Fresh and easy pasta salad packed with crisp vegetables, fresh mozzarella, and tossed with a simple homemade dressing. The perfect side dish!
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Related: See 24 must-try pasta recipes our family makes over and over again!
How To Make the Best Pasta Salad
This pasta salad recipe is easy to make. Made with simple ingredients, this salad is flexible, so you can make this when you are inundated by summer produce or adapt to what is in season. Plus, you are looking at under 20 minutes from start to finish. Not too bad, especially when you can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days! This recipe uses a vinaigrette-based dressing. If you wanted a creamy salad, take a look at our creamy pasta salad recipe.
What Ingredients Should I Add to Pasta Salad?
We wanted to share an extra easy and flexible pasta salad with you. It is straightforward and quick to make. So you can make the best pasta salad, we have shared lots of tips below.
This salad is a mashup between Greek and Italian pasta salad. Greek because we add both Kalamata and green olives and Italian because we throw parmesan and fresh mozzarella cheese into the mix. For another Italian-inspired pasta salad, try our Three Herb Italian Pasta Salad.
If you love Greek-inspired salads, take a look at this briny Greek pasta salad or our favorite Greek salad. We also have a homemade Italian dressing, if you are interested.
If you would prefer to leave the olives out, no problem! Use our recipe as a guide, and then throw in the ingredients you love. We have shared lots of suggestions below.
The Best Pasta To Use: Pasta is essential, but the type of pasta you use does matter. I like the pasta to bite back a bit and hate it when it turns mushy.
That’s why you should choose hearty pasta shapes like penne, fusilli, rotini, and farfalle (bow tie). They also have the advantage of lots of nooks and crannies, which trap the dressing and bits of cheese. Other shapes can work, too. Orzo pasta is an excellent option, but make sure not to overcook it.
Add Some Vegetables: An assortment of veggies add color and crunch to the salad. We love adding bell pepper, cucumber or zucchini, halved cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced green onion (or scallions). You can add other vegetables, too.
Try sliced fennel, grated carrots, radish, and even cauliflower or broccoli. Roasted winter squash and beets are an excellent alternative in fall and winter.
Adding a handful of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand is an excellent idea, too. The more color and flavor, the better!
Add Some Cheese: We love the saltiness of shredded parmesan in pasta salad. Since it’s shredded, it almost melts into the dressing. Mozzarella cheese is another favorite. We cut small balls of fresh mozzarella in half and toss them with the pasta.
Other cheeses will work, too. Try feta cheese for more of a Greek pasta salad or swap the parmesan cheese for shredded sharp cheddar. For a vegan pasta salad, leave the cheese out.
Flavorful Extras: My favorite part about pasta salad is adding extra secret ingredients that make it shine. Olives add tanginess and a lot of flavor. Pickled vegetables are fun (try pickled onions), and sliced pepperoncini peppers add a little extra kick.
If you aren’t going for a vegetarian pasta salad, you can add a handful of chopped salami, pepperoni, turkey, or ham. You could even shred a rotisserie or roasted chicken and toss it in. So many options!
Our Easy Dressing for Pasta Salad
Once you’ve decided on the ingredients you’re adding to the salad; you need to make the dressing. We make an easy five-ingredient pasta salad dressing.
To make it, whisk red wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper. It’s simple, but when mixed with the pasta, veggies and other ingredients, it tastes amazing.
To upgrade the dressing, try champagne vinegar. It’s a bit more pricey, but it tastes incredible.
Making Pasta Salad in Advance
Here’s the great news. Pasta salad gets better over time. Letting the pasta and veggies sit in the dressing for a while makes a huge difference in flavor. We take the same approach when making potato salad.
You can make pasta salad and keep it in the fridge for up to five days, which makes this the perfect side dish to prepare in advance.
Let’s recap, for the best homemade pasta salad, keep the following in mind:
- A simple combination of red wine vinegar, oregano, olive oil, salt, and pepper makes the perfect tangy dressing.
- Pasta salad tastes better over time so making it ahead of time isn’t just possible, it’s recommended.
- Use a variety of colors and textures. Vegetables add crunch and color, olives add brininess, and fresh mozzarella makes the salad extra special.
- Add even more flavor with fresh herbs, pickled veggies or spicy peppers like sliced pepperoncini peppers.
More Pasta Salads
- This salad has more of a vinaigrette dressing, but creamy pasta salad is good, too! Try our Creamy Macaroni Pasta Salad with a simple creamy dressing and crisp veggies.
- Our readers love this Easy Orzo Pasta Salad. It features a simple lemon vinaigrette, cucumber, olives, artichokes, tomato, and fresh herbs
- We also love this Pearl Couscous Salad with tomatoes and cucumbers. With lots of texture from crisp cucumber, sweet tomatoes, crunchy nuts, and raisins, this is certainly one of our favorites.
Quick and Easy Pasta Salad
This easy pasta salad is flexible based on the ingredients you have in your kitchen or the season. Start with a hearty pasta shape that has nooks and crannies to hold onto the dressing like rotini or penne. Then toss with our simple dressing and lots of colorful vegetables. We also love adding parmesan cheese, which melts into the dressing as well as a handful of fresh mozzarella balls. For more suggestions for what to add, read through our recommendations in the article above.
Makes about 10 servings
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will Need
1 pound dried pasta like fusilli, penne, rotini or farfalle (bow tie)
1 cup sliced bell pepper (1 medium)
1 cup thinly sliced zucchini (1/2 medium)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions (5 to 6)
1/4 cup sliced pepperoncini or banana peppers, optional
1 cup (4 ounces) halved mixed olives
1 cup (2 ounces) grated parmesan cheese or hard cheese
1 cup (6 ounces) fresh mozzarella balls, chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley or basil, optional
1/3 cup red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 to 3 tablespoons juice from pepperoncini jar, optional
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, 6 to 10 minutes (check the package for recommended cook time). Drain and rinse well under cold water.
2While the pasta cooks, in the bottom of a large bowl, make the dressing. Whisk the red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, pepperoncini juice (if using), and the olive oil until blended. Add the drained and rinsed pasta to the dressing and mix well.
3Stir in the bell pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, scallions, pepperoncini (if using), olives, parmesan, mozzarella, and the herbs (if using). Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Serve or for the best results, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 5 days.
Adam and Joanne’s Tips
- This gets better and better over time so making it a day in advance is a great idea!
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste
Nutrition Per Serving
1/10 of the salad