This delicious Italian Pasta Salad Recipe is packed with veggies and fresh herbs and then topped with an incredible homemade dressing. It is a staple pasta salad in our home- perfect for a simple weeknight meal or crowd-pleasing potluck offering.
Why We Love This Italian Pasta Salad
One thing I have learned over my many years of feeding people is that there are a handful of dishes that are always guaranteed to be a hit with the masses. And rarely are they of the fancy or time-consuming variety. Simple and flavorful wins out almost every time. This Italian Pasta Salad just happens to be one of those recipes. It comes together quickly, is packed with fresh veggies and creamy cheeses, and the whole thing is tossed in an easy but insanely delicious homemade dressing that might just become a staple in your home.
Another bonus? It stores well in the fridge, making it a great make-ahead meal. And the flavor actually improves as it chills. This means you can make it early and show up glowing while you fend off compliments and recipe requests. Yes, it is that good.
Ingredients for Italian Pasta Salad
- Pasta– We used penne, but rotini, farfalle, fusilli, or cavatelli work great too.
- Red Onion– Red onions are slightly milder than yellow onions and add lovely color to this pasta salad.
- Artichoke Hearts– We used jarred marinated artichoke hearts for extra flavor.
- Zucchini– We used raw zucchini. It absorbs the flavors and holds up well when storing.
- Tomatoes– We use cherry tomatoes because they have a lovely sweet flavor and you can just slice them in half and toss them in the salad. If using larger tomatoes, make sure to remove the seeds before dicing and adding to the salad.
- Fresh Basil– Basil adds such a fresh, wonderful flavor to this pasta salad. If you can’t get your hands on it, add some fresh spinach.
- Black Olives– Sliced or halved.
- Mozzarella Balls– If you can find them, mozzarella pearls work great here! Otherwise, halved fresh mozzarella balls work. That’s what we did here.
- Olive Oil– Extra virgin olive oil is great here, but avocado oil works great too.
- Red Wine Vinegar– In a pinch, we’ve used white wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is also delicious and gives the dressing a different flavor profile.
- Grated Parmesan– While we love fresh parmesan, the canned grated stuff is perfect in this dressing.
- Garlic– Fresh garlic is best, but garlic powder also works.
- Italian Seasoning– If you don’t have italian seasoning, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each of basil and thyme.
- Salt & Pepper– To season.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain and rinse in cold water.
- Slice and dice all your veggies and toss them in a large bowl with the cooked pasta.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, or use a small shaker bottle or jar.
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately or allow to chill for several hours before serving.
Tips & Suggestions
How far in advance can I make Italian Pasta Salad?
This salad will last up to 4 days in the fridge. However, I find that the best time to make it is 6-8 hours before serving.
How much dressing should I use for Italian Pasta Salad?
Our recipe makes just the right amount of dressing for this salad. If you are substituting a store-bought dressing, you will need about 3/4 cup.
What are the best vegetables to use in pasta salad?
One of our favorite things about pasta salad is how customizable it is! It’s a great way to use up all those extra veggies in the fridge. Some of our favorites are broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, bell peppers, asparagus, peas, and kale.
What is the best protein to use in pasta salad?
If you are looking for a heartier pasta salad, adding grilled chicken, pepperoni, salami, or diced ham. Or a combination of them all!
What can I do if my pasta salad is dry?
If you are making this salad ahead of time, the pasta will absorb most of the dressing and it can seem dry. Simply add a bit more dressing and toss to combine.
More Potluck-Friendly Recipes:
- Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad
- Broccoli Salad
- Texas Caviar
- Mexican Pinwheels
- Baked Zucchini Casserole
Italian Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta as directed on package.
- Slice red onion, quarter artichoke hearts, slice cherry tomatoes in half and dice zucchini. Roll basil leaves together and thinly slice.
- In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together.
- Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. You can serve right away, but letting the flavors marinate in the fridge for a few hours first makes this pasta salad so much better! Add fresh parmesan to the salad before serving.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie