Italian Pasta Salad with salami, fresh cheese, veggies and your favorite pasta tossed with delicious Italian salad dressing for crazy good crowd pleaser year round.
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Italian pasta salad is one of my favorite cold salad recipes. Fresh mozzarella balls, salami strips, tangy olives, al dente pasta, lots of fresh veggies and fresh herbs tossed with zesty homemade Italian salad dressing.
Oh, and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan makes this Italian pasta salad recipe complete!
This cold pasta salad keeps and travels well, and everyone just loves pasta and salami! That’s why I like to bring this salad or Italian chopped salad to a potluck, backyard parties and beach picnics.
Ingredients for Italian Pasta Salad
To make Italian pasta salad recipe you will need just a few simple ingredients.
- Pasta: I used whole grain fusilli pasta. Gluten free pasta or white pasta works just as well. I suggest to cook gluten-free pasta for less time.
- Cheeses: Cubed fresh mozzarella cheese or mini bocconcini is mild tasting not mature cheese. We absolutely love this tomato mozzarella avocado salad with little cheese balls. Then we sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top and “hello, boldness”.
- Olives and salami: Zesty and salty olives and salami add a necessary Italian layer of flavor. Kalamata olives, green olives or black olives work. Make sure to buy pitted olives.
- Fresh veggies and fresh herbs: A pound of grape or cherry tomatoes is absolutely a must. Their juice makes Italian pasta salad juicy without many calories. Any color bell peppers adds a crunch. And don’t forget flat leaf Italian parsley.
- Italian dressing: Quality extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar, dried herbs and that’s all!
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
Here’s a quick overview how to make Italian pasta salad. You can find full recipe card below.
- Cook pasta al dente: You want to cook pasta until firm but not too soft because no one likes mushy pasta salads. “Taste and tell” or follow package instructions undercooking by 2 minutes.
- Shock pasta and let cool: Now you want to stop pasta cooking immediately. Drain pasta in a colander, rinse with cold water and let it cool down. It’s a big “no-no” to mix hot pasta with fresh vegetables and cheese.
- Chop everything into bite size pieces: This way halved tomatoes, olives and even cheese will end up in your every spoonful of Italian pasta salad. Same goes for bell peppers and salami.
- Whisk Italian salad dressing: Whisk oil, vinegar, and dried herbs and pour over the salad. Toss gently but well with large metal spoon.
- Let salad sit for 30 minutes: Refrigerate Italian pasta salad for a bit, if you can. Flavors will really come together in that half an hour.
This Italian pasta salad recipe is super versatile. Here’s what you can add or omit based on your personal taste and ingredients you have on hand.
- Swap the pasta: Any short pasta with cavities like macaroni, penne, bow ties, penne or rotini pasta is great to “scoop” up the salad dressing.
- Add pepperoncini: It’s a classic Italian ingredient and you can find it in a jar in any grocery store. About 1/4 cup would be great!
- Make it meatless: Omit the salami entirely. Or add a can of chickpeas or white beans instead.
- Other meat options: Cubed leftover grilled chicken like bruschetta chicken or rotisserie chicken will work great in this Italian pasta salad.
- Other cheeses: Grated Romano cheese or asiago cheese will work great instead of Parmesan cheese. Even crumbled feta cheese will taste great!
- Other vegetables: Add diced raw cucumbers, zucchini or sliced mushrooms. Add sauteed vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus or onions.
- Add pesto: A dollop of pesto in addition or instead of some olive oil to keep pasta salad lighter, would be great!
What to Serve Italian Pasta Salad with?
In my opinion, most pasta salad recipes tastes best cold including this classic Italian pasta salad recipe. If eating next day, I like to give it about 20 seconds in a microwave to “melt” the oils.
This great side dish goes with so many recipes!
- A crowd pleaser: Bring to a potluck, beach, BBQ, pool, Christmas or Bday party.
- Easy summer dinner: Serve with chicken breast on the grill or grilled chicken thighs. Make chimichurri chicken for a total parsley fiesta on your plate.
- Love beef? Grill my carne asada steak and serve cold pasta salad with Italian dressing alongside. I promise, it is the best!
Can I Make It Ahead?
Yes. You can prepare Italian pasta salad ahead of time. Refrigerate a bowl with all ingredients, except the dressing, covered for up to 2 days. Also store dressing in an airtight container separately in the fridge.
Combine pasta salad with Italian dressing 30 minutes before serving. If the dressing solidifies in the fridge, quickly warm it up in a microwave or place the jar in a bowl with hot water. It is normal for olive oil to solidify in the refrigerator!
How to Store
Store: This Italian pasta salad leftovers will keep well for up to 2 days. I like to warm it up in a microwave for 20 seconds before serving from the fridge.
Past 2 days I find cooked pasta soaks up all the dressing and salad is dry.
I do not recommend to freeze any pasta recipe because pasta and vegetables will have mushy texture upon thawing.
The common five mistakes to avoid when making pasta salad are the following. Using wrong shape of pasta, overcooking pasta, mixing hot pasta with other salad ingredients. Also eating pasta salad immediately without chilling or dressing pasta salad too far in advance.
Drain cooked pasta in a colander, rinse with cold water and let it drain.
The best way to stop pasta from absorbing the dressing is to add it 1 to 2 hours before serving. Store pasta salad dressing and pasta salad separately in the fridge.
This Italian pasta salad will last up to 4 days although I think it tastes the best if consumed within 2 days.
No, I do not recommend to dress your Italian pasta salad the night before because the pasta will absorb too much dressing. For the best pasta salad taste where there is still dressing coating the ingredients is to dress it 1-2 hours before serving.
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Italian Pasta Salad
- 10 ounces dry pasta like fusilli, farfalle or penne 4 cups
- 1 pound grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut in halves
- 1 large bell pepper diced
- 1 cup olives pitted and cut in halves
- 7 ounces mini bocconcini 1 cup, cut in halves
- 4 ounces salami cut into matchsticks
- 1/4 cup red onion or white onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta as per package instructions in a pot of salted water, undercooking by 2 minutes. It should be al dente. Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to drain.
- In a medium bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, dried oregano and basil. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, bocconcini, salami, onion, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Add cooked pasta to the bowl, drizzle with the dressing and stir gently with large metal spoon to combine.
- It is best to let Italian pasta salad chill in the fridge for 30 minutes-2 hours before serving.
- Bring to a potluck, serve as a lunch, meal prep for a work week or serve with chicken or any grilled meat for dinner.
- Store: Refrigerate pasta salad covered for up to 2-3 days. Reheat 20 seconds in a microwave warm to “melt” olive oil.
- Freeze: Do not freeze pasta salad.
- Make ahead: Refrigerate all salad ingredients and dressing covered and separately for up to 2 days. Combine before serving.