Seriously amazing Italian pasta salad recipe! This easy and delicious Italian salad has so many flavors and textures and the aroma is mouthwatering! It’s made with al dente rotini pasta, loads of refreshing veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and onion; combined with salami, cheese, olives and more! I use an easy, homemade lemon dressing with dried herbs to bring everything together! You’ll love everything about this easy salad recipe! It’s perfect for picnics, barbecues or as a side to just about any meats!
My Pasta Salad Video Tutorial
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Ingredients for Italian Pasta Salad
I love all the unique and delicious fillings and flavors of this easy pasta salad! Here’s what you’ll need to make at home:
- Pasta: any type of small to medium sized pasta will work great for this recipe! My favorites are rotini and penne pasta. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
- Cucumbers & Tomatoes: English, Persian or cocktail cucumbers will all work well! If it’s tomato season, heirloom tomatoes are the best choice!
- Fresh Basil: this refreshing herb is a must for this salad!
- Cheese: I used cubed feta cheese for my salad but feel free to use your favorite variety! Mozzarella balls will also work great here.
- Salami: use a salami log and cut it into bite sized pieces for best results.
- Pepperchinis & Peppers: I love sweet, red bell peppers for this recipe, along with pickled pepperchini peppers to add a little bit of spice!
- Olives: use an olive blend of different olives for more flavor. If you don’t have a blend, even one variety of olives will work.
- Pine Nuts: these unique nuts are a perfect addition to this salad! You can also use slivered almonds or even pistachios.
- Lemon Juice & Olive Oil: for making the homemade lemon dressing.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
While your pasta is cooking away, it’s the perfect time to start on the veggies! This Italian pasta salad is packed with refreshing cucumbers, sweet tomatoes and bell pepper, onion and so much more!
- For the cucumbers, I like to use Costco’s cocktail cucumbers but a large English cucumber will also work great for this recipe. Chop the cucumber into rings, chop the cherry tomatoes in half, and cut the bell pepper and red onion into small chunks. I love the flavor of heirloom cherry tomatoes – they’re so sweet and delicious!
- Next, slice up some olives and pepperchinis! I use an olive blend with green, Kalamata and black olives. Use all three olive varieties or just one, all based on your preferences! Pepperchinis are a must for this Italian salad recipe! They’re just mildly spicy and add great flavor!
- This incredible pasta salad wouldn’t be complete without some cheese, salami and nuts! I love to use cubed feta cheese for pasta salads – it holds its shape very well and the creamy texture is the perfect complement to the rest of the ingredients. The salami is also a must! I recommend purchasing a small log of salami and chopping it into small bites. This way, you’ll have a bit of salty salami flavor in every bite!
- To add some unique nut flavor, I use toasted pine nuts for my Italian pasta salad. Just place 1/4 cup of plain pine nuts into a frying pan and heat over medium heat. Toss the nuts often and toast for about 2 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and golden. Toasting the pine nuts really brings out their flavor!
Homemade Lemon Dressing
To bring all the ingredients and pasta together, I make an easy, herbed lemon dressing! I’m using all the best flavors of Italy: parsley, basil and oregano. This dressing is made simply with freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Just whisk everything together and the dressing is ready!
Dressing the Pasta Salad!
Once you have all your veggies and fillings chopped, add them into an extra-large mixing bowl. Chop a small bunch of basil leaves and add those to the mix, too! The fresh basil will add so much incredible flavor! Add in the prepared pasta next. Pour the prepared lemon dressing over the top and use two large spoons to toss everything together!
I enjoy my pasta salad warm because the heat releases more aroma and flavor, but you can absolutely enjoy it cold, too! This salad will stand in the refrigerator for days so you can enjoy the next day, too!
Make Ahead Instructions
This Italian pasta salad is great for making ahead of time! You can assemble it and dress it and keep it stored in the refrigerator, even overnight. If you need to prepare it more than one day ahead of time, simply layer all the ingredients except for basil into a large bowl but don’t mix them and keep the salad dressing separate. Add fresh basil when you’re ready to mix and serve the salad.
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Enjoyed this Italian pasta salad recipe? Check out some of my other recipes you’re sure to enjoy!
- Mediterranean Pork Pasta Salad – this version is made with juicy pork tenderloin, arugula, cheese and more!
- Italian Chicken Salad – veggies, olives, cheese and avocado combined with juicy and tender chicken breast!
- Zesty Garlic Grilled Veggies – the ultimate grilled veggie salad with zucchini, mushrooms and peppers. So good!
- BLT Salad – this incredible salad is loaded with BACON, cheese, avocado, and so much more!
- Easy, Garlicky Zucchini Pasta – super quick and easy zucchini pasta with garlic, parmesan and basil! Perfect for summer!
Ultimate Italian Pasta Salad Recipe (video)
- 1/2 to 1 pound rotini pasta
- 6 cocktail cucumbers, or 1 English cucumber
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 large red onion, or 2 shallots
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup olive medley, green, kalamata or black
- 1 cup feta cheese, cubed
- 1 cup chopped dry salami
- 1/4 cup sliced pepperchinis
- 1 tbsp capers, drained
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- small bunch fresh basil
For Lemon Dressing:
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp EACH: dried basil, dried oregano, black pepper
Preparing the Pasta:
- Begin by preparing the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the rotini pasta, or your desired pasta shape. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Once done, drain the pasta and keep it covered and warm on the side.
Preparing the Salad:
- Next, prepare the vegetables. Slice the cucumbers into rings; cut the cherry tomatoes in half or into quarters; chop the bell pepper and the onion/shallot. Place the chopped veggies into an extra-large mixing bowl. Next, slice the olives into rings; chop the salami into small bits. Add the cubed feta cheese, pepperchinis and capers into the mixing bowl. Stack the basil leaves, gently roll them into a log and thinly chop the leaves; add the chopped basil to the mixing bowl.
- I recommend toasting the pine nuts before adding them to the salad. Preheat a small frying pan over medium heat and add the nuts. Toss them frequently and toast for a few minutes, until the nuts are golden and aromatic. Add them to the salad.
Making the Salad Dressing:
- For the lemon dressing: simply combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, basil and oregano in a large measuring cup. Use a whisk or a fork and mix the ingredients together, until the oil and juice come together; about 30 seconds.
Assembling the Salad:
- To assemble the salad, add the cooked pasta and the prepared dressing. Using two large spoons, toss everything together until the pasta is well coated the fillings are evenly distributed. The pasta salad can be enjoyed right away, or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.