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Classic Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Prepare to be the most popular person at the potluck – this Classic Italian Pasta Salad will have everyone asking for the recipe! It’s a healthy and refreshing side dish that feels like comfort food.

Looking for more pasta salad dishes? Try out my Greek Tortellini Salad, Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad and Roasted Tomato Caprese Pasta Salad.

Easy Pasta Salad With Salami and Cucumber

A dazzling dish doesn’t have to require a ton of effort. Turns out, all you need are some fresh vegetables, your favorite pasta noodles and a quick-fix vinaigrette dressing! You won’t be able to put down your fork when a bowl of this pasta salad is on your placemat.

In addition to the veggies, pasta and dressing, it features salami and mozzarella for a boost of protein as well as fresh herbs to bring home that classic Italian flavor. It’s traditionally served as a side dish or an appetizer, but you could totally divvy it up into larger portions and make it a main course. This big-batch recipe is great for that!

Since potluck season is upon us and pasta salad is a must-have, this version serves up to 16 people. You can halve or quarter it if you’d like fewer portions, but there’s honestly no need – you’ll feel lucky to have all those leftovers! They stay fresh in the fridge for days.

Mozzarella pearls, halved olives, chopped salami and the rest of the ingredients on a kitchen countertop

What You’ll Need

This pasta salad stays true to its Italian roots, starting with the ingredients. Scroll down to the recipe card for the amounts associated with each item.

For the Pasta Salad

  • Gluten-Free Rotini Pasta: Or another short, textured noodle of your choice such as penne, fusilli, cellentani or even farfalle (bow-tie pasta).
  • Salami: Cut into small cubes.
  • Cucumber: Sliced into half-moon shapes.
  • Halved Cherry Tomatoes
  • Halved Black Olives
  • Sliced Red Onion
  • Fresh Mozzarella Pearls: You could use pre-shredded cheese instead, but the pearls are fresher and more authentic. Dicing up a ball of fresh mozzarella is also an option.
  • Sliced Pepperoncini: Also known as Tuscan Peppers, these aren’t very spicy at all. They add a sweet and peppery element to the salad.
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • Fresh Basil: Chiffonade, or sliced into thin strips.

For the Italian Dressing

  • Garlic Cloves: Freshly minced.
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt: Added to taste.
  • Olive Oil
A large white serving bowl full of Italian pasta salad

How to Make Italian Pasta Salad

This classic side dish comes together in a flash, especially if you use pre-cooked pasta. If you cook the pasta on the spot, just remember to let it cool off a bit before you combine it with the other ingredients.

Make the Dressing

Combine Garlic, Mustard, Vinegar & Salt: Add the minced garlic, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and salt to a medium-sized bowl. Whisk it all together.

Whisk In Olive Oil: Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking the entire time, until the dressing is emulsified (fully blended). Set the vinaigrette aside.

Assemble the Salad

Cook Pasta: Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions. Drain it and pour it into a large bowl. Allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes.

A large bowl filled with rotini pasta cooked to al dente

Add Remaining Ingredients: Once the pasta has cooled off a bit, add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl.

Various vegetables in a bowl with fresh herbs, mozzarella cheese, pasta and salami

Add Dressing & Toss: Pour the prepared dressing over the salad and gently toss all the ingredients together using two wooden spoons.

Enjoy! Serve the pasta salad immediately or store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy it.

One big bowl of Italian pasta salad placed on top of a marble surface

Can I Make It Ahead of Time?

Using pre-cooked pasta isn’t the only way to get a head start on this Italian salad. The dressing can also be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated in a separate airtight container from the pasta. Feel free to cut up the veggies, herbs and salami ahead of time as well, keeping them refrigerated in a third airtight container. That way, all you have to do is combine everything and serve!

Tips for Success

Want a few helpful tips to hone your salad-making skills? I admire the dedication!

  • Stick With Fresh Ingredients: Apart from the pepperoncini, which is pickled, all of your salad veggies should be nice and fresh. The same goes for the cheese and herbs as well as the garlic in the dressing. Trust me, your salad will be better for it.
  • Don’t Overcook the Noodles: Every authentic Italian recipe with pasta calls for the noodles to be cooked al dente. In other words, they should be cooked through but firm when you bite into them. This is especially important if you expect to have leftovers, as the pasta will soften up while it sits.
  • Serve Immediately: If you’re not serving this salad right away, be sure to store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it. I recommend keeping it in a cooler if you’re bringing it to a potluck to ensure maximum freshness.
Homemade pasta salad being mixed by a wooden spoon

Variation Ideas

Italian pasta salad can be taken in plenty of different directions. Here are some simple ways to switch it up:

  • Use Honey Mustard Vinaigrette as Your Dressing
  • Swap Out the Mozzarella for Feta or Provolone
  • Use Kalamata Olives Instead of Black Olives
  • Substitute the Salami for Pepperoni
  • Use Different Herbs
  • Replace the Pepperoncini With Diced Bell Pepper

What Does Pasta Salad Go With?

Whether you’re enjoying this pasta salad as part of a casual family dinner or whipping it up for a fancy event, it’s easy to pair with other dishes. Take your pick!

  • Eggplant Parmesan: Let’s start with a classic main course that matches the cuisine of this salad – Eggplant Parmesan. Each saucy, cheesy bite will leave you mesmerized!
  • Caprese Sandwiches: In the mood for a quick backyard grilling sesh? These Avocado Caprese Chicken Sandwiches are another Italian-style entree that tastes great alongside this pasta salad.
  • Baked Green Bean Fries: If you’re enjoying your salad as a main dish, I suggest pairing it with a crunchy or crispy side like Baked Green Bean Fries. That variation in texture hits all the right notes!
  • Summer BBQ Main Dishes: When I think of this Italian Pasta Salad I think of all those summer BBQ’s. Some of our favorite main dishes to serve with this salad are BBQ Baby Back Ribs, the ultimate Classic Turkey Burger, the Best Marinated Chicken Breast.
An overhead shot of pasta salad in a large bowl with a metal fork inside

How to Store Leftovers

I’m going to let you in on a little secret – Italian pasta salad is even tastier after it sits in the fridge for a while. This is because the dressing infuses the salad with flavor while the dish is resting. Just make sure you don’t leave it out at room temperature.

Instead, refrigerate your pasta salad in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days.

Can I Freeze This?

The only component of this salad that does well in the freezer is the pasta. The thawing process would ruin the dressing and make the veggies mushy.

To freeze cooked pasta, let it cool completely and transfer it to an airtight container. Freeze it for up to 4 months, thawing it out in the fridge before you use it in your salad.

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A close-up shot of a bowl of pasta salad with a wooden spoon inside

Classic Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

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  • Author: Krista
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 15 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Prepare to be the most popular person at the potluck – this Classic Italian Pasta Salad will have everyone asking for the recipe! It’s a healthy and refreshing side dish that feels like comfort food.



For the Pasta Salad

  • 1 lb. gluten free rotini pasta
  • 8 oz. salami, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup sliced cucumber, half moon shapes
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup black olives, halved
  • 1/2 sliced red onion
  • 8 oz. pearl mozzarella balls
  • 1/3 cup sliced pepperoncini
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

For the Italian Dressing

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste


Make the Dressing

  1. To a medium bowl add garlic cloves, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and salt. Whisk together. Slowly pour in olive oil whisking the entire time until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.

Assemble the Salad

  1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the pasta to cool slightly.
  2. Once pasta is cooled add salami, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, black olives, red onion, mozzarella balls, pepperoncini, parsley and basil. 
  3. Pour the prepared dressing over top and gently toss all the ingredients together using two wooden spoons. 
  4. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


  • Makes 14-16 servings.
  • To Store: Refrigerate pasta salad in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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