This Easy Italian Pasta Salad is a simple yet flavorful dish perfect for any occasion. Made with tender rotini pasta, juicy cherry tomatoes, crisp broccoli, tangy olives, and creamy mozzarella cheese covered in Italian dressing. This classic recipe is the perfect balance of flavors and textures. Serve this at your next potluck, picnic, BBQ, or any occasion!
Italian Pasta Salad
If you’re looking for the BEST pasta salad recipe, look no further! This tasty pasta dish can be ready to serve in only 20 minutes and is PACKED with flavor! Store bought Italian dressing is the key to success! Yes, you can make your own homemade version if desired, but for a shortcut everyone will enjoy, keep it simple and use a bottle of Italian dressing.
Classic pasta salad is perfect for taking to BBQ’s, potlucks, parties, and just about any occasion! When friends or family comes over, this pasta salad is almost always one of the first things I make! Keep it simple, or dress it up with lots of fresh veggies, cheeses, meats, and more! So many great options to make this your own!
If you’re a Chicken Bacon Ranch fan, also check out my Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad for a creamy, flavorful summer dish that adds a fun variation of flavor!
Pasta Salad Ingredients
See printable recipe card below for exact ingredient amounts and step by step instructions.
- Pasta- I use tri-color rotini for an added color boost
- Italian Dressing- Robusto Italian is my go-to
- Broccoli- fresh is best, chopped
- Tomatoes- grape tomatoes, halved
- Olives- sliced
- Mozzarella- diced, or you can buy the mozzarella pearls
- Salami- chopped
Our go-to version includes broccoli, tomatoes, mozzarella, salami, and occasionally black olives. You can easily omit whichever ingredients you aren’t a fan of and use others in it’s place. Here are some great options to try:
- Meat- diced ham, chicken, shrimp, crab, or pepperoni
- Veggies- diced bell peppers, cucumbers, pepperoncini, and onions
- Cheese- feta cheese works great in place of the mozzarella cheese
Best Pasta to use in Pasta Salad
Choose a pasta that has substance to it. A thicker noodle that has little pockets or spots for the dressing and other goodies to get into and coat. We prefer using Rotini; however, fusilli, farfalle, and penne work great too. These are all great pastas that are smaller, bite sized, and easier for everyone to devour!
How to make Italian Pasta Salad
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Combine remaining ingredient into large bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Tips for the best Italian Pasta Salad
- Use an Italian Dressing that you love! My go-to is Robusto Italian, however, I know lots of people love Olive Garden Italian Dressing on theirs.
- Adjust salad dressing amount to fit taste. I like using about 3/4 of the bottle and saving the additional 1/4 to use on top just before serving or for leftovers.
- Cook pasta to al dente. The dressing on top of the pasta also helps soften the noodles, so be sure not to over-cook pasta.
- While pasta is boiling, about 1-2 minutes prior to being cooked, add in the broccoli. Then drain water and continue following directions. This gives the broccoli an added green touch and slightly cooks it, but still keeps it crisp.
- Make it a complete meal by adding in your choice of meat. We love grilling chicken or kabobs with this and dicing up leftovers into the pasta salad for a meal the next day.
Storing Pasta Salad and Making Ahead of Time
Make Ahead of Time: this pasta salad is best when served right after the dressing is added. If you want to prepare this ahead of time, add the pasta and ingredients together minus the salad dressing. When ready to serve, add in the dressing and toss to coat.
Storing: place leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days. I do not recommend freezing this as the textures will change and get too mushy.
Is Pasta Salad an American thing?
Pasta salad is a salad dish prepared with one or more types of pasta, almost always chilled, and most often tossed in a vinegar, oil, or mayonnaise-based dressing. It is typically served as an appetizer, side dish or a main course. Pasta salad is often regarded as a spring or summertime meal, but it can be served any time of year. Although it has quickly become an American favorite, it actually originated in Italy.
What do you serve with pasta salad?
Should you rinse the pasta before making pasta salad?
Yes! Rinse the pasta with cold water prior to assembling the pasta salad as this will stop the cooking process and allow you to add in all the other ingredients, including the cheese, without it melting.
What are the top mistakes people do when making pasta salad?
People use the wrong pasta, overcook the pasta to the point it falls apart and gets mushy, not adding enough Italian dressing, making the pasta salad too far in advance, and not adding in enough veggies/meats. Be sure to read the tips above to ensure the perfect pasta salad each and every time!
More Summer Favorites
Easy Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 lb tri-color rotini, cooked
- 1 bottle Robusto Italian dressing
- 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup olives, sliced
- 1 cup mozzarella, diced
- salami, chopped
- Cook pasta according to boxed directions. Drain and allow to cool completely.
- To assemble pasta salad, place cooked pasta, broccoli, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and salami in a large bowl.
- Pour desired amount of dressing on top of pasta mixture and toss to coat. Use as much or little dressing as desired to taste.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve! Enjoy!
Recipe updated 5/2/23