Italian Pasta Salad

Summer starts for me when the summer pasta salad cravings hit, and this Italian Pasta Salad is a great way to kick off the start of the season. It has a tangy homemade dressing and all the Italian-inspired ingredients like pepperoni, olives, mozzarella cheese, and rotini pasta.

close-up photo of pasta salad in a bowl

Because it’s almost summer, here is a go-to, must-make Italian pasta salad that shall carry us from right now all the way through Labor Day. Every season needs a quintessential dish, and I’m pretty sure this cold pasta salad is it for me. And maybe you?

Recipe Highlights

Let’s review the details:

  • For me, the make-it-or-break-it factor in pasta salad is the dressing. It has to be just right, and the homemade Italian salad dressing in this recipe nails it. It’s full of zesty flavor that doesn’t get lost with all the other ingredients.
  • Lots of add-ins! Little mini pepperoni, tangy pepperoncini, creamy fresh mozzarella, as well as diced ham, tomatoes, and sliced olives. It’s almost a meal in itself, and I would not judge if you decided to make it the main dish star instead of a side.
  • This recipe makes a big batch for all the summer things – BBQs, potlucks, block parties, summer cookouts, camping… you get the idea.
  • It’s the best make-ahead pasta salad because the flavors just get better the longer it sits. So, make it, refrigerate it, and it’s ready to go when you need it.
overhead shot of the salad.


  • Rotini pasta – this is corkscrew-shaped pasta that holds the dressing really well. It’s my fave for this recipe, but you could also use cavatappi, farfalle, or penne.
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Diced red onion
  • Minced garlic
  • Granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Italian seasoning
  • Ground black pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes – Fresh tomatoes are great, but if you’re up for it, it’s not a bad idea to make roasted grape tomatoes for this recipe. It adds a little work, but the results are worth it!
  • Fresh mozzarella – You can use a big mozzarella ball and cut it into pieces or use those mini mozzarella pearls.
  • Mini pepperoni
  • Diced ham
  • Sliced black olives
  • Sliced pepperoncini
  • Chopped fresh parsley

How to Make It

First, boil the pasta following the package directions until it’s al dente. Once it’s cooked, drain it and then spread it out on a baking sheet to cool.

photo collage of the ingredients

In a large bowl, whisk the ingredients for the Italian dressing: olive oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Once the dressing is mixed, add the rest of the ingredients and toss it all together.

You can serve this Italian pasta salad at room temperature, but it tastes even better after it’s been refrigerated. All of the flavors mix and marry together. I usually let it sit out at room temperature for a bit so it’s not ice-cold when I serve it.

Recipe Variations

Here are some ideas if you want to swap or add some ingredients to switch things up:

  • Some diced bell peppers would not be a bad idea to add a crunchy texture – I would go with a sweet red, yellow, or orange bell pepper.
  • Swap the pepperoni for salami.
  • Add some grated Parmesan cheese, Asiago, or Romano cheese just before serving.
  • Swap the fresh mozzarella for crumbled feta cheese for a Greek/Mediterranean twist.
  • Chop up some jarred artichoke hearts and toss them in.
  • Some grilled or roasted zucchini would not be a bad idea, either.
  • For a touch of heat, feel free to add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes when you mix up the dressing.

A Few More Tips

  • I like to add salt to the pasta water so the rotini soaks some of it up while it boils. It just adds a bit more flavor, but it’s optional.
  • Mixing the onions with the dressing mellows them out a bit so they aren’t as sharp and, well, too onion-y in the salad.
  • Speaking of the dressing – it’s not just for pasta, I imagine it would be a great Italian salad dressing all on its own.
  • I adapted this recipe from Pinch of Yum, and it’s very customizable! Feel free to play around with the amount of add-ins to suit your own tastes.
  • You can make it a day in advance, store it in an airtight container, and serve it the next day. The leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days.

This is the best pasta salad to kick off the season and the perfect side dish for our summertime souls. I hope you love it!

Happy Cooking,

overhead photo of italian pasta salad

More Recipes You Might Like

📣 Do you love this recipe? I would love to know! Leave a comment below the recipe, along with your recipe star rating.


Easy Italian Pasta Salad

italian pasta salad in a bowl

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

This easy Italian Pasta Salad has a tangy homemade dressing and all the Italian-style ingredients like pepperoni, ham, olives, mozzarella cheese and rotini pasta. Make it ahead and the leftovers keep well, too!

  • Author: April Anderson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Toss
  • Cuisine: American


  • 8 ounces rotini (see note)
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 finely diced red onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (see note)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces (or use the mini balls)
  • 5 ounces pepperoni (see note)
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 1 (2.25-oz) canned sliced black olives, drained
  • 1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the salt and pasta. Boil the pasta according to package instructions (should be about 10ish minutes). When it’s done, drain it and then spread it in an even layer on a sheet pan to cool while you prep the rest of the salad.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing until well combined. Add the cooked pasta and all of the other ingredients and toss it all together until everything is evenly coated in the dressing and well mixed. Garnish with extra parsley.


I usually add one tablespoon of kosher salt to the boiling water for this recipe. It gives the pasta more flavor and most of the salt drains off. It’s optional but highly recommended. Just keep in the mind the nutritional estimate does not include this extra salt as it’s difficult to determine how much is absorbed by the pasta.

For the tomatoes, you can use fresh (as listed in the ingredients) or you can also substitute 2 cups roasted grape tomatoes or 1 cup jarred sun-dried tomatoes. 

For the pepperoni, I used mini ones but if you can’t find them use the same amount of regular sliced ones but cut them into quarters.

You can make it a day in advance and keep it in the refrigerator. I like to let it sit at room temperature for a bit before serving it so it’s not ice cold.


  • Calories: 527
  • Sugar: 4.2g
  • Sodium: 1115.6mg
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Saturated Fat: 10.6g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 25.7g
  • Trans Fat: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 27.3g
  • Fiber: 2.2g
  • Protein: 19.2g
  • Cholesterol: 55.4mg

Do you love this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment and your recipe star rating!

The nutrition is an estimate only. It was calculated using Nutrifox, an online nutrition calculator.

Post updated from the archives. First published in May 2020.

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