Take your pasta salad up a notch with this Italian pasta salad recipe! I swap mayo for a lemony Italian dressing, then layer bold flavor and texture with fresh veggies, fresh herbs, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, salami, and more.

Side shot of Italian pasta salad in a serving bowl on a sunny day.
Photo Credits: Mark Beahm

The trick to a great pasta salad, in my opinion, is that it should be more of a “salad pasta.” The salad comes first! Starting with a delicious salad is how I develop a next-level pasta salad recipe, whether it’s this Italian Pasta Salad, my Greek version or Orzo Strawberry Pasta Salad, just to name a few favorites. 

And by that I mean the pasta is more of a supporting role–something that’s there to soak up a really zippy, aromatic Italian dressing and humbly bow down to all fresh and briny things I’m going to add. 

For this antipasto salad-inspired number, I add the all-star Italian ingredients: bright bell peppers, juicy cherry tomatoes, tangy artichoke hearts, briney olives, spicy pepperoncini, rich salami, creamy mozzarella cheese, and fresh parsley and basil.

It’s a pasta salad I could truly eat every day, right out of the container standing by my fridge, and never get sick of it. I’m packing it up for picnics and BBQs all summer long, and eating the leftovers for lunch. It’s mayo-free and not at all sad about it, and keeps for up to 5 days. Salad pasta for the win! 

Table of Contents
  1. Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients and Substitutions 
    1. For the Pasta Salad
    2. For the Dressing
  2. Ingredient Spotlight
  3. How to Make this Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
  4. What to Serve with Italian Pasta Salad
  5. More Mediterranean Picnic Recipes
  6. Italian Pasta Salad Recipe Recipe
Ingredients for Italian pasta salad, including Fusilli pasta, cherry tomatoes on the vine, red bell pepper, shallot, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, pepperoncini, salami, mozzarella, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic, white wine vinegar, and olive oil.

Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients and Substitutions 

This pasta salad with Italian dressing uses all easy to find ingredients and pantry staples. You'll need:

For the Pasta Salad

  • Pasta: I like fusilli or rotini pasta, since the sauce soaks into all the grooves and nooks. Any short pasta you have will work though, like bowtie or penne. 
  • Cherry tomatoes are nicely sweet and juicy, but any firm-when-ripe tomato will work, like Roma or grape. 
  • Bell pepper: Use any color you like, with red being the sweetest and purple being the most vegetal. You can use baby bell peppers too for an extra sweet pop of flavor.
  • Shallot adds oniony goodness without overpowering the flavor, but scallion, chives, or ½ red onion could also work.
  • Marinated artichoke hearts add a layer of tartness.
  • Olives bring a briny element. I love the boldness of Kalamata, but something buttery like Castelvetrano would also be delicious (or a combination of your favorites). 
  • Pepperoncini adds an assertive pickled and spicy flavor. If you don’t like spicy, substitute with cornichons.  
  • Salami adds an extra rich and savory element, but you can substitute with your favorite cured meat of choice. For a vegetarian option, leave out the salami or substitute with sun dried tomatoes (we carry my favorite all-natural variety at our shop). 
  • Mozzarella adds rich creaminess. For dairy-free option, simply leave it out. For a lower lactose option, substitute with shaved Parmesan or Pecorino. 
  • Fresh herbs: Parsley and basil bring a classic Italian-style aroma, but any tender green herbs you like can work, like dill, mint, or tarragon. 

For the Dressing

  • Olive oil is the base of the dressing. Because its flavor is soaked into the pasta, a high quality extra virgin variety is essential. No surprise, but I love our Italian Nocellara with this recipe.
  • White wine vinegar adds a bold puckery tartness. Red wine or Champagne vinegar would also work. 
  • Fresh garlic adds a spicy kick and depth of flavor. 
  • Dried oregano is stronger than fresh, imparting a strong, classically Mediterranean flavor (more info below).   
  • Crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper build on each other for a more complex heat. Kosher salt enhances the flavor of both the dressing and the salad.
Greek oregano bunch from the Mediterranean dish shop.
Oregano bunch from our Spice Shop.

Ingredient Spotlight

Oregano is from the mint family, along with a number of Mediterranean heavy-hitters like rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, and lavender. The dried leaves are a staple ingredient throughout the region, but particularly in Italian and Greek kitchens. It’s the most dominant flavor behind Italian seasoning: a pleasant touch of bitterness with a peppery undertone and wonderfully aromatic quality. 

Italians are known for giving very simple, humble food this incredible richness, and I would give oregano, good olive oil, and a bold amount of garlic a lot credit for this talent. And though it doesn't need to be super fancy, a high quality oregano will make all the difference in terms of potency and flavor. Look for green leaves and a strong aroma, which indicates freshness and proper drying by the producer. 

Close up of Italian pasta salad in a serving bowl on a sunny day.

How to Make this Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Italian pasta salad is essentially 4 steps: Boil the pasta, mix, dress, and serve. Easy as that! But try to allow at least 30 minutes for the pasta to soak up all the flavor. 

  • Get ready. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
  • Make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, a pinch of salt and pepper, and ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like things). Set aside.Italian pasta salad dressing being whisked in a glass mixing bowl.
  • Cook the pasta. Generously salt the boiling water, then add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl.Cooked fusili pasta in a colander.
  • Toss the pasta salad. To the bowl with the pasta, add 1 pint halved tomatoes, 1 chopped bell pepper, 1 chopped shallot, 1 cup artichoke hearts, ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, 6 chopped pepperoncini, 6-8 ounces sliced salami, 6 ounces mozzarella, and ½ packed cup each of chopped parsley and basil. Toss to combine. Mixing bowl with groups of mozzarella, parsley, basil, pepperoncini, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and shallot before being mixed.
  • Dress the salad. Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat. Serve immediately, or better yet let it sit for 30 minutes to soak up all the flavor. 
Dressing being poured over a bowl of Italian pasta salad, showing the interesting texture of the dressing from the fresh garlic and dried herbs.

What to Serve with Italian Pasta Salad

This satisfying Italian pasta salad can stand as its own meal, and I often eat it for lunch. And it's a no brainer for the next BBQ! But it also makes a great, satisfying side for simple grilled things.

You have the meat covered with the salad, so I like to keep it light and colorful with Grilled Vegetable Kabobs, Corn on the Cob, and/or Fruit Salad. For dessert, usher in peak summer vibes with Strawberry Shortcakes with Sumac, Whipped Labneh, and Mint.

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4.84 from 50 votes

Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Suzy Karadsheh of The Mediterranean Dish. In the kitchenSuzy Karadsheh
Overhead shot of Italian pasta salad in a serving bowl, showing the mozzarella, tomatoes, pepperoncini, fresh herbs, olives, salami, and artichoke hearts.
This is one satisfying and flavor-packed cold pasta salad with crunchy veggies, fresh herbs, rustic old-world salami, tangy olives, and mozzarella. A zesty Italian dressing brings it all together.
Prep – 20 minutes
Cook – 10 minutes
Serves – 10


  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces pasta (I like fusilli or rotini)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), cored and chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts
  • ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 6 pepperoncini, chopped
  • 6 to 8 ounces salami, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, torn (or mozzarella cheese balls)
  • ½ packed cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ packed cup chopped fresh basil leaves

For the Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper


  • Get ready. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
  • Make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • Cook the pasta. Generously salt the boiling water, then add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Toss the pasta salad. To the bowl with the pasta, add the tomatoes, bell pepper, shallot, artichoke hearts, olives, pepperoncini, salami, mozzarella, and fresh herbs.
  • Dress the salad. Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat. Serve immediately, or better yet let it sit for 30 minutes to soak up all the flavor.



  • Shop this recipe: Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including the olive oil, oregano, and Kalamata olives used in this recipe.
  • This recipe makes roughly 12 cups of pasta salad, so it's a great side dish for a crowd.
  • Leftovers will keep well in the fridge (in a tight lid container) for up to 4 days.


Calories: 292.3kcalCarbohydrates: 31.1gProtein: 13.2gSaturated Fat: 4.6gCholesterol: 26.9mgSodium: 748.4mgPotassium: 331.2mgFiber: 2.7gVitamin A: 1238.5IUVitamin C: 39.5mgCalcium: 117.8mgIron: 1.6mg
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a bottle of nocellara Italian extra virgin olive oil from the mediterranean dish.

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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4.84 from 50 votes (37 ratings without comment)

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  1. Rita Torres says:

    5 stars
    great for summer, or any time!

  2. Julie Ryan says:

    What could use in place of salami to make it vegetarian friendly?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Julie. I would just omit the salami in this case. You can always add more of the veggies in it's place.

  3. Jenny says:

    5 stars
    Spectacular. I made this salad as a side to our family's Christmas meal and people were raving over it. Such a fresh and delicious addition to our table.

  4. Jo Jo says:

    5 stars
    This is a fabulous salad. We do not eat pasta so we used romaine and veggies that we grew in our garden. The dressing was so light and perfect.

  5. Patricia says:

    5 stars
    I’m making this pasta dish today for my birthday lunch with lots of different kinds of seafood. Can’t wait to try it!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Happy birthday, Patricia!

  6. Cb Chhetri official says:

    Well. Very good

  7. Joe says:

    5 stars
    Made this the other evening, will probably be making it weekly

  8. Kiera Ervin says:

    5 stars
    I made this for Father's day 2023:) I am not a fan at all of cold pasta salad, but my husband is. So I looked for a pasta salad online and came across yours, it is the most delicious salad Ive ever tasted!
    Not only did we eat it for Fathers day dinner, but also lunch and dinner for the week following ...I did freeze some but had to pull it out after a day so we could have more! Thank you for your gift!

  9. Nel says:

    5 stars
    Thank you, we had friends around for a BBQ yesterday (29/04) I tend to stick to ingredients I “know”, however, I put this together yesterday and it was a big hit with everyone to the point we were all picking at it after we’d finished eating, that dressing is so light and store cupboard friendly and I would never have thought of using artichoke hearts! I made a few changes, only because of the ingredients that are available to me (we live in Spain). Delicious!!

    1. TMD Team says:

      This is wonderful to hear, Nel! Thank you!!

  10. Robin says:

    5 stars
    The best pasta salad! So fresh and satisfying! Big flavor! I wouldn’t change a thing.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thanks, Robin!

    2. TMD Team says:

      Yay! Thanks, Robin!

  11. GAIL KIRKWOOD says:

    5 stars
    Great pasta salad but a quick question what happens to the tomatoes if they are frozen in the salad? I've never frozen a fresh tomato.b thank you, Gail

  12. Peggy says:

    How can I tell what a serving will be ith these recipes

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Peggy! This recipe will serve approximately 10 as a side dish. Unfortunately, we don't have a more exact measurement than that at this time.

    2. a noel says:

      about to make this salad for my grandparents today. Found your website from youtube. Website is very organized and easy to navigate! Well done!!

      1. Suzy says:

        Thank you so much!!

  13. Annie says:

    5 stars
    Amazing pasta salad! Served it tonight for our Super Bowl dinner. I will be utilizing this pasta salad recipe on a rotation for lunches and dinners. Added fresh chopped spinach and mozzarella mini balls to the salad. Excellent dressing!

    1. Suzy says:

      Thank you so much, Annie!

  14. Ruth Sol says:

    5 stars
    A great salad - such a nice combination of ingredients and tastes

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks, Ruth!

  15. Nadia says:

    5 stars
    Already tried this yesterday and it is truly wonderful. Thank you so much for all your helpful tips!

    1. Suzy says:

      So glad to hear it!

  16. Darlene L Kohler says:

    5 stars
    Suzy, I just want to say thank you for all your recipes. I've cooked many in the past year. I love each recipe I've tried. I love your products, too. Once this pandemic is possibly over, any chance you can come to Dallas, TX? You are my favorite chef.

    1. Suzy says:

      Awww! Thank you! Maybe someday I'll get to do a cooking tour and get to visit Dallas :). Wouldn't that be fun!!!!