Italian Pasta Salad

By Rena |

We love Pasta salads any day of the week and all day long. One of our favorite side-dish recipes that we keep on a weekly rotation. This simple and easy homemade Italian Pasta Salad is perfect for all ages and it’s so comforting and tasty. Ready in just 30 minutes.

top view pasta salad in a white dish

We love pasta if you haven’t figured that one yet. We realize that it may not be a “healthy” dish for everyone but it certainly can be enjoyed in moderation or when you just need to serve it to the family or your guests as an appetizer. Plus you can still make this pasta salad healthy by using a healthier pasta of your choice. This Italian Pasta Salad is packed with flavor and filling and is very easy to make with a homemade Italian Dressing. For some added protein we added some mozzarella balls, but if you like you can add some chopped-up chicken breast into it. The more the merrier. Serve this vegetarian Pasta Salad as a meal or as an appetizer. Quick, simple, easy, and ready in 30 minutes.

Why this pasta salad will become your favorite

  • Packed with flavor: This Italian Pasta Salad is loaded with bold flavors and it’s so delicious. You will love it. We promise.
  • Easy and quick: Simple, easy, and quick recipe to put together that can be ready in just 30 minutes. You can even have it ready in 20 minutes as you boil your pasta. Easy Peasy.
  • Kid-approved and Family-friendly: The kids and your guests will love this Cold Italian Pasta salad recipe. They are perfect to serve guests or take to potlucks.
close up top view of Italian Pasta Salad on a white dish

Ingredients you will need for this cold pasta salad

For the dressing

  • Olive oil: or you may use avocado oil.
  • Fresh lemon juice: we do recommend that you use fresh lemon juice and not the bottled version.
  • Honey: This balances out the acidity and adds a nice touch.
  • Dijon Mustard: you may use honey dijon if you have that instead.
  • Minced garlic: Use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder.
  • Seasonings: Italian seasonings, dried oregano, salt, and black pepper

For the salad

  • Dry rotini pasta: or any pasta of your choice. if you need to use gluten-free you can do that.
  • Grape tomatoes: the smaller grape or cherry tomatoes work best for this pasta salad, Do not try to use the larger tomatoes unless you really have to.
  • Mozzarella pearls: this adds in a bit of protein and pairs well with the salad, but it can be optional.
  • Bell peppers: we used orange, but any other color will do just fine.
  • Cucumber: use whatever you have on hand. we used English cucumbers.
  • Red onions: these are perfect for salads, but if you have sweet white onions instead you can definitely improvise.
  • Black Olives: we used canned, but do use what you have on hand or your favorite kind.
  • Grated parmesan cheese: grate your own, or use store-bought. For a vegan option, use dairy-free parmesan cheese that is vegan-friendly.
  • Fresh Parsley and Basil.
ingredients to make Italian Pasta Salad

How to make this Italian Pasta Salad From scratch

  • In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the dressing; olive oil, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, garlic, Italian seasonings, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix it with a fork until well incorporated and set aside.

  • Cook the rotini pasta according to package instructions minus 1 minute. Drain the pasta water and set it aside.

cooked pasta on a bowl
  • In a large bowl combine the ingredients for the salad; cooked pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, olives, parmesan cheese, and parsley.

  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss them until well coated.
  • Garnish the salad with basil and transfer the salad to a bowl to serve.
close up italian pasta salad

frequently asked questions

What do you eat pasta salads with?

Pasta salads are considered a side dish or sometimes served as an appetizer. It can be served with many different types of main dishes like sandwiches, burgers, grilled chicken, chicken drumsticks, chicken strips, and so on.

Can Pasta salads be made the day before?

Absolutely. In fact, it is a great make-ahead dish that can be prepared in advance and enjoyed throughout the week. You can mix in the dressing and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Pasta salads taste even better the next day. If you like your tomatoes to stay crunchy though you may chop and add them in when ready to serve.

Do you rinse pasta when making pasta salad?

Yes. You should definitely rinse your pasta if you are making a pasta salad. There are two reasons for this. The first being is that rinsing the pasta with cold water will stop the pasta from cooking further even after you have drained it. Also, it will prevent you from having sticky and mushy pasta salads after you rinse off the starchy liquid on the pasta. You also need to have pasta to be cold to make pasta salads.

How do you keep pasta salad from absorbing dressing?

If you find that your pasta salads tend to be a bit on the dry side because they absorb all the dressing, then you can add a bit of olive or avocado oil to your pasta and then toss it together before adding the dressing. This will help prevent the pasta from absorbing the dressing to an extent where it feels a bit dry.

top view italian pasta salad in a plate

More pasta salad recipes

pasta salad in a round white plate

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top view pasta salad in a white dish

Italian Pasta Salad

Simple Italian pasta salad made with homemade Italian dressing and only takes 30 minutes to make.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Diet: Low Fat
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 573kcal
Author: Rena

Ingredients

For the dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper

For the salad

  • 8 oz dry rotini pasta
  • 8 oz grape tomatoes halved
  • cup mozzarella pearls
  • 1 medium orange bell pepper chopped
  • ½ cup English cucumber sliced
  • ½ medium red onion chopped
  • cup black olives sliced
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
  • Basil to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • To a small bowl combine the ingredients for the dressing; olive oil, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, garlic, Italian seasonings, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix it with a fork until well incorporated and set aside.
  • Cook the rotini pasta according to package instructions minus 1 minute. Drain the pasta water and set it aside.
  • To a large bowl combine the ingredients for the salad; cooked pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, bell peppers, cucumber, onion, olives, parmesan cheese, and parsley.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss them until well coated.
  • Garnish the salad with basil and transfer the salad to a bowl to serve.

Notes

  • Use any pasta of choice. There are many healthier options now like chickpea or lentil pasta.
  • We recommend that you make our homemade Italian dressing, but if you prefer using your favorite Store-bought version go right ahead.
  • The Mozzarella balls add some protein to this dish, but you can cut down on the calories if you like by omitting this ingredient.
  • To make this pasta salad vegan-friendly, do skip the mozzarella and use a dairy-free parmesan cheese than vegan-friendly. 
  • Do not overcook the pasta. Once it is cooked, immediately drain the pasta and rinse it with cold water to prevent it from cooking further. An ice bath won’t hurt since it’s best served cold anyways.
  • If you do not have olive oil, use avocado oil.

Nutrition

Calories: 573kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 612mg | Potassium: 426mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1704IU | Vitamin C: 53mg | Calcium: 168mg | Iron: 2mg
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