This quick and easy classic Italian Pasta Salad is the perfect side to share. Pasta is tossed with Italian dressing, crunchy vegetables and yummy Italian flavors for this delicious dish. This is the perfect make ahead dish when you pan to fire up the grill for dinner, or have the leftovers for an delicious lunch.
Delicious Pasta Salad For a BBQ Or Potluck
To be honest, 2020 is a little weird, but normally when the world hasn’t turned upside down this pasta salad is perfect for a potluck or party. It’s also a great side to make ahead for a summer BBQ or party.
If you’re not sharing much food this year though (me neither right now) it is still a great recipe to make because you end up with glorious leftovers perfect for lunch or just to sit on the dinner table again a second night!
In the summer I like make-ahead recipes that I can then have dinner done. It frees me up to spend more time outside, with my family, or just to chill when we BBQ.
Ingredients- Flavorful, Colorful and Crunch!
The trick to making this Italian pasta salad delicious is having ingredients that are packed full of flavor, have lots of color and a few that have a little crunch. Here’s what I include for ingredients in this pasta salad
- Broccoli– Cut this into small pieces, broccoli adds crunch!
- Bell Pepper– I tend to red, yellow or orange as they are sweeter and then green pepper bell pepper. This add crunch too!
- English Cucumber– English cucumbers are my favorite for their mild skins, but any fresh cucumbers work. If your cucumber skins are super dark consider peeling.
- Red or Sweet Onion– Crunch and flavor, if your family isn’t a huge fan on onion, you can reduce this a little.
- Cherry Tomatoes- grape tomatoes also work, other tomatoes diced can work too.
- Black olives– These add saltiness to the mix
- Mozzarella cheese– Add cheese and more Italian flavor!
- Pepperoni pieces or salami– slice these small, they add great flavor and it doesn’t take tons
- Fresh parsley- Fresh parsley just gives it a summery taste, but you can use dried if you need to
- Salt and pepper to taste
What To Serve With Pasta Salad
I like these kinds of meals in the summer, I can make the cold pasta salad ahead and when it’s time to hang out we can just throw something on the grill, slice some watermelon and you have dinner! Here are a few proteins I like to pair with this pasta salad.
- Grilled or BBQ Chicken
- Chicken Skewers
- Pulled Pork (my crockpot pork loin makes a mean pulled pork!)
- Grilled Shrimp
- Turkey Burgers
Here’s a few other sides I like to serve with this pasta salad, and some of the proteins above!
- Watermelon or cantaloupe
- Grilled Corn
- Grilled Zucchini
- Roasted Asparagus
- Deviled Eggs– Mine are a no mayo version!
- Baked Beans
- Fresh veggies and hummus (get hummus dipping ideas here!)
How Long Do I Need To Chill This Easy Italian Pasta Salad?
I prefer to chill this pasta salad overnight, as the flavors get even better the next day. This recipe can be made and served right away though, but it shines even more if you make it ahead and the flavors have time to meld together.
Can I Just Use Italian Seasoning In This Pasta Salad?
You can swap 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning for the garlic, oregano, and parsley in this recipe and it will be delicious.
Depending on if your Italian seasoning has salt, I’d make sure to taste before you add additional salt. When you’re making the dressing you do want it to be slightly salty then normal because the salt will be spread over and pound of pasta plus all of the raw vegetables.
Do I Have To Make The Italian Salad Dressing Homemade?
You can use your favorite bottle of Italian dressing in place of the homemade dressing if you prefer.
A homemade dressing usually has a little more flavor to it, but if you are pinched for time a bottle of dressing totally works too. Other vinegarette based dressings can also work too.
How Do I Keep The Onion From Tasting So Sharp?
While I usually make this pasta salad with red onion for a crowd, at home I made it with sweet onion. Sweet onion has a little less bite to it then red onion does. This also helps my kid, who can be a picky eater, a lot.
Soaking your red onion in ice water for about ten minutes (then dry it well!) can help to take the bite out of red onion. Also chilling the salad overnight and allowing the flavors to meld together also helps the red onion to have less sharpness to it.
What Are Some Easy Ingredient Swaps I Can Make In This Italian Pasta Salad?
This recipe is super easily adapted, here are a few ideas I’ve done to make swaps to this Italian Pasta Salad Recipe! If their is an ingredient your family really doesn’t like in the salad, you can also easily leave it out.
- Fresh mozzarella cheese balls – marinated or plain
- Cubed mozzarella chunks
- Shredded provolone
- Parmesan cheese- I like to finish the salad with this, I put it on just before serving
- Feta cheese
- Mini pepperoni
- Sliced salami
- Spicy salami – Feeling dangerous!
- Diced sundried tomatoes
- Kalamata olives
- Fresh or marinated mushrooms
- Other colors of bell pepper
- Zucchini or other summer squash that has been diced
You can use all the different shapes and colors of pasta in this salad, but a chunkier pasta that will hold up to the dressing works best. Pastas like spaghetti and angel hair that are long skinny strands don’t tend to hold their own as well with the dressing.
If you choose to use an alternative pasta like lentil pasta or chick pea pasta I recommend eating the salad within the same day as the pasta sometimes begins to fall apart. Here are some of my favorite pastas for pasta salad
- Rotini- love the tri-colored versions!
- Mini shells
- Cheese Tortellini- I prefer tricolor when I can get it!
Italian Pasta Salad
For The Pasta Salad
- 1 box 16 oz rotini - tricolor or original
- 1 small head about 1 cup broccoli, cleaned and cut into small pieces
- 1 bell pepper or 1 cup multi-color peppers diced
- 1 cup English cucumber sliced thinly and quartered
- ½ cup red or sweet onion finely diced
- 1 8 oz Cherry Tomatoes, washed and cut in half
- 1 8 oz can black olives, drained and sliced
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese diced
- 1 cup pepperoni pieces or salami cut or (1-5 oz. mini pepperoni)
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley plus a little for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
For The Dressing
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon parsely
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspon salt or to taste
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For The Pasta Salad
- In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta in the water according to the directions on the box for al dente, or the minimum cooking time. You want your pasta to be cooked, but still have a little bite. Place in a colander to drain, and quickly rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Let the pasta drain as much as possible.
- Prep your vegetables by dicing and chopping your broccoli, bell pepper, cucumber, onion (optional) and cherry tomatoes into bite-sized pieces.
- Drain your olives and slice into bite-sized pieces.
- Slice pepperoni and cheese if needed into bite-sized pieces.
For The Dressing
- In a medium-sized bowl combine garlic powder, oregano, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper together and mix well.
- Next to the spices add oil, vinegar and lemon juice. With a whisk quickly whip together all the dressing ingredients until combined.
Finishing The Salad
- In a large serving bowl combine pasta, all vegetables, meat, cheese and dressing. Mix well. Chill well!
- Garnish with fresh chopped basil, parsley and a little parmesan just before serving if desired!
- I prefer to chill this pasta salad overnight, as the flavors get even better the next day! This can be made and served right away though, but it shines even more if you make it ahead!
- You can swap 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning for the garlic, oregano, and parsley.
- You can use your favorite bottle of Italian dressing in place of the homemade dressing if you prefer.
- While I usually make this pasta salad with red onion for a crowd, at home I made it with sweet onion. Sweet onion has a little less bite to it than red onion does.
- This recipe is super easily adaptable. Some ideas of things you can swap in and out include- marinated cheese, cubed mozzarella or provolone, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, fresh or marinated mushrooms, other colors of bell pepper, and zucchini cut into bite-sized pieces.
Did you make this Italian Pasta Salad? Make sure to give it a star rating and if you have any questions or just want to tell us about the swaps you made share below in the comments section.
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