Get ready for sunshine and Italian pasta salads that go hand in hand. This cool salad keeps well for picnics and potlucks, you can make a big batch to eat for no-cook lunches throughout the week, and just about everyone from your kids to your mother-in-law will eat it! Pasta salad is truly as easy as boiling water and tossing in a few key ingredients. Just stick to this simple formula, cool the pasta and dress it up with this oh so yummy dressing. Here’s the one pasta salad recipe you need this summer.
This recipe is based on a simple formula that you can easily adapt to add your favourites. Don’t like olives? Add sun-dried tomatoes. Use feta instead of mozzarella. From start-to-finish, the whole recipe only takes 20 minutes to pull together. It’s perfect for last-minute get togethers or for a quick lunch to eat throughout the week.
- Marinate red onions in the dressing. We’re going to avoid adding raw red onions straight in this salad, mainly because their bite can steal the show in a bad way. A simple way to combat this is to mix up the dressing first and add the diced red onions to the dressing before you do anything else. The red onions will add flavour to the dressing, but they will also mellow out and become sort of like a quick-pickle while soaking into the vinaigrette.
- All add-ins should be roughly the same size. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and even mozzarella should be chopped in some way before making their way into the salad, because the goal is to make this salad as easy to eat as it is to make.
- Shock the pasta. Unlike potato salad, which loves to be dressed warm, pasta will soak up all the dressing and become dry and gummy if you toss it with the dressing while warm. But also you don’t want to wait around while the pasta cools and potentially sticks to itself. The simple solution? After draining, dunk the strainer of pasta in an ice bath (equal parts ice and water in a large bowl) and get it cold fast!
- Mix and chill before serving. Pasta salad get better as it rests, so for the best pasta salad, all you have to do is mix and chill the salad for at least 30 minutes. It’s why pasta salad is even better the next day.
How To Make Easy Italian Pasta Salad
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta salad:
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 8 ounces dried short pasta, such as rotini
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 1 small English cucumber, quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
- 4 ounces mini mozzarella balls, drained and halved
- 4 ounces salami slices, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Make the dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add the finely chopped red onion and stir to combine. Set aside to soften while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Cook the pasta. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente — soft with just a bit of chew — about 8 minutes or according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
- Quickly cool the pasta. Drain the pasta in a colander and run under cold water. Dunk the colander in the ice bath and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Place the pasta salad ingredients in a bowl. Drain the pasta well. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella, salami, olives, and parsley.
- Toss the pasta with the dressing. Add the dressing, including the onions, to the pasta and toss until evenly combined.
- Chill for 30 minutes before serving. Refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 30 minutes for the flavours to mix before serving.
This pasta salad keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Taste and season again before serving if needed.