Italian pasta salad comes together in just a few minutes with rotini noodles coated in flavorful Italian dressing and loaded with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese and is a welcome addition at picnics and potlucks. Makes a great side dish or a full meal.
Many of our friends call this pepperoni pasta salad and it’s really just a classic Italian pasta salad with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese added.
WHAT GOES IN ITALIAN PASTA SALAD?
The best part about this Italian pasta salad is that you can adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes. The only ingredients required for Italian pasta salad is pasta and Italian dressing. The rest of the ingredients can be omitted, increased, and changed. The following ingredients are just the way my crew likes it.
You can use just about any pasta shape you want when making this recipe. I refer to use rotini because it has more surface area for holding onto the Italian dressing. Tri-color rotini just adds more color to the salad.
Like our other pasta salads, it is best to rinse your pasta with cold water after cooking. It will cool the pasta down quicker and rinse away some of the starch. This helps keep your salad moist later.
Choosing the right kind of salad dressing for Italian pasta salad is really a matter of personal taste.
I use homemade Italian dressing in my pasta salad. Bottled Italian dressing is perfectly fine though. Use a brand that has a flavor you like, it will be a dominant flavor in this pasta salad.
My next choice would be an Italian dressing made with Good Seasons dry mix. If I am in a super big hurry I’ll use the bottled kind made by Wish-Bone. Both of these options will be improved with a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese.
You may want to keep some extra dressing handy in case the salad turns out a little bit dry. You can always add a touch just before serving.
Mozzarella cheese goes well with pepperoni and Italian dressing. Start with a solid block of cheese and cut it into small dices. I think it holds up better in this salad. If you don’t like mozzarella cheese, use any kind of cheese that you can cut into smaller dice. I would probably avoid crumbly cheese like feta.
I used the mini pepperoni this time for convenience. Full-size pepperoni can be used, just cut it into smaller pieces. Alternatively, you can use stick pepperoni and cut it into dices about the same size as the cheese.
I like the addition of black olives for the color and texture, but you can certainly leave them out if you don’t like them.
Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes are the perfect size to blend into this dish. They go well with pepperoni and mozzarella cheese.
HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN PASTA SALAD WITH PEPPERONI
Cook 16 ounces of pasta according to the package directions. I cook my rotini pasta about 1 minute past al dente.
Drain and rinse the cooked pasta with cold water and set aside to drain.
Prepare the rest of your ingredients will the pasta is draining.
Combine everything in a large bowl and mix well to combine.
This pasta is ready to eat immediately but tastes better when refrigerated for at least a few hours.
MORE SUGGESTED ITALIAN PASTA SALAD INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS
Use any of these as substitutions or additions to our Italian pasta salad recipe.
- Diced ham
- Diced Cheeses like Cheddar, Jack, or Swiss
- Cooked Chicken
- Diced Green Peppers
- Diced Red Peppers
- Diced red onion
- Broccoli Florets
- Sliced Carrots
- Shaved Parmesan Cheese
MORE SIDE DISH RECIPES YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY WILL LOVE
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Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
- 16 ounces dry pasta rotini suggested
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese cut into ¼ inch dice
- 6 ounce can black olives drained and cut into halves or slices
- 5 ounces mini pepperoni
- 5 ounces cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1 cup Italian Dressing bottled is fine
- Cook pasta according to the package directions.
- When the pasta is done remove the pan from the heat and drain into a colander and rinse with cold water. Allow the pasta to drain for a few more minutes to allow some of the excess water to drain.
- While the pasta is draining, prep the remaining ingredients if not already diced.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix.
- Cover the salad and place into the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow some of the Italian dressing to absorb into the pasta. Stir well before serving.
More dressing can be added to the pasta salad if it is dry.
Pasta can be stored for up to 1 week in the refrigerator, if using chicken as a substitute, do not store this for longer than 3 days.