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Get ready to transport your taste buds straight to Italy with this vibrant, zesty Italian Pasta Salad! Loaded with succulent salami, creamy bocconcini, fresh veggies, and an irresistible homemade dressing, it’s a flavor-packed dish guaranteed to steal the spotlight at your next gathering. One bite of this pasta wonder, and I promise you’ll be coming back for seconds – it’s that scrumptious!
To make the flavors really pop, chill the salad for at least an hour before serving – this allows the ingredients to mingle and absorb the delicious dressing.
The Best Italian Pasta Salad
Imagine a bowl overflowing with perfectly cooked pasta, coated in a fresh, homemade Italian dressing bursting with vibrant herbs. This salad is a feast for the eyes, featuring bold colors from cherry tomatoes, crisp green bell peppers, and creamy white cheeses. Each forkful introduces a new texture, a new flavor – it’s a symphony of tangy, hearty, and fresh notes that will keep you coming back for more.
Generous chunks of salami add a satisfying depth, while creamy bocconcini and Monterey Jack cheese offer a delightful contrast. Every bite is an adventure – one moment you’re savoring a juicy tomato, the next you’re delighting in the robust taste of salami. It’s not just a salad, it’s an unforgettable flavor journey that will have you hooked from the first bite.
Why You’ll Love This Italian Pasta Salad
- Quick And Easy! This entire recipe including the homemade Italian dressing comes together in just 25 minutes, which means that you can easily make and enjoy this delicious salad without spending too much time in the kitchen!
- Tasty Italian Flavors! Made with tender pasta, savory salami, salty kalamata olives, chunks of cheese, and a variety of fresh vegetables all tossed together in a punchy herby garlic dressing, this delicious dish is bursting with Italian flavors in each bite!
- Versatile Dish! Whether you’re hosting a summer cookout, heading to a picnic, or simply enjoying a meal at home with the family, this tasty and colorful pasta salad makes an excellent addition to any summer spread.
- Garlic, Parsley, Oregano, Basil: These are key for the Italian dressing, providing a rich, herbal flavor. You could use dried herbs if fresh ones aren’t available.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Give the dressing a bit of heat. Adjust based on your preference for spice, or skip entirely if desired.
- Olive Oil: Forms the base of the dressing, adding a smooth, rich mouthfeel. Any other neutral oils could also work.
- White Wine Vinegar & Lemon Juice: Provide the acidity needed to balance the flavors in the dressing. Apple cider vinegar could be substituted.
- Salt & Pepper: Essential for bringing out the flavors of all the other ingredients.
- Pasta: The backbone of this salad, providing a hearty base that perfectly absorbs the flavors of the dressing. You could use any shape you prefer, such as penne, elbow, fusilli, or rotini.
- Green Bell Pepper: Adds a delightful crunch and color. Yellow or red bell peppers could also work for a slightly different flavor profile.
- Cherry Tomatoes: These bring a burst of freshness and a touch of sweetness. Regular diced tomatoes can also be used.
- Salami: Gives the salad a rich, meaty element. Other cured meats like pepperoni or prosciutto could be substituted.
- Bocconcini: Small mozzarella cheeses that offer a creamy counterpoint. Regular-sized mozzarella cut into pieces, or even feta, could be used instead.
- Red Onion: Lends a sharp, aromatic element. Shallots can be used for a milder flavor.
- Spicy Salami: Adds a kick of heat. If you prefer less spice, use a mild salami or even cooked chicken.
- Monterey Jack Cheese: Offers a wonderful, melty texture and mild flavor. Cheddar or Colby-Jack could work too.
- Kalamata Olives: These olives add a lovely tanginess. Black or green olives could be used if preferred.
This easy pasta salad recipe is a quick and effortless dish that you can prepare in no time! In just a few simple steps, you’ll have a filling and flavorful side dish or meal ready to be served!
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. For this recipe, we are using a whole pound of pasta so that means you need a pot big enough to hold about 2 gallons of water and add at least 2 tablespoons of salt. Then once the pasta is done cooking, drain it in a colander, but don’t rinse it with cold water.
The secret to perfectly cooked pasta lies in generously salting the cooking water. It should taste like the sea! This is your chance to season the pasta itself, and believe me, it makes a world of difference.
Now, let’s whip together an explosion of flavor! To make the salad dressing, you have two methods to choose from. You can vigorously whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or put them in a small jar and shake it super well. Either way works great! You just want to make sure that you mix everything together until the dressing emulsifies a bit, which will help the pasta to absorb it.
After the pasta is cooked, put it in an extra-large bowl. Then add all the other pasta salad ingredients to the bowl and pour the salad dressing all over. Gently toss everything together being careful not to smush the tomatoes. Next, cover the pasta salad with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour so that all the flavors can meld. Then when you’re ready, serve the Italian pasta salad and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make this Italian Pasta Salad ahead of time?
Absolutely! In fact, I encourage it. The flavors meld together beautifully when allowed to sit for a few hours, or even overnight. Just give it a good stir before serving.
Can I substitute the pasta with a gluten-free option?
Of course! Feel free to use your favorite gluten-free pasta. Just remember to cook it according to the package’s instructions as cooking times may vary.
I’m not a fan of spicy salami. Any alternatives?
Totally get you, not everyone’s into spicy food. You can use a mild salami, or even cooked chicken if you prefer. The goal here is to create a salad you love!
- Choose the right pasta and cook it properly. Use bite-size pasta such as penne, rotini, fusilli, farfalle, small shells, or even elbow macaroni. For 1 pound of pasta cook it in 1 gallon of boiling water seasoned with at least 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook it until tender and when it’s done, drain it, but do not rinse it.
- Load it with lots of veggies and salami. You want about 2 pounds of main ingredients. Choose good Italian salami, like Genoa salami and mix it up with both mild and spicy salami. The spicy salami will add a great kick to the pasta salad. Load it up with veggies such as bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and good olives. You could even mix it up a bit by adding veggies like asparagus, or snow peas, even zucchini and broccoli. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different veggies.
- Load your pasta salad with fresh herbs and onion. Go with lots of fresh herbs, such as parsley, oregano, and basil. While dried herbs work as well, nothing beats fresh herbs. As far as onions go, while I chose red onion, green onions are great as well.
- Dress it up! For all this pasta salad, you’ll need about a cup of dressing. For best results, use a mild white wine vinegar, rice vinegar or lemon juice. I don’t recommend balsamic vinegar as it will turn the pasta brown.
Italian Pasta Salad leftovers will last 3-5 days in the fridge. If you need, you can whip up some extra dressing to toss the pasta with when you eat the leftovers in case too much has been absorbed.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing this salad! The tomatoes and pasta will fall apart after thawing.
Other Delicious Pasta Salad Recipes
- Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Taco Pasta Salad
- Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad
- Asparagus And Peas Pasta Salad
- Antipasto Salad
- Cowboy Pasta Salad
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Southwest Pasta Salad
- 1 pound pasta (such as penne, elbow, fusilli or rotini)
- 1 large green bell pepper (chopped)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes (cut in half or quartered)
- 8 ounce salami (thickly sliced or cut in small pieces)
- 8 ounce bocconcini (mini, or cut in half or quarters if using regular size bocconcini)
- ½ medium red onion (finely chopped)
- 8 ounce spicy salami (thickly sliced or cut in small pieces)
- 8 ounce Monterey Jack cheese (cut in small cubes)
- ½ cup Kalamata olives (sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tablespoons parsley (fresh, chopped)
- 2 tablespoons oregano (fresh, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried oregano))
- 2 tablespoons basil (fresh, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried basil))
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
- Cook your chosen pasta according to the package instructions, ensuring to salt the water generously. Drain the pasta in a colander without rinsing.
- In a bowl or jar, combine garlic, parsley, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix or shake until slightly emulsified.
- In a large bowl, combine pasta, green bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, both types of salami, bocconcini, red onion, Monterey Jack cheese, and Kalamata olives. Pour the salad dressing over the salad. Toss to coat evenly, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to meld for an even tastier result.
- Pasta: You can use any type of pasta you prefer or have on hand. Short shapes like penne, fusilli, rotini, or bow tie work best for this salad.
- Salami: Feel free to substitute the salami with other types of cured meats such as prosciutto or even cooked chicken if you prefer a milder flavor.
- Cheese: If you don’t have Monterey Jack, other semi-soft cheeses like Colby-Jack or Cheddar can be used.
- Dressing: The key to a good salad dressing is achieving the right balance of acidity and oil. Feel free to adjust the quantities of vinegar and olive oil to suit your taste.
- Make-Ahead: This salad can be made a day ahead, making it perfect for picnics or potlucks. The flavors will intensify and meld together beautifully in the refrigerator overnight.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
- Customization: Feel free to add in your favorite ingredients or whatever you have in your fridge. This salad is highly adaptable!
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.