Classic Italian Pasta Salad

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Is there anything better than a fresh salad on a hot day? Let’s be honest, we love salads year round. But it makes sense to munch on something light and iced during the summer months. Introducing this pasta salad recipe. Some classic recipes are proven for a reason. This is definitely one of them! It’s full of simple, easy-to-find ingredients, and it’s almost effortless to put everything together. The homemade Italian dressing really kicks this dish up a notch. Serve with noodles, tomatoes, pepperoni for a little extra heat, and a little pepperoni. Serve it as an appetizer or side dish. This is a great dish for a picnic, potluck, or BBQ. Who will you share yours with?

Is Pasta Salad Really an Italian Dish?

No, this is not authentic Italian food. It’s called pasta salad because of the addition of Italian dressing. “Italian” pasta salad is very much like an American dish, rather than traditional Italian food.

What other shapes of pasta can I use?

This classic pasta salad calls for rotini pasta. We like to use this shape of noodles, but feel free to use:

  • bow tie
  • shell
  • heat sink
  • pasta

Chef’s Choice!

Can I use a store bought dressing instead?

We always recommend making your own dressing whenever possible. It’s an easy and meaningful addition to any salad recipe. However, we also know that you may not always have the time to make it, or that some key ingredients may be missing. In this case, choose your favorite bottled Italian sauce. You’ll find several varieties at the grocery store.

Cheese Options:

The mini mozzarella balls in this dish are our favorite, but if you don’t like them or can’t find them, then feel free to use any type of cheese you like. Here are some other good options:

  • mozzarella cheese block
  • monterey jack
  • cheddar cheese

Pick your favorite!

Easy to make substitutions and changes:

Our classic pasta salad does include pepperoni, so feel free to skip that if you want to make it vegetarian. If protein is a concern, you can add tofu or chickpeas. To make this dish vegan-friendly, omit the cheese. The pepperoni is a bit spicy, so if you don’t like spicy, you can take them out as well. Use some crunchy bell peppers instead!

Do you rinse pasta for cold pasta salad?

Rinsing pasta for hot pasta dishes is usually a big no-no – don’t get us started on wasting precious pasta water! That said, for this dish, you should rinse your rotini. Rinsing the noodles in cold water will stop them from cooking any further. It also removes a lot of the starch that causes them to stick together. Lastly, this recipe calls for using cold pasta, running the rotini under cold water will speed up the cooling process.

Service suggestion:

Whether you serve this classic pasta salad as an appetizer or a side dish, you’ll need a few other ingredients to round out the meal. Here’s what we recommend for you:

  • Grilled Meat or Seafood: Lemon Chicken Kebabs, Swordfish, Burgers, Salmon or Steak
  • Roasted vegetables: zucchini, corn on the cob, asparagus, or potatoes
  • Other Salads: Tomato and Avocado, Italian Couscous, Bacon Broccoli Salad, or Mediterranean Chickpea Salad