The Best Easy Pasta Salad Recipe - Pinch of Yum
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The Best Easy Pasta Salad

104 reviews / 4.5 average

Super easy Pasta Salad – with pasta, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy salami, pepperoncini, olives, and easy Italian dressing. DANGEROUSLY GOOD.

Meet your new summer bestie: A stupidly easy pasta salad with pasta, juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onion, salami, olives, herbs, and a drench of quick homemade dressing.

If you want to know what I’ve eaten for 4 of my last 5 meals, it’s THIS SUMMER ESSENTIAL. We are kind of having a moment here.

Let’s have a moment together, shall we?

In This Post: Everything You Need For Easy Pasta Salad

Prefer To Watch Instead Of Read?

In my mind, a nice classic pasta salad serves one of two scenarios:

  • Attending a picnic, potluck, or other end-of-summer-everyone-bring-something type party when you need to bring a side dish;
  • Addressing the leftover meat, cheese, and vegetables in my fridge and making them into a meal that I pretty much want to eat 24/7.

This delicious little number will do both for ya.

Pasta salad being mixed with spoons.

Pasta Salad Ingredients

Do you have two and a half seconds? Cool.

You will need these ingredients:

  • Your favorite pasta noodle shape
  • Cherry tomatoes (or some other non-threatening veg)
  • Mozz cheese balls
  • Salami (pick a good spicy one)
  • Black olives or kalamata lives
  • Pepperoncini (optional…sort of)
  • Red onion and parsley

For the pasta, pick a pasta shape with good solid texture and shape to absorb all the sauce. I like rotini (or fusilli), penne, or farfalle.

About Pasta Salad Dressing

This is important.

We need a tangy Italian dressing (no mayo here!). Here are our ingredients.

  • olive oil
  • white vinegar
  • salt and pepp
  • dried oregano and basil
  • little bit of sugar
  • fresh herbs (like parsley, more basil, or chives)

Homemade, in a blender or food processor, so it takes approximately 60 seconds. You made that dressing, you pasta salad boss, you. ♡

Ingredients for pasta salad in bowls.
Italian dressing for pasta salad in jar.

How To Make Pasta Salad (4 Steps!)

Okay, it’s summer, so you know we’re not spending all day in the kitchen. We’re bringing this beauty to share with friends, family, neighbors, post office workers, daycare providers, pretty much whoever can get their hands on a fork stat. Let’s make pasta salad!

  1. Cook your pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse. Allow it to cool slightly and toss a bit of olive oil in there.
  2. Chop all your veggies, cheese, meat, and other fixings.
  3. Blitz up your dressing in a blender or shake it up in a jar.
  4. Toss together, taste and adjust, and exercise every self-control muscle in your body so as not to eat the whole thing before everyone comes over.

Storing Pasta Salad and Making Ahead Of Time

The beauty of pasta salad is that the flavors get even better the longer it all sits and lingers together!

  • For storing: After I make this pasta salad, whether making it ahead or storing leftovers, I just pop it in the fridge and it will keep for 2-3 days.
  • For making ahead: I love to make pasta salad 12-24 hours ahead of time. This gives it time to absorb the dressing but not get mushy!
Pasta salad in serving bowl.

May I offer one last tidbit of advice? You do not need to wait to be invited to a picnic or potluck to get some pasta salad magic in your life.

This is a weeknight’s dream meal.

Stop at the store on the way home and pick up some good salami and cheese, some olives, and a few fresh herbs. Cook up some pasta, toss it all together, and voila. Cold pasta salad + a glass of rose for dinner, and colder pasta salad as leftovers for lunch all week.

I will be over in a flash.

Best Easy Pasta Salad: Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of salt do you recommend?

Please note that the amount written is for COARSE sea salt. If you are using fine table salt, start with 2 teaspoons and add more to taste. The dressing itself will be very salty. Like, too salty for a normal salad. But in this recipe, that’s what we want! That dressing is going to get tossed with an entire pound of plain pasta, as well as a whole lot of fresh unseasoned vegetables, and it will taste delicious once it’s all tossed up. Curious about why we recommend specific salts? This helpful article will tell you why!

Can I use other veggies and extras in this pasta salad?

By all means, customize this salad – that’s what it does best! Try adding blanched green beans, fresh spinach, artichokes, red bell peppers, chickpeas, broccoli, etc. for a more veg-forward version. Or different types of cheese (feta cheese? parmesan cheese?), or different shapes of pasta (penne? fusili? maybe even some tortellini?)… the possibilities are endless. I love this salad as-is but I also love its flexibility!

How long will this prepared pasta salad stay good in the fridge?

Keep any leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days in a sealed container.

Can this pasta salad be prepped ahead of time?

Yes! And in fact, I recommend it! This tastes especially delicious when the flavors get to linger all together for a bit. I’d make it 12-24 hours ahead of time.

Can you freeze pasta salad?

While we’d all love to have pasta salad always at the ready, unfortunately, this cannot be frozen! The pasta will get especially weird and mushy, as well as the veggies too.

If I’m at a picnic, how do I ensure this stays at a safe temperature?

Since this is served cold, you should either remove it from the table once 2 hours have passed (putting it back in a fridge/cooler or tossing out), OR find a way for it to be served in a larger container of ice so that it stays at 40 degrees or less. Lots of good safe food practices for picnics and potlucks here!

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Pasta and colorful veggies mixed together in a bowl.

The Best Easy Pasta Salad

  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 10+ – this yields more than 15 cups 1x


Super easy pasta salad – with pasta, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, spicy salami, pepperoncini, olives, and easy Italian dressing. DANGEROUSLY GOOD.


Units Scale

Pasta Salad Essentials:

  • 1 pound uncooked pasta
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese balls, cut in half
  • 1 lb. salami or summer sausage, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 3/4 cup pepperoncini (optional, but do it)
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Italian Pasta Salad Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar (white vinegar or red wine vinegar work)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 12 tablespoons coarse sea salt (yes, tablespoons – see notes section!)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons each dry oregano and dry basil
  • black pepper to taste
  • fresh herbs if you want! sometimes I add fresh parsley, basil, or chives.


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, in salted water for more flavor. Allow to cool slightly and toss with a little oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Blend up the dressing, or shake together in a jar.
  3. Toss all ingredients together! I like to use about three-fourths of the dressing, and then I save the rest of the dressing to add to my leftovers.
  4. Keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. I think it actually tastes best the day AFTER you make it.



Update 7/12/22: Based on reader feedback and additional testing, the olive oil in the dressing was reduced to 1/2 cup (previous, it was 1 1/2 cups). 

Please note that the amount written is for COARSE sea salt. If you are using fine table salt, start with 2 teaspoons and add more to taste. The dressing itself will be very salty. Like, too salty for a normal salad. But in this recipe, that’s what we want! That dressing is going to get tossed with an entire pound of plain pasta, as well as a whole lot of fresh unseasoned vegetables, and it will taste delicious once it’s all tossed up. If you don’t want as salty a dressing, feel free to reduce it to 1 tablespoon.

You can also save time on onion prep with this guide on how to cut an onion.

  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Mix
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: pasta salad, pasta salad recipe, best pasta salad, potluck recipe, summer recipe

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        1. Pinch of Yum Logo
          Athena Contarino

          I am making this today for a family cookout, yes we are Greek and Italian, so I tweaked up the recipe a bit, adding pepperoni instead of salami, adding herb and oil marinated green olives, adding red, yellow and orange bell peppers and pepperoncini peppers and topping it with parmesan cheese

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      At our house we’re typically Pinch of Yum fans, Garlic Basil Chicken with tomato butter sauce is a household fave. This recipe was way toooooo SALTY. Could we have done something wrong? We cut out the peppers and onions but added tons of cucumbers. It was not edible. My feet and hands swelled up almost instantly (not really but it tasted like they should have). I felt like I had my entire days allotment of sodium in one bite. Any minor interior mouth scratches were identified by screaming salt pains Does anyone else fine this to be not edible?

      PS I love pasta salads, this was not pasta salad it was salt salad.

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo
        Krista @ Pinch of Yum

        Sorry to hear that, Travis! Some readers have mentioned that if you taste the salad right after adding the dressing, it will be quite salty. But the saltiness does subside once the dressing soaks into the pasta.

      2. Pinch of Yum Logo

        Yes, It was very salty for me too. I think the two tablespoons of salt in the dressing was a bit much. I was literally crunching on salt.

        1. Pinch of Yum Logo

          I made this last night for a neighborhood lunch block party today. I started out making the dressing and used the course sea salt as called for. I knew I wanted to let the dressing “marinate”and let the salt. dissolve. I whisked it, shook it and and added Mezzetta basil pesto in lieu of fresh garlic and dried/fresh basil to the dressing. At first I panicked that this wasn’t going to be enough salad with just the one pound of pasta after it was cooked, but after adding all the ingredients (I used mild banana peppers instead of the pepperoncini) the bowl was full. I added about half a cup of the dressing at a time to the bare pasta and as I added each of the other salad ingredients I added another half cup. I just took the salad out of the ‘fridge and stirred it from the bottom up. Just tasted it. It is FANTASTIC and not salty. Looking forward to sharing it!

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This looks deeelish! I am making this tonight! Thanks for another recipe I KNOW will be great 🙂 You are my go-to for recipes I can count on my whole family enjoying!

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo

        My family loved this salad! Super delish made 2 days before. This recipe is a keeper!

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This quick pasta salad really hits on all cylinders. The right combination of easy store-bought elements with a delicious homemade dressing. The entire combination just sounds delicious and the mix and match of just the things you want to add makes it versatile and appealing for all who will eat it! Great job on this!

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo

        Enjoyed this recipe. The longer the pasta was in the refrigerator the better it got. The dressing ingredients meld together and make this dish!

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Growing up in Wisconsin I know exactly what kinds of salads you’re talking about. Salads heavy on the mayo, with marshmallows and maraschino cherries! I love your lightened up take on pasta salad! 🙂

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This sounds like my kinda weeknight meal…quick, easy and delish. I too have been getting into whole wheat pasta lately and I am loving it!! Thanks for sharing.
    P.S great job on the vids 😉

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Would you be able to share with me where you got the bowl in the picture with the italian pasta salad? I love the creme color with the dark spots! You food photography is so appetizing !! Good work !!!!
    Thank you .

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Is the nutritional info no longer being included? Or am I blind and just not seeing it anywhere?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      No, we usually just add it in last and sometimes it gets forgotten in the rush of publishing (and lately we’ve been troubleshooting some big site issues so it just completely got missed). I will add it now!

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    We are literally melting here in western NY so this was the perfect easy to prepare not hot lunch. In love with the dressing as well.

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This looks like a tasty dish that would make everyone love it! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This Italian pasta salad sounds good. I find using bottled dressing helps to keep the pasta from absorbing too much of the oil but your dressing sounds delicious and you could just add it right before serving it. This is great for hosting parties or take along.

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I am making this for my husband’s work party tomorrow at Golds Gym! All the big wigs will partake of it I hope! Thank you!

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Fix Your Skin

    I just tried this, to bring to a party tomorrow. It’s amazing. Right now it’s late at night and i can’t stop thinking about it sitting in the fridge because i want some. But have to wait ’til tomorrow. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I have to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU. As a newly pregnant woman, I have been craving pasta salad and my goodness woman, you are a godsend. I will never ever forget this blog and all the incredible recipes on it.

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Carla Reynolds

    Thank you so much! Just what I was craving. This is a great base recipe that can take off in various tasty directions.

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I need a quick pasta salad to take to a teacher-appreciation potluck at my son’s school tomorrow, and this one is the winner! I’m using bottled dressing, sliced pepperoni that I’ll dice up (because I have it on-hand) and diced mozzarella because it’s so much cheaper than the little balls. I’m hoping the teachers love it! it looks delish!