Best Italian Pasta Salad {With Quick Homemade Italian Dressing}

This classic Italian pasta salad is delicious and so easy to make! Loaded with crunchy veggies, fresh mozzarella, tender pasta and salami, it’s always a popular side dish!

Simple Italian Pasta Salad

Simple as simple gets, this Italian Pasta Salad is one of my favorite pasta salads ever.

I’m a sucker for just about everything that crowds this bowl of goodness.

Tender pasta and fresh mozzarella (those little balls of fresh mozz napping in herbaceous oil are my undoing).

Fresh tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers.

Spicy salami and a super-dee-duper homemade Italian dressing that will make your head spin with yumminess.

Simple Italian Pasta Salad

That dressing is really what makes this Italian Pasta Salad spectacular (ok, those aforementioned mozzarella balls help a little, too).

You can whisk all the simple dressing ingredients together, shake in a jar, or give a quick whirl in a blender.

The dressing’s original roots are from the eCookbook I published last year (in order to benefit the women I met during my trip to Ghana). The recipe in the eCookbook has the dressing bathing a bowl filled with lettuce and various add-ins.

But it makes a delicious accompaniment to pasta salad – a happy discovery I made shortly after publishing that eCookbook.

Italian Pasta Salad!

This salad as a whole is so versatile and delicious. You can change up many of the ingredients to suit your taste.

Just don’t mess with that dressing, ok? It’s quite essential if you want taste bud-blowing deliciousness in a pasta salad.

Simple Italian Pasta Salad

I feel like now that we are nearing the end of May and the weather is warming up a bit, it’s just a matter of time before we are all scouring our Pinterest boards and fave blogs to figure out what salad to bring to the next BBQ or potluck.

This Italian Pasta Salad is a shoo-in.

It’s a crowd pleaser.

It’s crazy simple.

It’s fantastically delicious.

Simple Italian Pasta Salad

I used whole wheat pasta (pulled from my Thrive stash). You could use regular pasta, gluten-free pasta, or a different variety (fusilli? rotini?).

I used black olives. You could use kalamata. 

I used cherry tomatoes. You could use Roma tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, or enormous tomatoes from your garden.

I used fresh basil. You could use fresh parsley (or even experiment with dried herbs). 

I used salami (super excited about this uncured, no-nitrate Gallo salami I found at my local grocery store). You could use pepperoni or ham. 

I mean, honestly, this Italian Pasta Salad is so refreshingly tasty and easy-going (read: versatile), you really can’t mess it up.

Simple Italian Pasta Salad

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Three Years Ago: No-Bake Dark Chocolate Granola Bites

Italian Pasta Salad

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Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 12 ounces whole wheat or regular penne pasta, cooked until al dente (see note)
  • 6-ounce can of large olives, drained and sliced in half
  • 1-2 cups chopped cucumber
  • 2 cups sliced or chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 4-6 ounces sliced or chopped salami or pepperoni, about 1 cup
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella balls, cut in half (see note for options)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red or green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine or white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Parm-reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. For the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, jar or blender, and whisk, shake or process until combined (use a blender if you want the cheese in smaller pieces).
  3. Pour half of the dressing over the salad. Toss.
  4. Add more dressing, if desired (if the salad is going to be refrigerated for several hours before serving, reserve some of the dressing to toss with the salad right before serving).

Notes:

I like to cook the pasta until tender, drain, and then rinse briefly with cool water to stop the cooking and prevent sticking (drain well!). I use the pasta almost immediately (versus letting it sit in the colander for a long time before using), tossing it with the other ingredients to keep it from clumping together.

For the mozzarella, I prefer to use the little fresh mozzarella balls packed in the herb liquid/oil, but you could use vacuum sealed fresh mozzarella balls, a loaf of fresh mozzarella that you slice on your own (some come pre-sliced), and you could also opt for cubes of part-skim mozzarella (not fresh). Basically, I think the cheese could be varied so you don’t have to traipse all over town finding one specific kind. Even sliced provolone would be yummy.

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Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (dressing adapted slightly from my eCookbook)