Italian Pasta Salad made with fresh and colorful vegetables, sliced salami, mozzarella cheese, tender cooked pasta, and homemade Italian dressing. Flavorful, easy to prepare, and completely irresistible, this is the best pasta salad recipe and perfect for potlucks, picnics, as a side dish or simple summer dinner.
Italian Pasta Salad
Cold pasta salads are one of my favorite ways to stay cool throughout the hot summer months. From this spinach pasta salad with fresh strawberries to this chicken ranch pasta salad, the varieties are limitless. Few pasta salad recipes, however, compare to this Italian pasta salad.
Super easy to prepare, this fresh and delicious pasta salad is loved by everyone – young and old! Easily prepared ahead of time, it is my go-to recipe for potlucks and bbq’s as it refrigerates so well and travels easily.
Filled with chopped artichoke hearts, black olives, cherry tomatoes, salami, mozzarella pearls, and fresh spinach, this salad is the perfect combination of salty, creamy, sweet, and savory. Anyway, what are we waiting for? Let’s make some!
What Dressing for Pasta Salad?
You can’t make this Italian pasta salad recipe – or any pasta salad – without making a dressing to go along with it. Fortunately, this dressing, made with just 5 main ingredients, is also a million times healthier than any store-bought dressing!
If you’re short on time or you don’t have all the dressing ingredients needed, feel free to substitute homemade dressing with any of your favorite store-bought dressings including Italian, but also balsamic vinaigrette, red wine vinaigrette, etc.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- Fresh garlic
- Fresh parsley
- Salt + Black pepper
Ingredients + Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have the dressing made, let’s get to work on the rest of the ingredients. For this recipe, as written, you’ll find:
- Cooked pasta noodles
- Black olives
- Artichoke hearts
- Mozzarella cheese
- Cherry tomatoes
- Fresh baby spinach
What pasta should I use to make pasta salad?
Often made with tri-color pasta noodles, feel free to use those noodles or any other pasta shape you prefer. Rotini, penne, farfalle (bowtie), tortellini, or even macaroni pasta are just a few of my personal favorites.
What are some other things I can add to my pasta salad?
- Diced red pepper
- Pepperoni instead of the salami
- Kalamata olives
- Feta cheese
- Diced cucumber
- Fresh oregano
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh arugula
- Red onion
- Green bell pepper
Can pasta salad be made ahead of time?
Pasta salad is one of those recipes that does really well when it’s made ahead of time – up to 24 hours in advance. Usually, however, I will prepare all of the ingredients and keep them separate from each other. A couple hours before I plan to serve the salad, I’ll toss everything together, cover, and transfer to the refrigerator, allowing all the flavors to mix and mingle.
- Wait to add the fresh spinach until just before serving to keep it fresh and crisp.
- Keep the cooked pasta stored separately. If the noodles clump together, simply rinse with warm water and drain well before mixing with the remaining ingredients.
Can pasta salad be frozen?
No. I do not recommend freezing leftovers.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
Theoretically, there are several ways you can go about starting this recipe. This, however, is typically the order in which I’ll prepare this Italian Pasta Salad.
1. Prepare the Pasta Salad Dressing
You can do this up to one week in advance. Add all ingredients for the dressing to a jar and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine and season with additional salt, pepper, or red wine vinegar to taste. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.
bring a large pot of water to a boil.
2. Prepare the Pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil prepare the pasta according to package directions, cooking just until al dente (approximately 2-3 minutes less than the recommended time). Drain and rinse well with cold water.
Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl and toss with the prepared Italian dressing.
In a separate bowl toss together the mozzarella balls, salami, spinach, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and black olives.
Transfer the salami and veggie mixture to the bowl with the pasta and mix well to combine.
Serve or store leftovers in glass containers for easy week-long meal prep.
Tips and Tricks
Here are a few of my trusty tips and tricks to make the very best cold summer salad.
- Chop your vegetables so that they are small and approximately equal in size. This makes for the easiest eating and therefore the most enjoyment.
- Serve it cold. You guys, this is not meant to be a hot salad. This is a cold(ish) salad and it will taste best when served that way.
- Let things marinate. In other words, this pasta salad tastes best after it’s allowed to rest for a good 10 minutes or so. Nothing crazy. Too much longer and I would recommend that you wait to add the spinach until just before serving. But just enough time to allow to pasta salad dressing to soak in with the noodles and veggies.
What to Serve with Pasta Salad
Pasta salads are made to be enjoyed throughout the warm spring, summer (and in some cases) fall months. Of course, they taste terrific at any time of year, but outdoor bbq’s, grilling, cookout, and potlucks are a Pasta Salads’ favorite place to be.
More Salad Recipes,
If you try making this Italian Pasta Salad Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
For the Italian Dressing
For the Pasta Salad
- 1 pound fusilli pasta (cooked to al dente)
- 16 ounces mozzarella balls (drained and sliced in half)
- 6 ounces salami (sliced and quartered)
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach ((or arugula))
- 15 ounces cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 1 (15 ounce) can artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
- 1 (6.5 ounce) can black olives (drained and chopped)
- Prepare the Dressing- Add all ingredients for the dressing (olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, parsley, salt, and pepper) to a jar and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine and season with additional salt, pepper, or red wine vinegar to taste. Set aside.
- Prepare the Pasta- Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to package instructions and cook just until al dente. Drain and rinse well with cool water. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and toss with the prepared Italian dressing.
- In a separate bowl toss together the mozzarella balls, salami, spinach, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and black olives.
- Combine- Transfer the salami and spinach mixture to the bowl with the pasta and mix well to combine.
- Serve- Serve or store leftovers in glass containers for easy week-long meal prep.
- Spinach does not store well. If you plan to make this ahead of time, wait to add the spinach until just before serving.
- Keep leftovers stored in a sealed air-tight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy within 5-7 days
- This salad is delicious served warm or cold (but best served cold).
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)