Italian Pasta Salad
One of my favorite family recipes, is a classic Italian pasta salad Lt. Dan’s grandma, Mo, used to make.
Every time she served it she would change the recipe just a little bit. Yet her pasta salad always included fusilli pasta, little slivers of hard salami, black olives, tomatoes, and cheese.
Over the years, I’ve made her recipe, tweaking it as I go, just as Mo always did. Lt. Dan says my version of Mo’s pasta salad is “Legit” and that’s really saying something. To him, Mo was the queen of all things. She certainly left her mark on both of us.
My Favorite Cold Pasta Salad Recipe
I know many families have an Italian style salad recipe that gets pulled out for picnics and large events.
I’m partial to Mo’s because it’s heavily loaded with fresh veggies and pops of rich flavor from the salami, olives, and soft mozzarella. And mine isn’t much different!
My personal adaptation is to add jarred “Grilled Piquillo Peppers” to offer a bit of tangy sweetness. If you can’t find them, jarred roasted red peppers provide a similar appeal.
Therefore, this is what I consider The Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe.
It’s bold, textually diverse, and holds up well for several days in the refrigerator.
I’ve never tasted another version I like better.
Pasta Salad Dressing Ingredients
The homemade Italian vinaigrette is made with a generous amount of fresh garlic, giving the entire bowl a zesty punch.
- Red Wine Vinegar – A rich and full flavored taste of acidic vinegar.
- Olive Oil – And what pairs well with vinegar? Beautiful olive oil.
- Garlic – Zesty and delicious.
- Honey – To add sweetness to the dressing.
- Dried Italian Seasoning – To season the salad.
- Salt – Helps balance and enhance all other flavors.
Best Pasta Salad Ingredients
- Fusilli Pasta – This is the corckscrew shaped pasta, short or long.
- Cherry Tomatoes – These are sweeter and less acidic than regular tomatoes.
- Hard Salami – Smokey and sumptuious, it’s the perfect addition to this salad.
- Roasted Red Peppers – Or grilled piquillo peppers
- Red Onion – For flavor and crunch.
- Italian Parsley – This is the flat leaved parsely with robust flavor.
- Mini Mozzarella Balls – Not only are these cheese balls so cute, they are also so fresh and delicious.
- Black Olives – This brings a salty and oily flavor to the salad.
How To Make Italian Pasta Salad
- Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add a large spoonful of salt to the water. Then stir in the dried pasta. Cook according to package instructions, usually 6-8 minutes to al dente. Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water in a colander. Shake off the excess water and place the pasta in a large salad bowl.
- While the pasta is boiling, whisk all the ingredients of the vinaigrette in a small bowl. Set aside. Then chop all the salad ingredients.
- Pour the tomatoes, sliced hard salami, chopped piquillo peppers, red onion, parsley, mozzarella ball and olives over the pasta. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss well to coat. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed.
Can I Make this Antipasto Salad Recipe Ahead of Time?
Absolutely! This recipe is a great make-ahead for parties, family events, or as an easy lunchbox item to enjoy all week. Actually, most pasta salads taste better after sitting for a day or two. Just make sure to cover it well and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Does Italian Pasta Salad Need To Be Refrigerated?
Oh yes. With all the meats, cheeses, and fresh produce in the mix, you do need to keep it chilled until you are ready to serve it.
What Goes With Cold Pasta Salad?
Just about everything! Serve this salad with grilled proteins, picnic foods, and barbecue favorites.
Can I Make Gluten Free Pasta Salad?
Yes! However, most gluten-free pastas break down within a few hours. So if you want to go gluten-free, you will need to serve it immediately after mixing.