Italian pasta salad is perhaps the most delicious of all the pasta salad recipes on the potluck circuit. Loaded with SO many delicious ingredients!!! Lots of different tomatoes, peppers, and olives are perfectly balanced by penne-shaped pasta with plenty of crevices to cradle the fabulous homemade vinaigrette and a blend of savory cheeses. THIS IS THE pasta salad recipe you’ve been looking for!!!
What I Love About This Recipe
Besides a tart and tangy combination of super flavorful ingredients, this salad is one of those gorgeous and incredibly versatile recipes. It’s adaptable to almost any lifestyle diet and personal taste preference without missing a single beat! As far as cold pasta recipes go, this one is a shining star. When I make a pasta salad, I seriously load it with goodies! I mean, without all of the yummy add-ins, what’s the point?!! There’s nothing I loath more than an insipid pasta salad that’s all pasta and a dash of oil and vinegar! This salad will make you LOVE pasta salad again and want to make it often, I mean often, like ALL the TIME!!
There is just so much to love about this most excellent pasta salad, it can be hard to narrow it down! I absolutely love how easily adaptable this recipe is and it makes such a beautiful dish that people just can’t wait to dig in, myself included. Here are some other solid qualities that make this Italian pasta salad a winner.
- Delectable flavor
- 5 easy steps
- Wholesome ingredients
- Fresh aromatic herbs
- Adaptable recipe
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad Recipe Notes
Preparing this tangy Italian pasta salad only takes 5 easy steps, less if you break it up with meal prep. Anyhow, here are a few notes to ensure the tastiest results.
Mixing the dressing should always be done first because you want to toss the pasta in while it’s hot. The heat helps the starchy pasta absorb the flavor of the tangy dressing so that every bite is a delicious metropolis of flavors.
Cooling the pasta to room temperature in the zingy homemade dressing helps this process along.
Letting the pasta salad chill in the fridge for several hours gives all the lively flavors time to mingle and get fully acquainted for a beautifully cohesive dish. Overnight is best but sometimes you just don’t have that much time!
Classic Pasta Salad Ingredient Notes
Slicing and chopping veggies is a necessary part of just about any good salad. I have found that it helps to try to keep the ingredients relatively the same size. This allows you to get a burst of tangy textures and flavors in every bite.
Lastly, reserve the fresh basil until just before serving. Fresh herbs tend to be delicate and adding them just before serving your salad preserves their integrity. Basil tends to blend well with tomatoes and cheese for a delicate balance of flavor and aroma that warms the heart.
There isn’t much cooking involved, giving this Italian pasta salad a much-appreciated simplicity! The only actual cooking you’ll have to do is boiling the penne pasta and this should take between 7-9 minutes or just until al dente.
Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing Storing Tips
The recipe for this gorgeous pasta salad with Italian dressing does serve about 12 people conservatively, so it’s a decent amount. If your fridge is full, you can store your pasta salad in two 1-gallon Ziploc bags to save room.
Otherwise, it can be stored in an airtight container with a secure lid or a large bowl with cling wrap. Just be sure to keep it refrigerated.
Can You Freeze Spicy Italian Pasta Salad Recipe?
No, unfortunately you can’t freeze this pasta salad because it would compromise the integrity of some of the ingredients.
How Long Can You Keep This?
Your Italian pasta salad will stay fresh and beautiful for 3 or 4 days when stored properly. According to the USDA, 3-5 days is the rule of thumb for properly stored cold pasta salad.
There are so many different ways to adapt this recipe it will make your head spin! Go vegetarian by omitting the meat or try using tri colored pasta for an even more beautiful presentation.
Veggie lovers can add things like cauliflower and mushrooms or serve it on a bed of greens to up the nutritional value. Kale and spinach both work great for this!
Can I Try Italian Pasta Salad With Pepperoni?
Uh, absolutely! Spicy pepperoni adds a nice little kick to the already tangy salad. Many people automatically think ‘pepperoni’ anyway when they hear Italian pasta salad. People also like adding ham sometimes.
Can I Make Italian Pasta Salad No Meat Included?
Yes, you sure can. Making this pasta salad without the meat just gives you more room to add extra veggies if you want to. Toss in different types of olives or even asparagus tips if you feel so inclined!
What Other Mediterranean Salads I Can Try?
Enjoy the bold, savory flavors of Monaco with a Mediterranean pasta salad that overshadows the rest. This refreshing homemade recipe offers an elegant combination of taste and beauty.
You can also go Greek with a Greek Pasta Salad that incorporates an oil and vinegar dressing like traditional Horiatiki. It is so yummy that your mouth automatically slows down to savor the flavor.
Can I Use Tortellini In This Recipe?
Part of the beauty of this recipe is that it is so versatile! If you feel so inclined, use those little puckered pasta pockets and make tortellini salad. You can also try this other recipe for an amazing tortellini pasta salad and get your antipasto on! It is picnic and potluck ready.
What Other Proteins I Can Try For This Salad?
Adding protein to this Italian pasta salad is simple. Many of my vegetarian friends like to add black beans for plant protein. It is simply de-lish. Chicken also marries well with all the different flavors and textures in this recipe. Or better yet, use both.
If you are simply looking for a different cold pasta salad built around the savory taste of the protein, try making my chicken pasta salad or even shrimp pasta salad. They are both delectable and the shrimp pasta salad reminds me of warm summer days on the coast!
Italian Pasta Salad
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup peppadew pepper juice, (from the jar of peppadews)
- 1/4 cup pepperoncini juice (from the jar of pepperoncinis)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 (16 ounce) box penne pasta
- 8 ounces Genoa salami, sliced into 1/4 inchstrips
- 1 cup black olives, sliced
- 10 ounces grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, julienned
- 1 cup peppadew peppers, sliced
- 1 cup pepperoncini, sliced
- 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
- 2 (8 ounces) container fresh Mozzarella ball in water, drained and cut Into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
- 1 cup fresh basil julienned
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add all the dressing ingredients together and shake well.
- Place a large pot of water and 1 1/2 Tablespoon of salt over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in penne and cook according to package instructions, to al dente. Drain the pasta well.
- Add the pasta, while still hot, to a large salad bowl. Pour dressing over pasta and toss well. Allow pasta to cool.
- When pasta has cooled to room temperature, stir in the next 8 ingredients (everything but the basil) and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
- When ready to serve, add fresh basil and toss. Adjust seasoning and add olive oil, if needed. Serve
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More Pasta Salad Recipes
Pasta salad recipes are both scrumptious and versatile, plus they can easily feed a hungry crowd. If you find yourself on the potluck circuit, then having a myriad of pasta salad recipes to choose from just makes life easier and more delicious.
Here are some other recipes you can add to the rotation or put in your arsenal for the next friendly get together.
These fragrant, refreshing salads offer a beautiful presentation and they are so easy to throw together, but the best part is that they taste so darn good you’ll look like a whiz in the kitchen! Italian pasta salad is one of my favorite cold pasta salad recipes…and for good reason.
So, go ahead. Take this delicious combination of flavor and beauty and make it your own!
Betsy Stettinius says
Haven’t made it yet, but plan to make it for a baby shower in May
I hope you’ll love this recipe! Keep us posted 🙂
Great salad. Loved all the different flavors especially
the basil. Made this for four and still have lots leftover.
Will make many times again.
Glad you like it, b! Thank you for your feedback 🙂
Christine Pantell says
I was reading what the ingredients were in the pasta salad and found myself intrigued. I decided this would be the perfect dish to add to our Easter celebration. The family was going back for seconds and thirds you k ow when that happens it is a hit. Thank you Kathleen for helping me make my Easter dinner a success. I will diffenetly keep this recipe under my favorites.
Oh, Christine, you made my day! I’m so happy the salad was a hit with your family <3
I have never been disappointed in any of your recipes. I bet this is incredible. ?
Thank you so much! I hope you get to try it soon, Marianne!<3