Meats, cheeses, pepperoncinis, and other veggies are tossed together with a creamy vinaigrette to make a perfect cold pasta salad. Italian pasta salad is great as a side, for lunch, or to bring for a potluck.
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This is a recipe from my first year of blogging. I refreshed the recipe in May 2021 after making it several more times and refining it over time. It’s one of my go-to pasta salads to take to a potluck.
I use rotini (spirals) for this recipe, and I’ve used both regular and tricolor. Fusilli is also a good spiral pasta choice. Farfalle (bow tie) or penne would be good choices, too. As much as I love using fresh pasta, dried pasta is best for a pasta salad. Fresh pasta doesn’t hold up as well as dried.
Cook the pasta to al dente or slightly firm, and use well-salted pasta water. The box will often have three cooking times. I usually cook it using one of the first two, which will prevent it fro getting too soft and help it hold up better to all of the mixing and dressing.
I commit a major pasta sin and rinse the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking and cool it off. This helps prevent the pasta from getting too soft. The Kitchn suggests dressing the pasta salad while it’s still warm (5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Pasta Salad), but I prefer to dress this one cold. I also don’t want the pasta to absorb the dressing too much because this can contribute to a salad that dries out. The flavors develop well without needing to soak into the noodles.
Other Ingredient Notes
What if I don’t get exactly 1½ cups when I chop the pepperoni or salami? If you end up with a little more or a little less of each, that’s OK! If you’re in the range of about 1¼ to 2 cups of each, you’re in good shape.
What are mozzarella pearls and what if I can’t find them? Mozzarella pearls are small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese. You can usually find them in the cheese or deli section of the grocery store. If your store doesn’t carry them, just chop up some fresh mozzarella cheese into small pieces.
What can I used instead of Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix? I love the Good Seasons packets because they’re an easy shortcut. The Midnight Baker has a Copycat Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix recipe.
Can I make this ahead of time? Yes! I don’t recommend making it more than a day ahead. It’s actually best if you have a chance to let it refrigerate for at least an hour before serving – this allows the flavors to really develop.
Why do you use a blender to chop the meats and provolone? My Vitamix is a total workhorse in my kitchen, and I move using it for quick tasks like this. It saves time because I don’t have to chop it all by hand and it’s not as intense of a cleaning process as the food processor. You can definitely chop the pepperoni and salami by hand.
Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 box rotini pasta
- 1 package sliced pepperoni (approx. 5-6 oz. package or ⅓ lb. ordered from the deli, sandwich size slices recommended)
- 1 package genoa salami (approx. 5-6 oz. package or ⅓ lb. ordered from the deli)
- ½ cup sliced pepperoncini peppers
- 6 slices provolone cheese
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 package mozzarella pearls (8 oz. package, drained)
- 1 small onion sliced thin
- 1 orange or yellow bell pepper chopped or diced
- 1 pint grape tomatoes cut into quarters
- Cook pasta according to package instructions in well-salted pasta water. Meanwhile, begin preparing the vegetables and meats.
- Separate pepperoni slices and place into a blender. Blend on a low speed until the slices are chopped. Remove and set aside. Repeat for the salami and provolone cheese. You want about 1½ cups each of the pepperoni and salami.
- Slice the veggies.
- Whisk together ingredients for the dressing and set aside.
- When pasta finishes cooking, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until it's at least room temperature.
- Divide pasta between two large mixing bowls (unless you have a super extra large bowl). Add all ingredients except for the dressing, tomatoes, and mozzarella pearls. Stir until everything is incorporated throughout the pasta.
- Add dressing and stir until everything is evenly coated, then stir in to tomatoes and mozzarella pearls.
- Refrigerate until serving. Serve cold.