Italian Pasta Salad

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This Classic Italian Pasta Salad is summer picnic comfort food at its best. Tri-color pasta, veggies, cheese and pepperoni fill this zesty Italian salad.

You know what my favorite part of a summer picnic is? The side dishes! Classic potato salad, creamy broccoli salad and sweet Snickers salad are ALWAYS a hit.

If there’s a picnic that I have to bring a side dish to? You can bet it I’m going to bring this Italian pasta salad.  It gets requested often by family and friends for picnics and potlucks.

I love pasta salad because it is easy. No peeling potatoes or slicing too many veggies. We’ll talk below about how to prepare parts of this salad in advance to make this a perfect side dish recipe for all of your summer cookouts.

overhead view of italian pasta salad with a spoon

About this Easy Italian Pasta Salad Recipe:

  • Flavor: This easy pasta salad recipe is packed with flavor thanks to the pepperoni, cheddar and zesty Italian dressing. We also add our homemade pasta salad seasoning which is our secret to an unforgettable pasta salad that everyone will be asking about.
  • Texture: Pasta salads have a lot of texture in every bite. The vegetables give a crunch while the cheese gives a creaminess to the salad.
  • Method: Boil the pasta noodles on the stovetop, then drain and let it cool. The rest is simply mixing ingredients together.

Best Pasta Salad Noodles

The base of our pasta salad is tricolor pasta noodles. I choose this because it gives such a pretty pop of color to the salad.

If you can’t find tri-color rotini pasta use anything from farfalle to fusilli or penne pasta. Anything will work and sometimes a fun pasta shape is necessary for smiles.

Pasta Salad Ingredients

Pasta salad can have many different ingredients, but this classic Italian pasta salad has cucumber, tomato, onion, olives, cheese and pepperoni.

You’ll also need a zesty Italian dressing and our pasta salad seasoning. More on that below!

ingredients for Italian pasta salad on a table

Pasta Salad Dressing

We find it easiest to use store-bought zesty Italian dressing for our pasta salad.

If you’d like to try making your own pasta salad dressing, you can take the dressing from any of these recipes and add it to the salad:

How to Make Pasta Salad

  • Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions and allow it to cool. Use our hints below the recipe card for keeping the pasta from sticking together.
tricolor rotini pasta in a colander
  • Add the other ingredients. Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the olives, pepperoni, onion, cheese, cucumber and tomato. You can of course add other veggies or leave some out if you don’t like them. Mix well.
a bowl with pasta, red onion, pepperoni and olives
  • Season the salad. Just before serving, sprinkle the salad seasoning on top of the salad, then pour the dressing over the top. Mix well. Add more dressing, if desired.
pouring Italian dressing over pasta salad in a bowl

How do I make pasta salad taste better?

Have you ever added seasoning to your pasta salad? Our pasta salad seasoning recipe makes pasta salad stand out!

If you have your own favorite pasta salad recipe, you’ll use three tablespoons of this seasoning per one pound of pasta to make it taste better.

Recipe Variations

  • Switch up the cheese by adding feta cheese, fresh mozzarella, or pepper jack for a hint of heat.
  • Add diced red peppers or even roasted red peppers for a unique taste.
  • Garnish the top of the salad with fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or dill.
  • Use sliced salami rather than pepperoni.
a bowl of Italian pasta salad with parmesan cheese on top

What main dish goes with pasta salad?

Pasta salad goes with just about any grilled dinner.

What other side dishes go with pasta salad?

You may also love our Low Carb Italian Sub Salad!

closeup of Italian pastas salad with a wooden spoon in the bowl
closeup of Italian pastas salad with a wooden spoon in the bowl

Italian Pasta Salad (with Special Seasoning)

5 from 8 votes
This Classic Italian Pasta Salad is summer picnic comfort food at its best. Tri-color pasta, veggies, cheese and pepperoni fill this zesty Italian salad.
Servings 10 servings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

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  • 12 ounces tri-color rotini pasta
  • 1 can sliced black olives (2.25 ounce) drained
  • 5 ounces sliced pepperoni (cut into quarters)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup cubed cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved (or cherry tomatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons pasta salad seasoning
  • 1 cup zesty Italian dressing


  • Cook pasta according to package instructions in a large pot. Drain the pasta in a colander and allow it to cool. 12 ounces tri-color rotini pasta
  • Once the pasta has cooled to room temperature, place the pasta in a large bowl. Add the drained olives, pepperoni, onion, cheese, cucumber and tomato. Mix well. 1 can sliced black olives, 5 ounces sliced pepperoni, ½ cup chopped red onion, 1 cup cubed cheddar cheese, 1 cup diced cucumber, 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • Refrigerate the salad to chill it for at least an hour.
  • Just before serving, sprinkle the salad seasoning on top of the salad, then pour the dressing over the top. Mix well. 3 tablespoons pasta salad seasoning, 1 cup zesty Italian dressing
  • Add more dressing, to taste. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up 48 hours. It may need more dressing to freshen it up as it sits. This is best served the day you make it.



Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.
The calories shown are based on the recipe serving 10, with 1 serving being 1/10 of the salad. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**


Calories: 370kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 1145mg | Potassium: 301mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 679IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 1mg
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 370
Keyword easy pasta salad, easy summer dinner recipe, picnic salad, summer picnic

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep cold pasta from sticking together?

Don’t add the pasta to the water until the water is at a full boil. Don’t overcook the pasta, but just cook to al dente. Rinse the pasta with cold water after cooking since you won’t be serving it right away.

Also, because you’re adding an oil-based dressing to the pasta, you can toss the cold pasta noodles with just a teaspoon or two of extra virgin olive oil to prevent them from sticking. Don’t do this if you are serving with tomato sauce or the sauce won’t stick.

Can you make pasta salad the day before?

If you’re making pasta salad the day before, we recommend keeping the pasta, pepperoni and cheese in one bowl and the veggies in another bowl. Right before serving, mix it all together with the dressing. This will help your pasta salad stay fresh.

How long can you keep pasta salad with Italian dressing?

This pasta salad will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If the pasta salad has dried out, toss it with a few extra tablespoons of Italian dressing. This will freshen it right up!

Can you freeze pasta salad?

No. Pasta salad doesn’t freeze well. Gobble it up while you’ve got it.

Other Favorite Salad Recipes

Salads are some of our favorite recipes to make! Whether they are loaded with meat, potatoes, veggies or a combination of all three, you’re sure to find a new one to love.

About JulieJulie Clark

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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Lizzy T
9 years ago

You’re welcome, Linda! I hope your son loves it!