Italian Pasta Salad with salami, fresh cheese and veggies, and your favorite pasta are tossed in delish Italian dressing for crazy good crowd pleaser year round.
I will be brave enough to call this pasta salad “healthy”. 🙂
Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
Italian pasta salad is one of my favorite cold salads. Fresh mozzarella, salami, olives, pasta, lots of fresh veggies and herbs tossed in zesty Italian vinaigrette. Oh, and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan. ?
In summer, I make a huge batch and our entire family devours it for lunch for a few days. I like to bring pasta salad to potluck backyard parties and beach picnics. It keeps and travels so well, and everyone just loves pasta and salami.
Ingredients for Italian Pasta Salad
- Pasta: I used whole grain fusilli. Any short pasta with cavities like macaroni, penne, bow ties is great to “scoop” up the dressing. Gluten free or white or any pasta.
- Cheeses: Cubed fresh mozzarella or mini bocconcini is mild tasting not mature cheese. Then we sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan and “hello, boldness”.
- Olives and salami: Zesty and salty, olives and salami add a necessary Italian layer of flavour. Kalamata, green or black olives work. Make sure to buy pitted.
- Fresh veggies and herbs: A pound of grape or cherry tomatoes is absolutely a must. Their juice makes pasta juicy without many calories. Any colour bell pepper adds a crunch. And don’t forget flat leaf Italian parsley.
- Italian dressing: Quality extra virgin olive oil, red or white wine vinegar, dried herbs and that’s it! Better than from a bottle, for sure.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta al dente: You want to cook pasta until firm but not too soft because no one likes mushy pasta salad. “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 in a colander, rinse with cold water and let cool down. It’s a big “no-no” to mix hot pasta with fresh veggies and cheese.
- Chop everything into bite size pieces: Halved tomatoes, olives and even cheese will end up in every bite. Same goes for bell pepper and salami.
- Whisk Italian dressing: Whisk oil, vinegar, and dried herbs and pour over salad. Toss gently but well with large metal spoon.
- Let salad sit for 30 minutes: Refrigerate salad for best results for a bit, if you can. Flavors will really come together in that half hour.
In my opinion, most pasta salad tastes best cold. If eating next day, I like to give it about 20 seconds in a microwave to “melt” the oils though.
- Bring to a potluck, beach, BBQ, pool, Christmas or Bday party.
- Serve with grilled chicken breast or thighs.
- Love beef? Grill my carne asada. I promise, it is the best!
How to Store and Make Ahead
Store: This pasta salad keeps amazingly well without noodles soaking up the dressing for up to 2 days. I like to warm it up in a microwave for 20 seconds before serving from the fridge.
Make ahead: Refrigerate a bowl with all ingredients (except dressing) and dressing separately while covered for up to 2 days. Combine right before serving.
This Italian pasta salad is quite sturdy and resilient. I love it and hope you do too! Would love to hear your feedback in comments below. Cheers. 🙂
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Italian Pasta Salad
- 10 oz 4 cups uncooked pasta
- 1 lb grape or cherry tomatoes cut in halves
- 1 large bell pepper diced
- 1 cup pitted olives cut in halves
- 7 oz 1 cup mini bocconcini, cut in halves
- 4 oz salami cut into matchsticks
- 1/4 cup red or white onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta as per package instructions in a pot of salted water (prevents sticking and flavors pasta), undercooking by 2 minutes.
- Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to prevent cooking. Set aside to cool and drain well.
- In a large salad bowl, add tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, bocconcini, salami, onion, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, dried oregano and basil.
- Add cooked pasta to the salad bowl, drizzle with dressing and stor gently with large spoon to combine.
- It is best to let salad chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 2-3 days. Do not freeze.
Reheat: I like to give pasta salad 20 seconds warm up in the microwave to "melt" olive oil.
Make ahead: Refrigerate all salad ingredients and dressing covered and separately for up to 24 hours. Combine before serving.
- Best pasta to use is short pasta like fusilli, macaroni, bow ties, penne.
- White, whole wheat or any gluten free pasta is great.
- I used Kalamata olives. Green or black olives are great as well.
- Instead of bocconcini, cubed fresh mozzarella cheese works.
- A dollop of pesto in addition or instead of some olive oil to keep pasta salad lighter, would be great!
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