This easy Italian pasta salad recipe has salami, mozzarella cheese, veggies, and fresh herbs with an irresistible homemade dressing! It's a quick summer staple you'll have on repeat.
Love Italian-inspired salads? Try my Simple Antipasto Salad next.
Why you'll enjoy it
This classic Italian pasta salad is hands-down the ultimate summer salad. It has an abundance of delicious ingredients that work so well together, making each bite a flavor sensation with a variety of textures. It's popular at potlucks, BBQs, and picnics since it's a fantastic make-ahead salad.
Possibly my favorite part of this easy pasta salad is the simple homemade dressing. I based it on my copycat Olive Garden Salad Dressing since it's just so tasty and I was very proud of myself with that one! It's savory with Italian herbs, a touch creamy, and has a perfectly balanced flavor. I kinda want to drink the stuff every time I make it.
What you'll need
For the salad
- Pasta - I used bowtie pasta, but you can use whatever you've got on hand that's a similar size like penne or rotini
- Bell peppers - for that satisfying crunch. I chose red and green, but any colors will work.
- Pepperoncini peppers - you'll find them in a jar in the pickle aisle. They have a great tangy flavor from the brine.
- Tomatoes - grape or cherry tomatoes are best for salads
- Red onion - it's a less sharp onion variety that's ideal for eating raw
- Fresh mozzarella balls - they may be labeled differently depending on your area. I've seen "mozzarella pearls", and here in Canada they're called "mini mini bocconcini".
- Salami - I bought a stick of cervelat salami and cut it into cubes, but you could buy a pack of pre-sliced salami and chop that and add it to the salad. It'll be delicious either way.
- Olives - kalamata are my go-to, but regular black olives are fine
- Basil and parsley - herbs for a burst of freshness
- Parmesan - this cheese ties the salad together. Always grate your own for best results. I like to use this Microplane grater.
For the dressing
- Olive oil and mayo - for the rich base
- White vinegar and sugar - a touch of tanginess and hint of sugar perfectly balances everything out
- Italian seasoning - it's a blend of fragrant dried herbs that you'll find in a single jar for ease
- Garlic powder - I can't resist adding this for another savory layer to the dressing
- Salt & pepper - it's important to be generous with pasta salads
Make ahead tips
- You can easily make this Italian pasta salad ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Simply assemble all the salad ingredients a couple of hours ahead and store the dressing separately in a jar. I like using one of these yogurt jars with a lid or a mason jar. When you're ready to serve it, add the dressing and toss for maximum freshness!
- It's meant to feed a crowd and yields a lot of salad, so if you don't need to make as much, feel free to straight halve all of the ingredients.
How to make Italian pasta salad
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Cook the pasta al dente, drain it, and toss it with a bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together. Let it cool. Meanwhile, add the dressing ingredients to a small mixing bowl.
Whisk together the dressing until combined thoroughly. Chop and prep the rest of the ingredients, and add to a large bowl. Toss with the dressing, and season with salt & pepper. Chill in the fridge if desired and enjoy.
Substitutions and variations
- This salad is pretty flexible. Feel free to omit anything that doesn't take your fancy! However, if you're changing the dressing, be sure to give it a taste before you add it to the salad in case you need to adjust an ingredient. Our kitchen has tested the dressing thoroughly and feels it's well balanced.
- Don't have any mozzarella? Try using feta or goat cheese instead.
- If you've got some fresh garden herbs, definitely chop those up and throw them in for an additional burst of flavor.
Leftovers and storage
- This cold pasta salad makes great leftovers and will keep for a few days in the fridge in an airtight container, but keep in mind that it might get a bit dry eventually since the pasta soaks up the dressing.
- If you're leaving it out more than 2 hours or it's been in the sun, be sure to eat it right away or discard the rest for food safety reasons.
- I don't recommend freezing this or any other pasta salad.
If you have any questions about this Italian pasta salad recipe or want to leave a review, talk to me in the comments below! You can also find me on Instagram and tag me there if you made any of my recipes.
Easy Italian Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces uncooked bowtie pasta
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 1/2 cup pepperoncini peppers chopped
- 1 cup little tomatoes (grape, cherry, etc.) halved
- 1/2 cup red onion chopped
- 7 ounces fresh mozzarella balls mini size
- 8 ounces salami diced
- 1/2 cup Kalamata or black olives pitted
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped finely
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pepper to taste
- Boil a large, salted pot of water and cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Once it's done, drain it, toss it with a little olive oil (about a teaspoon or so) to stop it from sticking together, and let it cool in a colander.
- Meanwhile, add the dressing ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk together (or add to a jar and shake).
- Prep the remaining ingredients.
- Add the cooled pasta to a large salad bowl along with the other ingredients. Pour the dressing over and toss until coated. Taste and season with salt & pepper as needed.
- Serve immediately or chill for a couple hours prior to serving.
- Some of the prep time is counted within the cook time since you can prep while the water is coming to a boil/pasta is cooking.
- This recipe makes quite a lot of pasta salad. Serving size depends on what else it's served with, if it's served as main course, etc., but it serves at least 6 as a main course, and up to 10+ if you're serving it with other dishes. Halve all ingredients if you want a smaller quantity.
- As with most salads, the ingredients are quite flexible - feel free to sub/omit anything you don't like/don't have on hand. If making subs with the dressing, be sure to taste and adjust as you go along.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
This recipe was originally published on March 13, 2018. It's been tweaked to be even easier, tastier, and has new photos!