Classic Italian Pasta Salad is made with organic tri-color rotini, packed with tons of vegetables, cheeses, meats, and coated in a homemade vinaigrette. It’s The perfect recipe to feed a crowd for picnics, potlucks, office parties, and family gatherings.
Growing up in an American-Italian family, my mom used to make one of my favorite side dishes pretty frequently, A classic Italian Pasta Salad that was out of this world delicious and filled with flavorful Italian ingredients that added layers upon layers of amazing textures and flavors.
One of the great things about this Classic Italian Pasta Salad is the staying power. It seems to get better tasting after sitting a little bit. Be sure to cook the pasta noodles al dente so that they hold up in the refrigerator without becoming squishy. There is nothing worse than a squishy Italian Pasta Salad in my book.
To cook the noodles to a proper al dente state, follow the package instructions to a T and remove the noodles immediately. You will want to rinse the noodles in cold water to stop the cooking process and remove excess starches. This is the only time I recommend rinsing pasta is for a cold pasta salad.
I made a smaller version of Classic Pasta Salad this time, as it’s just our family that will be eating the salad. However, I usually double this recipe for a crowd. You can easily double the recipe if needed by configuring the numbers to equal the amount you need at the time.
Ingredients needed for Classic Italian Pasta Salad
One-12-ounce box organic tri-color Pasta
Four ounces of capicola ham, diced
Three ounces of thin-sliced deli pepperoni, sliced
Six ounces of organic grape tomatoes halved (1/2 of a pint)
2/3 cup of black olives, drained
2/3 cup diced zucchini or cucumbers
1/2 cup red onion diced finely
Three mini sweet bell peppers, red or yellow, sliced thinly
Four ounces fresh Mozzarella Pearls or four ounces cubed
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
Ingredients needed for dressing
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
One tablespoon honey or sugar, optional
One tablespoon minced garlic
One tablespoon dried minced onion
One tablespoon Italian herbs
One Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt, to taste optional
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Frequently Asked Questions about Italian Pasta Salad
What is the best type of noodles to use in a pasta salad? The best pasta shapes to use are ones with plenty of nooks and crannies such as fusilli, farfalle, rotini, or penne pasta. They seem to hold up well in Pasta Salad. Be sure to cook them al dente.
How far in advance can I make the Classic Italian Pasta Sauce? I would not make it more than a day in advance. I usually like to make my pasta salad the night before. It’s the perfect amount of time to soak up some of the dressing and flavor everything. Making it more than a day before will usually result in a soggy pasta salad.
I do not have time to make the homemade dressing what can I use in place of it in my pasta salad? If in a pinch of the time, I would recommend using a quality Italian, Mediterranean, or Greek dressing in place of the homemade dressing recipe.
Can I make this Italian Pasta Salad and serve it immediately? I recommend you chill the pasta salad about 1-3 hours before serving so that it has had a chance to soak up the flavor of the dressing.
Can I use vegetable oil in place of the olive oil in the dressing? I do not recommend using anything but a quality brand of extra-virgin olive oil in the dressing.
How can I make this into a vegetarian pasta salad? This is very simple do not add the cheeses or meats recommended in the recipe and substitute them with vegan-friendly ingredients.
Suggestions for substitutions for listed ingredients
Meats that can be used: Salami, Prosciutto, Salsiccia, Finocchiona, Pancetta. Capocollo, Lardo, Soppressata.
Cheese that can be used: Provolone, Gorgonzola, Asiago, Fontina, Pecorino, and Parmesan cheese
Vegetables that can be used: Roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower, green onions, mild pepper rings, hot pepper rings, green olives, greek olives, cucumbers, Garbanzo beans, and cannellini beans.
Classic Italian Pasta Salad
- 1-12- ounce Tri-colored pasta cooked al dente
- 4 ounces Capicola Ham diced
- 3 ounces Pepperoni sliced thin
- 6 ounces Grape tomatoes halved
- ⅔ cup Black olives drained
- ⅔ cup Zucchini diced
- ½ cup Red onion diced
- 3 mini Sweet peppers sliced into rings
- 4 ounces Fresh Mozzarella Pearls or diced fresh mozzarella
- ½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese freshly grated
- ½ cup Extra-virgin olive oil organic
- ½ cup White wine vinegar do not use plain white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon Honey or sugar optional
- 1 tablespoon Garlic about 2 cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
- `1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
- 1 pinch Crushed Red Pepper flakes
- Kosher salt to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon White pepper or black
- Combine all the ingredients listed for the Vinaigrette dressing and blend or shake in a jar to combine the ingredients.
- Place a salted pot of water on the stove burner set to high to boil. Use the package instructions for al dente pasta, Drain pasta, and rinse with cold water. Coat lightly with a little extra-virgin olive oil and then lightly toss to prevent sticking.
- Prepare the veggies and meats by slicing, chopping, dicing, and mincing. Combine pasta, veggies, and meats in a large bowl. Add ¾ of the Vinaigrette Dressing and lightly toss the pasta salad again. Reserve ¼ of the Vinaigrette Dressing.
- Chill for about 1 hour to 24 hours before serving. Remove from refrigerator and add the remaining ¼ of Vinaigrette Dressing before serving.