This zesty Italian pasta salad will be the tastiest side dish to anything you’re whipping up on the grill this summer. Inspired by flavors of Italy, this Italian pasta salad will come together in 20 minutes in 2 simple steps and can also be made the day before.
This fulsome zesty Italian pasta salad is made with fresh ingredients like red bell pepper and juicy cherry tomatoes combined with canned pepperoncini peppers and artichoke hearts for some extra zestiness balanced with hearty noodles, mozzarella cheese, and salami.
Reasons you’ll love this zesty Italian pasta salad
- EASY: This recipe is easily made by cooking pasta noodles and tossing them with some other simple ingredients. That’s it!
- QUICK: This is a quick 20-minute recipe so you can spend more time with your guests and less time in the kitchen! You can also make this recipe the day before, just like our caprese pasta salad.
- VERSATILE: This zesty Italian pasta salad is the perfect side dish for weeknight dinners, summer cookouts, dinner parties, and for sharing at picnics. It also pairs great with various summertime desserts like a recipe for no bake key lime pie, peach cobbler with cake mix or an old fashioned blueberry cobbler recipe.
Ingredients you’ll need
- PASTA NOODLES: This recipe uses 454 grams/1 pound of Fusilli pasta noodles, but you can use your favorite!
- OLIVE OIL: You will need 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the cooked pasta to avoid it from sticking.
- PEPPERS: This recipe uses 1 chopped red bell pepper to give this pasta salad a good crunch. We also add about 8-10 canned pepperoncini peppers with most seeds removed for some zestiness and a little heat.
- TOMATOES: 2 cups of fresh cherry tomatoes sliced in half are added for acidity, juiciness, and freshness.
- ONION: ¼ cup of thinly sliced red onion should be used for a sweeter onion flavor.
- GARLIC: 1 fresh garlic clove is shredded to add a burst of flavor to this pasta salad.
- ARTICHOKES: Use ½ cup of canned, chopped artichoke hearts.
- OLIVES: We use 1 cup of sliced black olives, but green tastes great too.
- CHEESE: Can we really have a salad without cheese? I don’t think so! Use 1 and ½ cups of mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes.
- MEAT: Slice up about 8 pieces of salam; however, if you want this to be made vegetarian, you can omit the salami.
- DRIED HERBS: Use 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano and basil for some Italian flavors.
- SALT and PEPPER: To enhance the flavor, add 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.
- DRESSING: Use ½ a cup of a balsamic-based dressing. We use the Kraft Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, but you can also make your own balsamic vinaigrette.
Main kitchen tools that will help you
- LARGE POT: For boiling the pasta noodles.
- STRAINER/COLANDER: For straining the pasta noodles.
- KNIFE: For chopping the peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
- CUTTING BOARD: For safely chopping the ingredients.
- MICROPLANE/ZESTER: For shredding the garlic clove.
- LARGE BOWL: For tossing the zesty Italian pasta salad ingredients together.
- MEASURING SPOONS AND CUPS: For measuring and adding the ingredients.
- Cook: Boil the pasta noodles in a large pot following the instructions on the pasta package. Once boiled, drain the noodles in a strainer while rinsing them with cold water. Transfer the cooled noodles to a large bowl and mix in the olive oil.
- Combine: Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of pasta noodles until fully incorporated and it’s ready to be served.
- Control the heat. If you like spice, keep/add the seeds from the pepperoncini peppers to the pasta salad, but if you prefer less heat, you should remove most of them.
- Don’t forget the olive oil. This step is crucial for ensuring the cooked pasta noodles don’t stick together.
This may happen if the noodles don’t cook long enough or you need more salad dressing. You should cook the noodles to al dente (about a minute less than the package tells you to), and just add more dressing as needed.
You should rinse the pasta noodles with cold water while you strain them until they are cold to help keep the noodles from sticking.
It's very common to make pasta salad the day/night before as it gives the pasta salad ingredients time to marinate and enhance all the delicious flavors.
Pasta salad covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Yes, some people prefer eating pasta salad the next day because the ingredients have time to marinate, and the flavor is stronger. It’s also why some people prepare the salad the day before it's planned to be served.
- Feta Cheese: Substitute the mozzarella for a more tangy, briny flavor and crumbly texture.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Replace the cherry/grape tomatoes or add sun-dried tomatoes for a deliciously bold tangy flavor and a chewy texture.
- Roasted Garlic: Roast the garlic before adding it to the pasta salad for a creamier, sweeter, rich garlicky flavor.