This Italian Pasta Salad is zesty, flavorful and feeds a crowd! Simple to make, it’s the perfect picnic or potluck dish.
This Italian Pasta Salad just screams summertime to me. The hearty salad is ideal for a backyard barbecue, church potluck or family reunion. It’s so easy to make and really simple to double or triple depending on how many mouths you’re feeding. Zesty Italian dressing pairs perfectly with tender pasta, crisp veggies, chunks of cheese and pepperoni. It makes a delicious meal all on its own or as a side to burgers and hot dogs.
I will add that as the granddaughter of Italian immigrants, there is not a whole lot that makes this recipe Italian. That being said, I know it is the name that most people would recognize this dish by.
Ingredients for Easy Italian Pasta Salad
The beauty of most pasta salads is how versatile they are! You can really just toss in any ingredients you have on hand. But here’s where I like to start with this recipe:
- Tri-colored corkscrew pasta (you can use any kind of pasta you like, but I enjoy all the pretty colors in this dish)
- Red and yellow bell peppers
- Grape tomatoes
- Pepperoni (I like the small round variety)
- Chunks of mozzarella cheese
- Sliced black olives
- Pepper rings
- Italian Dressing
The Perfect Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
There are so many things I love about this cold pasta salad with Italian dressing.
- It comes together very fast. By the time you are done boiling your water and cooking your noodles, you will have everything chopped and ready to throw together. Then it is just a matter of tossing it with your favorite Italian dressing.
- It can be made ahead! What does every BBQ and family function need? A recipe that can be prepped ahead of time! Cook the noodles and chop the veggies the night before and then toss it all right before serving. See my tip below about prepping ahead of time!
- It’s super flexible! If your family doesn’t like olives (I suppose we can still be friends), take them out and swap in some green onions. If you want something with a little more kick, get a Pepper Jack cheese instead of Mozzarella. Don’t really dig on peppers? Throw in some carrots instead. Seriously, there is so much you can do with this pasta salad recipe.
Tips for the Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- As soon as your noodles are done cooking (you want them to be firm but not mushy, so I always follow the time suggested on the box), drain them and rinse them with cold water. This will stop the cooking process and keep them from sticking together. Plus, this pasta salad is served cold, so you don’t really need them warm.
- Prepping this ahead of time? Want to know a neat trick? Keep the individual ingredients in separate plastic baggies. That way your olives and your red peppers won’t stain your gorgeous blocks of cheese and white noodles.
- Don’t use the full bottle of Italian dressing when you are tossing this salad. The recipe calls for 16 ounces so you know how much to buy, but it is best to just pour about half the bottle, toss the salad and put the rest on the side so people can add more if they like.
More Perfect Picnic Recipes
If you are hosting a family gathering or picnic, you will love these other great recipes on your menu!
- Everyone loves my Strawberry Spinach Salad!
- If you are looking for something lighter, make my Healthy Potato Salad.
- This Three Bean Salad is perfect for being outside in the sun.
You will love this cold Italian Pasta Salad and your guests will too! I would love to hear your feedback on this and any other recipe, so please take a minute to leave me a comment. Happy cooking!
Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- 1 pound tri colored pasta cooked and drained (note one)
- 1 orange bell pepper diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 2 cups grape tomatoes sliced in half
- 3 ounces sliced pepperoni quartered
- 6 ounces sliced black olives
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese cubed
- 1/2 cup sliced pepper rings optional (found near the pickles)
- 16 ounces Italian salad dressing (see note two)
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions, rinsing with cold water when done.
- While the pasta is cooking, dice the peppers, slice the grape tomatoes, quarter the pepperoni, and cube the cheese.
- Mix together all of the ingredients except for the salad dressing. Add approximately 1 cup of the salad dressing to the pasta salad, reserving the rest on the side for guests to add to their portion if they would like more.
- Serve cold. See notes in the post for how to make this ahead of time.
2. When mixing this salad, only use about half of the dressing, leaving the rest on the side for guests to add to their serving if they wish.