This pasta salad recipe is bursting with flavor! It’s easy to mix up with veggies, herbs, and a tangy Italian dressing.

Pasta Salad

Here’s a recipe that hits the spot in any season, but especially summer: this easy Pasta Salad! This one’s got all the classic elements: chewy mozzarella balls, crunchy veggies, fresh herbs, salty olives and tangy pops of pepperoncini. Cover it all in a tangy Italian-style dressing, and it’s a delightful mix of textures, flavors and colors. It’s ideal for a summer potluck or cookout, and saves well for lunches throughout the week. Consider this your go-to!

Ingredients in pasta salad

There are hundreds of ways to make a pasta salad. This one is our classic spin, using Italian-style ingredients to make a Mediterranean-inspired mix. While pasta itself is Italian, the concept of pasta salad is an American invention. One of the first mentions in print is a macaroni salad recipe published in 1914, though this type of salad came to full popularity in the 1980’s. Here are the ingredients you’ll need for a classic pasta salad recipe:

  • Fusilli spiral pasta or any short-cut pasta (see below)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bell pepper
  • Red onion
  • Chopped herbs: basil, parsley or dill
  • Olives
  • Pepperoncini or banana peppers
  • Small mozzarella cheese balls
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Italian-style dressing (see below)
Pasta Salad recipe

For the pasta salad dressing

This pasta salad uses a zingy homemade dressing that’s full of big, homemade flavor. If you don’t have time, you can substitute store-bought as well! Here’s what you’ll need to know about the dressing:

  • The dried herbs make the flavor. Use dried dill, oregano and garlic powder for a savory pop.
  • Using neutral oil plus olive oil makes store well! Olive oil tends to clump up when it’s cold, which makes storage tricky. The solution? Add a neutral oil! Using equal parts organic vegetable oil or grapeseed oil makes a vinaigrette that doesn’t solidify. If you prefer to use all olive oil, feel free! Just make sure to bring it fully to room temp before eating.
  • Substitute ¾ cup purchased Italian dressing if you’re in a rush. Look for the best quality Italian dressing you can find: the flavor varies greatly based on brand.
Pasta Salad

Use any type of short cut pasta

One of the most popular shapes for a pasta salad is spirals, also called fusilli. But you can use a variety of pasta shapes here! Just keep in mind: the surface area of each pasta shape is different. That means that 1 pound of bowties seems like less pasta than 1 pound of spirals, which somehow seem to balloon into a huge batch! Here are a few pasta shapes that work well in a pasta salad recipe:

  • Spirals (fusilli)
  • Penne
  • Bowties (farfalle)
  • Shells (conchiglie)
  • Orecchiette
  • Gemelli
  • Gigli

Makes 10 to 12 side dish servings

One thing to note about this pasta salad recipe: it makes a very large batch! It’s enough for 10 to 12 side dish servings, which is ideal for potlucks and cookouts. If you’re making it for lunches, it’s about 8 lunch-sized servings. Keep in mind, you may want to cut this recipe in half if you don’t plan to eat it all in 5 days. It saves well in the refrigerator, but doesn’t freeze well. Speaking of…

Pasta Salad

Leftover storage for pasta salad

This pasta salad works great for summer picnics and barbecues, but we also designed it to work for lunches! This one is a fantastic make-ahead recipe that lasts for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. We had to work a bit to engineer that flavor to perfection. Here are a few notes for leftover storage:

  • Using neutral oil makes it store well! As noted above, using neutral oil with olive oil helps so the olive oil doesn’t clump when refrigerated. Make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.
  • You may need to add a few pinches of salt, a drizzle of olive oil, or some Parmesan cheese. Some foods become more bland when refrigerated, which is the case with this pasta salad recipe. Taste and add a few pinches salt before serving, if necessary.

More pasta salad recipes

There are so many ways to make a pasta salad! Here are a few pasta salad recipes you might enjoy:

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Pasta Salad

Classic Pasta Salad


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 10 to 12 side dish servings 1x

Description

This pasta salad recipe is bursting with flavor! It’s easy to mix up with veggies, herbs, and a tangy Italian dressing.


Ingredients

Scale

For the salad*

  • 1 pound fusilli spiral pasta (or any short-cut pasta like penne, bowties, etc)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh herbs (basil and parsley or dill)
  • ¾ cup black or green olives, sliced
  • ¾ cup sliced pepperoncini or banana peppers
  • 6 ounces small mozzarella cheese balls (Ciliegine)
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

For the dressing**

  • ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon each dried dill, oregano, and garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup neutral oil (like organic vegetable or grapeseed***)
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Start a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Boil the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and run cool water over it until it’s room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes, dice the bell pepper and slice the red onion. Chop the fresh herbs. 
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, dried dill, oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. Then whisk in the olive oil and neutral oil. 
  4. Once the pasta is done, add it to the large bowl of dressing and toss with the chopped vegetables. Add the olives, pepperoncini, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt to taste. Serve at room temperature or cold. Stores up to 5 days refrigerated (leftovers taste great; allow to come to room temperature and add a swirl more olive oil or a bit more cheese or salt as necessary).

Notes

*This makes a very large batch: 10 to 12 side dish servings or about 8 lunch servings. Consider making a half batch if you can’t eat it all in 5 days.

**In a rush? Substitute ¾ cup Italian dressing or your purchased vinaigrette dressing of choice for the homemade dressing.

***Using neutral oil in a pasta salad helps leftovers keep in the fridge: if you use only olive oil, it clumps up after about 1 day of storage. You can use 100% olive oil if you prefer.

  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Pasta salad
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Pasta salad, pasta salad recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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