This Italian Pasta Salad with salami, mozzarella, cucumbers, and more is just the thing for all your summer picnics, BBQ's, and more! It's packed with textures and flavors, then finished off with an easy homemade Italian dressing.
I could eat pasta salad every day during the summer. While technically a side dish, it makes the perfect light lunch when the weather is hot and it's so easy to throw together.
This Italian pasta salad is one of our favorites and a great choice for picnics and summer parties when you need to bring something to share. It goes great with sandwiches, burgers, grilled chicken, ribs, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
This is a quick overview of some of the important ingredients you'll need for this Italian pasta salad recipe. Specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.
- Pasta: I used a corkscrew-shaped type of pasta known as fusilli bucati or fusilli cort in these photos, which has a tight spiral shape. But any bite-size pasta works in a pasta salad, whether it's small shells, farfalle, macaroni noodles, or rotini.
- Salami: Rather than using sliced salami (which is totally fine if that's what you have on hand!) I went with whole salami that I could dice into chunks.
- Veggies: Some chopped onion, diced bell pepper or even roasted red bell peppers, crunchy cucumber, and sliced tomatoes add freshness, crunch, and so much flavor to this summertime classic.
- Mozzarella balls: Everybody loves the small balls of mozzarella cheese in this salad. It gives it that caprese vibe and fun texture.
- Dressing: Some olive oil with Italian herbs and a few other ingredients like lemon juice, dijon mustard, and just a touch of maple syrup for sweetness and balance make a quick and easy dressing for the salad. Because olive oil is the primary dressing component, be sure to use a good quality one with a good flavor.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad
It's super simple to throw this side dish together. Here's a quick overview with step-by-step images to help you visualize the process. Scroll down to the recipe card for printable, detailed instructions.
- Cook the pasta just until al dente: Bring a lot pot of salted water to a boil, then add the pasta and set a timer. Don't overcook the pasta or it will soak up more of the dressing than you are intending. Your cooking time might vary depending on the particular cut of pasta or brand you are using, so be sure to follow the package directions, but you can typically plan on about 8-10 minutes for most pasta. When the timer goes off, drain the cooked pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Prep veggies and meat: While the pasta is boiling, slice the grape tomatoes and olives in half, then chop the bell pepper, onions, salami, cucumber, and parsley.
- Combine: Add the drained pasta along with all of the chopped vegetables, salami, and mozzarella balls to a large bowl. You don't want everything spilling out when you toss them, so be sure the bowl is plenty big, then transfer to a serving bowl later for better presentation.
- Make the dressing: In another bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Pour over the pasta and veggies, then toss until everything is well coated and mixed together. Transfer to a large serving bowl for presentation, if desired.
Sometimes the next day pasta salad can taste dry and a bit bland. That's usually because the pasta noodles soak up the dressing over time. To prevent against this, make sure the noodles have cooled completely. Warm pasta soaks up liquid more. You can also reserve half of the dressing if you aren't planning to serve this Italian pasta salad right away and add it and toss just before serving.
Al dente is a term of doneness used to describe the texture of cooked pasta. It's got structure and a bit of chew without being crunchy (underdone) or soft and mushy (overdone). All pasta should have directions on the package indicating how long to cook it to reach al dente for that particular shape and brand.
If the pasta noodles are completely cooled when you add all of the other ingredients, it's not necessary to chill the salad before serving. However, we do think it tastes best when it has had about 1 hour in the fridge before serving to get nice and cold.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Assemble just before serving: Italian pasta salad, like most pasta salads, tastes best the same day it is made. It will keep longer than that, but the textures and flavors are better when freshly combined.
- Using Italian dressing: If you are in a hurry and don't want to make the dressing in the recipe card below, an easy shortcut is to use ½ to ¾ cup of your favorite Italian dressing instead.
- Play with amounts: We think our version of Italian pasta salad is just right, but you can easily double the dressing amounts, add more salami or mozzarella balls, or toss in ½ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese for even more cheese flavor if you feel like it.
What to Serve With Pasta Salad
The fun flavors and textures of salami, red bell pepper, and mozzarella in this salad make it a perfect side dish to serve with lots of mains. These are some of our favorites:
- Other side salads (make a meal out of them!)
- Spicy Honey Chicken
- Uncle Richard's Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Roast Chicken
- All-American Hamburger
This Italian pasta salad is best the day it is made, like most pasta salads, but will still be good for 3-4 days in the fridge. Be sure to toss again before serving in case the dressings settles in the bottom of the bowl.
This recipe doesn't freeze well, unfortunately.
More Side Dish Recipes
- Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata
- Creamy Pea Salad with Bacon
- Classic Potluck Broccoli Salad
- Deviled Egg Potato Salad
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 cup mini fresh mozzarella balls, whole or halved
- 13 grape, plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ red onion, diced
- 1 cup cucumber, sliced and seeds removed
- ½ cup olives (green, purple, or black)
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 10 ounces salami, diced
- 15 ounces cooked pasta (fusilli, rotini, or farfalle all work well)
- ½ cup fresh or roasted red bell pepper, diced
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon coarse Kosher salt, or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Prepare pasta according to package directions (al dente) by boiling in a large pot of salted water. Once done, drain and rinse the pasta in cool water in a colander to stop the cooking process. Let the pasta cool down completely or even chill in the fridge before combining with other ingredients. (We are going for a cold salad here).
- Make the dressing by combining the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, syrup, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper in a bowl or jar with a tight fitting lid, then whisking or shaking well.
- Prepare the veggies and salami by cutting them while the pasta is cooking and arrange in a large mixing bowl. Add in the rinsed, drained, and cooled pasta, then pour the dressing on top. Toss to combine and evenly coat everything in the dressing. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed for seasoning.
- This is optional, but we think this salad tastes best after chilling in the fridge for 1 hour and serving it cold.
- Don’t overcook the pasta. For pasta salad, it should be firm and not soggy. Cook it al dente according to your package instructions.
- Storage: Leftovers will keep well for up to 3-4 days in the fridge, but it's best the same day the salad is made. Toss again before serving. We do not recommend freezing.
- Salami substitutions: You can use other cooked or cured sausages in place of salami if you prefer. Cooked Italian sausage or kielbasa also work well.