers” to offer a bit of tangy sweetness. If you can’t find them, jarred roasted red peppers provide a similar appeal.

Therefore, this is what I consider The Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe. It’s bold, textually diverse, and holds up well for several days in the refrigerator.

I’ve never tasted another version I like better.

Italian pasta salad ingredients in a bowl before mixing them.

Pasta Salad Dressing Ingredients

The homemade Italian vinaigrette is made with a generous amount of fresh garlic, giving the entire bowl a zesty punch.

  • Red Wine VinegarA rich and full-flavored taste of acidic vinegar.
  • Olive OilAnd what pairs well with vinegar? Beautiful olive oil.
  • Garlic Zesty and delicious.
  • Honey To add sweetness to the dressing.
  • Dried Italian Seasoning To season the salad.
  • Salt Helps balance and enhance all other flavors.
Italian Salad with salami and olives in a bowl.

Best Pasta Salad Ingredients

  • Fusilli PastaThis is the corkscrew-shaped pasta, short or long
  • Cherry TomatoesSweeter and less acidic than regular tomatoes
  • Hard Salami Smokey and sumptuous, it’s the perfect addition to this salad
  • Roasted Red PeppersOr grilled piquillo peppers
  • Red Onion For flavor and crunch
  • Italian Parsley The flat-leaved parsley with robust flavor
  • Mini Mozzarella BallsNot only are these cheese balls so cute they are also so fresh and delicious
  • Black OlivesThis brings a salty and oily flavor to the salad
Mozzarella Balls in this pasta salad in a large bowl.

How To Make Italian Pasta Salad

  1. Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add a large spoonful of salt to the water. Then stir in the dried pasta. Cook according to package instructions, usually 6-8 minutes to al dente. Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water in a colander. Shake off the excess water and place the pasta in a large salad bowl.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, whisk all the ingredients of the vinaigrette in a small bowl. Set aside. Then chop all the salad ingredients.
  3. Pour the tomatoes, sliced hard salami, chopped piquillo peppers, red onion, parsley, mozzarella ball, and olives over the pasta. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss well to coat. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Make this Antipasto Salad Recipe Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! This recipe is a great make-ahead for parties, family events, or as an easy lunchbox item to enjoy all week. Actually, most pasta salads taste better after sitting for a day or two. Just make sure to cover it well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Does This Italian Pasta Salad Recipe Need To Be Refrigerated?

Oh yes. With all the meats, cheeses, and fresh produce in the mix, you do need to keep it chilled until you are ready to serve it.

What Goes With Cold Pasta Salad?

This best pasta salad recipe goes with just about everything! Serve this salad with grilled proteins, picnic foods, and barbecue favorites.

Can I Make Gluten Free Pasta Salad?

Yes! However, most gluten-free pasta varieties break down within a few hours. So if you want to go gluten-free, you will need to serve it immediately after mixing.

Would Omitting Onion Change The Results Of The Recipe?

You can omit the onions. There are plenty of other pungent flavors represented.

pasta salad with italian dressing in a large bowl.

More Pasta Salad Recipes:

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Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
The Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe: Made with fresh ingredients and bursting with flavor this is the most perfect Italian style pasta salad!
Servings: 12 Servings

Ingredients

For the Vinaigrette:

For the Italian Pasta Salad:

Instructions

  • Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add a large spoonful of salt to the water. Then stir in the dried pasta. Cook according to package instructions, usually 6-8 minutes to al dente. Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water in a colander. Shake off the excess water and place the pasta in a large salad bowl.
  • While the pasta is boiling, whisk all the ingredients of the vinaigrette in a small bowl. Set aside. Then chop all the salad ingredients.
  • Pour the tomatoes, sliced hard salami, chopped piquillo peppers, red onion, parsley, mozzarella ball and olives over the pasta. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss well to coat. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed.

Video

Notes

The Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe tastes best, when it’s had time to sit, so the flavors mingle together. If you can, make it several hours (or even a day) ahead.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup, Calories: 363kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium: 478mg, Potassium: 254mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 375IU, Vitamin C: 18.9mg, Calcium: 132mg, Iron: 1.3mg
Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Sommer Collier
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