Best Easy Pasta Salad

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Delicious easy pasta salad loaded with pepperoni, mozzarella, olives, peppers, and Italian herb flavor!

picture of pasta salad with pepperoni, olive, tomatoes, onions, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and bell peppers in a blue bowl
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picture of pasta salad with pepperoni, olive, tomatoes, onions, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and bell peppers in a blue bowl

Antipasti Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is one of those delicious, easy, classic summer cookout dishes that everyone loves – it is simple to make a huge batch, feeds a crowd, is full of salty, garlicky, herb-filled flavor, and can be customized to fit your tastes really easily.

We’re using traditional antipasti ingredients, including black olives, parmesan cheese, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions, and pepperoni to add a ton of flavor to our rotini pasta salad – it is hearty and filling, without being too heavy – the perfect cookout side dish.

We hope you love this recipe as mush as we do!

picture of pasta salad with pepperoni, olive, tomatoes, onions, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and bell peppers in a blue bowl

How to Make Pasta Salad

To make this pasta salad, you’ll need:

  • Rotini – rotini is a short, sturdy pasta with a corkscrew shape that provides lots of surface area to hold onto dressing, herbs, and spices without falling apart or turning to mush when cooked.
  • Pepperoni – a spicy, meaty kick is great in pasta salad, and we love using pepperoni slices. Use whatever pepperoni you love the flavor of – you can cut it into fourths, us mini pepperoni, or leave big slices for a heartier bite!
  • Mozzarella – we’re going to cut 6 oz. of a block of mozzarella cheese into bite size bites, to add tons of rich cheesy flavor to this dish. Mozzarella’s mild taste pairs perfectly with vegetables and pasta.
  • Red wine vinegar – a bit of tangy acid from red wine vinegar provides a little kick to balance out the starchy pasta and milk flavor from cheese.
  • Cherry tomatoes – cherry tomatoes give a beautiful pop of red, and are extra sweet without being too watery – making them a perfect addition to pasta salad.
  • Olive oil – olive oil is used to form the base of our dressing as the light vegetal flavor is fabulous mixed with herbs and spices, and the fat content in the oil is essential to keep pasta from drying out.
  • Black olives – black olives are salty, with a bit of a briny flavor that that is classic in any antipasti dish.
  • Parmesan cheese – parmesan cheese adds a nutty, cheesy, and salty flavor to pasta salad and a nice crumbly texture.
  • Red onion – red onion is not as “hot” as raw white onion, but still has a strong, pungent flavor that provides a nice zip to pasta salad.
  • Garlic powder – garlic powder is earthy and vegetal, providing a delicious, addictive flavor to dishes that pairs perfectly with pasta and vegetables.
  • Italian herbs – Italian herb blends include basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, and other herbs that bring a balanced, earthy flavor similar to Italian dressing when mixed with red wine vinegar and olive oil.
  • Salt and pepper – use salt and pepper to finish seasoning pasta salad to your taste preference.

Use this Method

  • Boil pasta and then drain well.
  • Mix dressing.
  • Add vegetables, cheese, and seasonings.
  • Toss in dressing.
  • Serve!
picture of pasta salad with pepperoni, olive, tomatoes, onions, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and bell peppers in a blue bowl

Tips and Tricks to Perfect Pasta Salad

Salt pasta water. Boiling pasta in well-salted water brings flavor, encourages starch to let off, and helps pasta boil rapidly.

Don’t boil pasta in water with olive oil. Boiling pasta in water with oil in it makes the pasta slicker when serving, and keeps the dressing from fully absorbing into pasta.

Let pasta drain before mixing. Water and oil don’t mix – wet pasta will repel dressing, so letting it fully drain off helps pasta absorb our oil-based dressing’s flavor.

Dress it hot! Add the olive oil dressing while the pasta is still hot – you don’t need to mix the vegetables and cheese in while still hot, but add your dressing while pasta is still hot, so that it can soak up the dressing flavor and keep pasta from sticking together.

Use premade dressing. To save time, you can use a bottle of pre-made Italian dressing, Thousand Island dressing, or other oil-based salad dressing you like the flavor of.

FAQs

Can I make pasta salad ahead of time?

Pasta salad is great after chilling for a bit – I sometimes like to make it overnight to really let the flavors all come together!

How long does this recipe last?

Pasta salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Can I use different pasta?

We’re using rotini for pasta salad, but it is also great with penne, macaroni, orecchiette, or other short pastas with a bit of texture.

picture of pasta salad with pepperoni, olive, tomatoes, onions, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and bell peppers in a blue bowl

What to Serve With Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is one of those dishes that goes with just about everything – but we love bringing it to BBQs and cookouts, since it is easy and economical to feed a big crowd! We love serving with smashburgers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, carne asada, or our hot and fast smoked brisket!

For more of our grill and smoker recipes, find our recent favorites below:

picture of pasta salad with pepperoni, olive, tomatoes, onions, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and bell peppers in a blue bowl

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picture of pasta salad with pepperoni, olive, tomatoes, onions, cubes of mozzarella cheese, and bell peppers in a blue bowl

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Antipasti pasta salad with pepperoni, tomatoes and olives.
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Best Easy Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is a refreshing dish served cold, that combines cooked pasta with a variety of vegetables, proteins, and a flavorful dressing.
Course BBQ Sides
Cuisine American
Keyword cheese, cold cut salad, pasta, pasta salad, potluck pasta salad, vegetable salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 331kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Rotini pasta
  • 15-20 slices pepperoni
  • 6 oz mozzarella cut into 1″ cubes
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 8 oz Cherry tomatoes halved
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • ¼ cup black olives drained
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese grated
  • ½ red onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Italian herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • In a large stock pot that is well salted, boil rotini to al dente.
  • When boiled, drain well.
  • As pasta boils, in a small bowl, mix together olive oil, red wine vinegar, Italian herbs, and garlic powder.
  • Add cooked, drained pasta to large bowl. Mix in pepper, tomatoes, olives, onion, mozzarella, and pepperoni. Stir to toss well.
  • Drizzle dressing over pasta. Toss well.
  • Top with grated parmesan cheese and mix.
  • Serve immediately, or chill in airtight container in refrigerator until serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 331kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 341mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g

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About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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