Italian Pasta Salad is an easy, flavorful side dish with veggies, pepperoni, cheese and Italian dressing. Make for parties, potlucks and backyard barbecues.
One of my favorite things about this salad is that you can use the veggies you have on hand, swap things out for your favorite ingredients, and you can make it ahead of time!
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Where is the Italian pasta salad recipe? In this post, I will share step-by-step instructions with photos for how to make the pasta salad, as well as answering FAQs about the recipe and sharing a short video showing the recipe in motion. But you can go directly to the recipe by scrolling down to the bottom of the post.
How To Make Italian Pasta Salad
What kind of pasta should I use?
We love using tricolor rotini pasta because it looks pretty and adds color to the salad. The plain rotini pasta will work too.
You can use pretty much any variety of pasta to make pasta salad. Popular choices include small shells, penne, bowties, or cavatappi.
Here a couple of tips when making pasta for pasta salad. Cook the pasta well. You want the pasta in the cold salad to be tender and not too chewy so cook it a minute or two past the recommended al dente stage. Also, remember to rinse the pasta in cold water, rather than hot like you typically do with pasta, to cool it down before preparing the salad.
Which veggies should I add to pasta salad?
This classic Italian pasta salad includes chopped broccoli, chopped cauliflower, quartered grape tomatoes, diced red bell peppers, and diced orange bell peppers.
If you want to include even more veggies, try adding diced green peppers, diced yellow peppers, shredded carrots, minced onions, sliced cucumbers, sliced asparagus, and sliced bell peppers.
What goes in pasta salad?
In addition to chopped vegetables, I added small black olives, mozzarella cheese cubes, shredded Parmesan cheese, and mini pepperoni to our Italian pasta salad.
Other ingredients that could be added include mini mozzarella balls, chopped Italian salami, minced garlic, and green olives.
If you want to include some herbs try adding fresh basil or cilantro.
What kind of dressing should I use for pasta salad?
Nothing beat the convenience of using bottled salad dressing. When making Italian pasta salad, I use the zesty Italian dressing for the added flavor.
Can you make pasta salad the day before?
Yes, you can make pasta salad the day before and store it in the fridge in an airtight container. Being able to prepare Italian pasta salad ahead of time, makes it one of the easiest side dishes to bring to parties and potlucks.
Since the pasta will soak up most of the salad dressing overnight, you’ll need to add a little more before serving. Bring additional Italian dressing with to the party, drizzle it on the salad, and stir the salad before serving.
How long does Italian pasta salad last?
Italian pasta salad will last 3-4 days when stored properly in an airtight container in the fridge.
Do not leave pasta salad out at room temperature (while serving for example) for long periods of time since bacteria can multiply rapidly between 40° F and 140° F.
You can keep the pasta salad cool during serving by putting the serving bowl in a large bowl that is filled with ice. Replace the ice often.
Can you freeze Italian pasta salad?
No, you cannot freeze Italian pasta salad. If you try to freeze your leftover Italian pasta salad it will mushy or disintegrate when it thaws.
It is better to make less pasta salad in the first place so you don’t have too much leftover. Try cutting the recipe in half (or in fourths), cooking only half of the pasta and using only half of the added ingredients and dressing.
What goes with pasta salad?
Pasta salad goes with pretty much everything from steak and hamburgers to sandwiches and pizza. That’s what makes it such a great side dish. Here are a few of our favorite things to serve pasta salad with:
Looking For More Salad Recipes?
We understand because we love salads too! Here are a few of the salad recipes we make on repeat:
Italian Pasta Salad
- 12 oz tri-color rotini (or use plain rotini)
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- 1 cup chopped cauliflower
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced
- 1/2 cup diced bell peppers
- 6 oz black olives, drained
- 1 cup mini pepperoni (or chopped pepperoni)
- 1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup zesty Italian dressing
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Cook the rotini according to the instructions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water. Move to a large bowl.
- Add the broccoli, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives, mini pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. Pour the zesty Italian dressing over the salad and stir to coat.
- Top with shredded Parmesan cheese and stir.
- Cover and store in the fridge until ready to serve.