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This Italian vegan pasta salad is full of zesty flavor, featuring kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes, and crisp romaine lettuce.

Vegan pasta salad | pasta with Kalamata olives and capers

The other night Alex made Larson and me a “throw together” dinner with odds and ends from our pantry and refrigerator. Pasta, various veggies, and crunchy romaine lettuce came together into an Italian vegan pasta salad that was like eating pasta and salad all at once! Not only was it delicious, the romaine and veggies helped us take our time and be satisfied eating less pasta overall. After I tasted it, I knew we had to create an “official” recipe for it here on A Couple Cooks.

A weeknight healthy vegan dinner recipe, this simple pasta salad features an Italian dressing and ingredients with big flavor: Kalamata olives, capers, and pepperoncini. Keep reading for the recipe!

Vegan pasta salad | pasta with Kalamata olives and capers

How to make vegan pasta salad

This vegan pasta salad is full of flavor. With no meat or dairy, the vegan Italian ingredients have to carry the weight. This pasta with Kalamata olive and capers is dressed simply with olive oil, so there’s no overwhelming dressing flavor. It’s all about the Italian ingredients here! Here are the essential ingredients in this pasta salad:

  • Pasta: You can use any shape of short pasta you like: fusilli or bow ties would work well too.
  • Kalamata olives: The Kalamata variety really carries the flavor with its briny, salty punch. If you’re not an olive fan, you may have to add additional salt to make up for the flavor.
  • Capers: What are capers? Capers are berries from a caper bush that are served pickled; you’ll find them sold in small, thin jars. Capers add a salty, tangy flavor to Mediterranean style dishes. In this vegan pasta salad, they add just the right savory, salty flavor.
  • Pepperoncini: To up the tangy factor and make this pasta salad reminiscent of Italian chopped salad, we’ve also added sliced jarred pepperoncini.
  • Romaine hearts: Pasta salad with romaine lettuce? Yes! Chunks of crunchy romaine hearts break up the pasta and make it incredibly refreshing. It’s like eating your salad course and pasta course at the same time.
Italian pasta salad | vegan pasta salad

Looking for more capers recipes?

Looking for more recipes with capers? Here are a few of our faves.

Vegan pasta salad recipe

Looking for more vegan dinner recipes?

Outside of this vegan pasta salad, here are some of our favorite vegan dinner recipes:

This recipe is…

This Italian vegan pasta salad recipe is vegetarian, vegan, plant based, refined sugar free, and naturally sweet.

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Vegan Italian pasta salad | pasta with Kalamata olives and capers

Italian Vegan Pasta Salad

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 main dish servings, more as a side 1x
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This Italian vegan pasta salad is full of zesty flavor, featuring kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes, and crisp romaine lettuce.


  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt (plus additional for pasta water and sprinkling)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (if you don’t have access to good fresh tomatoes, sub ½ cup thinly sliced sundried tomatoes)
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • ¼ cup jarred capers, drained*
  • ½ cup jarred sliced pepperoncini, drained**
  • 1 1/2 hearts of romaine lettuce (6 cups chopped)
  • ¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives


  1. Boil the pasta a large pot of water salted with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. When pasta is al dente, drain, rinse under cold water, and return to pot. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, the oregano, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and fresh ground pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice the zucchini. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and saute the zucchini, stirring in ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and more fresh ground black pepper. Saute until just lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Then add the zucchini to the pot with the pasta.
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half and sprinkle them with a bit of kosher salt. Slice the red onion into half moons. Add the tomatoes, red onion, capers (drained) and pepperoncini (drained) to the pot with the pasta.
  4. Chop the romaine into bite sized pieces and add it to a large bowl. Add the olives to the lettuce. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and mix with your hands so the olive brine coats the lettuce. Add the pasta and veggies to the romaine and toss to fully integrate. 
  5. Serve immediately. If you’re not vegan, top with grated Parmesan cheese, but it’s optional and not needed for flavor. Store leftovers refrigerated for a day or so (you can also add additional olive oil and/or salt if it looses flavor over time).


*Capers are key to the pasta’s flavor and you should use them if at all possible.

**Some pepperoncini come as whole peppers; look for sliced jarred, or thinly slice the whole peppers yourself.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Pasta
  • Cuisine: Italian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Jessica says:

    Made this tonight!! Delicious!! I did what you told me not to do LOL and omitted the capers because I was scared haha I’ve never tried them before! And it was still delicious! Husband has raved about it all night!

  2. regs says:

    I love this recipe, it feels like eating in a fancy Italian restaurant.

  3. Sarah @ Snixy Kitchen says:

    I love this quick weeknight pantry-staple dinner idea!

  4. Tova says:

    This looks so good, can’t wait to try it!

    1. Sonja says:

      Thank you, let us know if you do!

  5. Deborah Hendrix says:

    Very good!!!

    1. Sonja says:

      Thank you! Hope you’re able to try it out.