Italian Pasta salad is one of my favorite summertime recipes; topped with a lemon vinaigrette it’s a quick, easy recipe loaded with flavor. Think of your favorite items on an antipasto platter tossed together with leftover pasta and a tangy lemony vinaigrette. Cured meats, cheeses, pickled vegetables, olives, and tomatoes, so easy and so delicious.
Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients
Pasta salads are extremely flexible and you can add or subtract anything you like. The beauty of this recipe is how simple it is compared to how awesome the flavor is. Here are some of the ingredients I like the most:
- Pasta: Any type of pasta will work; whole wheat, and gluten-free are great options. The best pasta for pasta salad is going to be a small shaped pasta that’s twisted or has ridges so that it will hold onto the herbs and spices.
- Herbs: I use a combination of fresh flat-leaf parsley, fresh basil, and dried oregano.
- Cheese: For this Italian pasta salad recipe, I like to have a combination of freshly grated, good quality Parmesan, and bite-sized pieces of either mozzarella or fontina cheese. Personally, I think the best cheese for Italian pasta salad is fontina, but any good Italian cheese is going to be great.
- Meat: Not required if making vegetarian, but I like salami with a nice texture to it. In the photos, I’m using an uncured Sopressata salami.
- Pickled Peppers and Veggies: Mild banana peppers, artichoke hearts, black olives, and slivered red onions; anything that would be good on an antipasto platter can make a great addition to this pasta salad. I do tend to use mild peppers though so they don’t overwhelm the other ingredients.
- Cherry Tomatoes: I like the cherry tomatoes in the pasta salad. They hold their shape well, they have a great texture and they look pretty in the salad.
- Italian Pasta Salad Vinaigrette: White wine vinegar and lemon juice create a bright, fresh, mouthwatering flavor that seasons the pasta perfectly. Quick and easy to make, it really highlights all of the fresh herbs in the pasta salad.
- Gluten-free, Vegetarian, and Vegan Options: Pasta salad can easily be modified to fit your personal preferences. Gluten-free pasta is widely available and the cheeses and sausages have excellent meat and dairy-free options.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
- Boil the Pasta: You want to cook the pasta in well-salted water, it should taste like the ocean. Cook the pasta for the least amount of time the manufacturer suggests, it needs to be al dente because it will continue to absorb liquid from the vinaigrette and the other ingredients.
- Prepare the Vinaigrette: While the pasta is cooking prepare the vinaigrette.
- Combine the Hot Pasta with the Vinaigrette: Once you drain the pasta, immediately add the vinaigrette so that it absorbs into the pasta and keeps it from sticking together. Let the pasta cool before adding the other ingredients
- Combine Everything: As the pasta cools, dice all of the other ingredients into their desired shapes. Toss gently to combine, then refrigerate at least 1-2 hours
Can You Make Italian Pasta Salad Ahead?
Yes, actually, I think the flavors are better if you refrigerate the pasta salad overnight. Refrigerated, this recipe should keep for around 3 days.
Here is my recipe for Italian Pasta Salad with a Lemon Vinaigrette
Italian Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1 Pound Pasta Small, shaped types of pasta are best
- 2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes Halved
- 12 Ounce Jar or Can Artichoke Hearts Halved
- 1/2 Cup Black Olives Sliced
- 1/2 Cup Red Onion Sliced
- 1/4 Cup Pickled Mild Peppers Sliced
- 8 Ounces Salami 1/2-inch dice, I used uncured Sopressata
- 8 Ounces Fontina Cheese 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Good quality
- 1/3 Cup Fresh Basil Chopped
- 1 Bunch Flat-Leaf Parsley Leaves only, chopped
- 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
- 3 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Freshly grated
- 2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
- Boil the pasta in well-salted water, it should taste like the ocean. Cook the pasta for the least amount of time the manufacturer suggests
- Combine all of the Lemon Vinaigrette ingredients and whisk to combine
- Strain the cooked pasta, add it to a large mixing bowl and add the Lemon Vinaigrette, mix well to combine. Let the pasta cool
- Prepare all the other ingredients then add to the cool pasta. Stir to combine
- Refrigerate for at least 2-hours or overnight. Serve cold