Classic Italian Pasta Salad with rotini pasta, pepperoni, black olives, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mozzarella cheese. Simple to make with bottled Italian salad dressing. Perfect pasta side dish for any dinner, gathering, or picnic. You'll love the explosion of flavors in this pasta salad.
Classic Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
I just love making this classic Italian pasta salad! It is a chunky pasta salad (meaning lots of chunks of add-ins) and is exploding with flavor thanks to the pepperoni, black olives, tomatoes, red onion, peppers, cucumbers, mozzarella pearls and asiago cheese. It's also really easy to make because it calls for a bottle of Italian salad dressing which provides tons of flavor with no effort.
We love a saucier pasta salad and this one is just that. It's the perfect side dish to serve alongside some BBQ Baked Beans and my Ambrosia Fruit Salad for a BBQ or family gathering. Be sure and also try my No Bake Jello Pie for a cool & light summer dessert.
Here is the list of ingredients that you will need to make this classic Italian pasta salad recipe.
- Rotini Pasta - This is the best pasta to use because it absorbs the dressing well with it's ridges.
- Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing - I highly recommend using the Olive Garden brand in this recipe. It has the best flavor, and has a creamier base which makes it perfect in this salad.
- Italian Seasoning
- Green Bell Peppers
- Red Bell Peppers
- Sliced Red Onion
- Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
- English Cucumber - A regular cucumber or mini cucumber can be used instead.
- Black Olives
- Mozzarella Pearls - You will find these in the deli section with the other specialty cheeses like Parmesan cheese and Asiago cheese. They are little balls of mozzarella cheese.
- Shredded Parmesan or Asiago Cheese - I use asiago cheese in this recipe but either one will work great. It's best to shred your own from a wedge. You will find this cheese by the mozzarella pearls.
How To Make Italian Pasta Salad with Pepperoni
Learn how to make this recipe for a classic Italian pasta salad with the easy steps below. Be sure and read to the bottom of the post where there is a printable recipe card with all the detailed instructions and ingredients.
- Boil Pasta : Boil the pasta according to the package directions. I prefer mine a bit softer than al dente, so I cook it for 1-2 minutes past the al dente time. Don't forget to add at least 1 teaspoon of salt into the boiling water along with the dry pasta. Once done, drain the pasta in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process and to cool the noodles down.
- Vegetables : While the pasta is cooking I like to prep, chop, and shred all the add-ins so they're ready to go. Dice the pepperoni, bell peppers, slice the red onion, half the tomatoes, and chop the cucumbers. Shred some asiago or parmesan cheese.
- Italian Pasta Salad : Pour the rinsed rotini pasta into a large mixing bowl, or serving bowl of choice. Pour the Italian salad dressing onto the pasta along with the dried Italian seasoning. Stir to combine. Add all the other ingredients and stir well.
- Serve : This can be served right away OR if you prefer a chilled pasta salad, cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours maximum before serving. The pasta will dry out, so I don't recommend making this too far in advance.
Tips For Success
Here are a few of my tips that will hopefully make this recipe easy to recreate in your own kitchen.
- Italian Salad Dressing : I highly, highly recommend using the Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing that you can buy at the grocery store. It has the best flavor, and an almost creamy like base, that pairs perfectly with all the flavors in this salad and the pasta. You can use whatever Italian salad dressing you prefer, just make sure you like the flavor of it as it is the main seasoning in this salad.
- Salt Pasta Water : Once the water has boiled, add at least 1 teaspoon of salt along with the dry pasta noodles. It's so important to salt the water because it will give the pasta some flavor rather than just bland. I use 1 teaspoon kosher salt when boiling pasta. This will make such a difference in the final taste of the pasta salad.
- Serving : I prefer eating pasta salad that has chilled for a couple hours. You can serve it immediately after making it, but if you prefer a chilled salad, simply cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. I would not recommend making this ahead of time. The pasta salad will dry out the longer it refrigerates.
Italian Pasta Salad FAQ's
- Do I Have To Use Rotini Pasta?
- You can use whatever pasta you want, but I highly recommend using rotini pasta because it absorbs and holds the dressing really well in it's ridges.
- How Many Cups of Dry Pasta is in 12 Ounces?
- If you can't find a 12 ounce box of rotini pasta then measure out 3 cups of dry pasta from a larger box. Or if you prefer more pasta then use the entire 16 ounce box instead.
- How To Store Leftover Italian Pasta Salad
- Store any leftovers in an air-tight container, in the fridge, for 3-4 days.
- Leftover pasta might be dried out because as the salad sits in the fridge, the pasta will continue to absorb all the dressing. Simply add a little bit of additional Italian salad dressing until it's where you want it.
- Serving Suggestions
- This pasta salad is ready to eat immediately after making it. You are using a premed Italian salad dressing, which is already marinated and loaded with flavor, so the salt itself does not need time for all the flavors to blend for hours.
- However, I much prefer a cold/chilled pasta salad so I always let it refrigerate for 2 hours before serving it. I save about ½ cup of the salad dressing to mix in right before serving it.
- Can I Make It Ahead of Time?
- This salad is best served immediately or within 2 hours of making it. If you prefer a chilled pasta salad then you can refrigerate it for a maximum of 2 hours before serving. I do not recommend making it the day before.
More Pasta Salad Recipes You'll Love
- Easy Italian Pasta Salad
- Creamy Macaroni Salad
- Coleslaw Pasta Salad
- Dill Pickle Pasta Salad
- Tri Color Pasta Salad
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- Poppyseed Chicken Pasta Salad
Classic Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 box (12 oz) rotini pasta
- 1 bottle (16 oz) Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
- ¾ cup chopped pepperoni
- ¾ cup chopped English cucumber
- ⅓ cup chopped green bell pepper
- ⅓ cup chopped red bell pepper
- ⅓ cup chopped black olives
- ⅓ cup sliced red onion (sliced into rings)
- 8 ounces mozzarella pearls
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the back of the box. Remember to add about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt into the boiling water along with the dry pasta. * I prefer a softer pasta so I cook it for 1-2 minutes past the al dente time.
- Drain the pasta in a colander and run cold water over it. This will stop the cooking process and cool the pasta down for the salad. Set aside for later.
- Prepare & chop all the add-ins. Cut the tomatoes in half, chop the pepperoni, cucumber, bell peppers, and black olives. Slice the red onion into small rings or half moon shapes. Shred the asiago cheese. * I like to do all this prep while the pasta is cooking
- Add the drained and cooled pasta into a large mixing bowl, or other serving bowl, and pour the salad dressing over it along with the Italian seasoning. Stir together until all the rotini pasta is coated in sauce.
- Add the tomatoes, pepperoni, cucumber, bell peppers, black olives, and red onion. Stir together to combine.
- Add the mozzarella pearls and shredded Asiago cheese on top. Toss gently to mix.
- This can be served right away OR if you prefer a chilled pasta salad cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for a maximum of 1-2 hours before serving.