We love this fresh, easy pasta salad recipe with crisp vegetables and mozzarella tossed with a simple homemade dressing. The perfect side dish!
Watch the video
⭐️ See 24 must-try pasta recipes our family makes over and over again!
Why we love this recipe for pasta salad
- Quick and so easy to make — you are looking at under 20 minutes to make it.
- Simple ingredients and flexible, so add what you love.
- It has the best pasta salad dressing!
Our pasta salad recipe uses a vinaigrette for the dressing. For a creamy version, see this macaroni pasta salad.
Key ingredients for the best pasta salad
We love this pasta salad. Think of it as 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.
⭐️ If you’re not a fan of olives, don’t worry! You can still use our recipe as a guide and customize it with your favorite ingredients. We’ve provided several suggestions below to help you out.
Add more flavor and texture with veggies
Veggies add color, flavor, and crunch to the pasta salad. We love bell pepper, cucumber or zucchini, halved cherry tomatoes, and thinly sliced green onion for a summer salad.
For more of a fall or winter salad, try sliced fennel, grated carrots, radish, and cauliflower or broccoli. Roasted winter squash and beets are an delicious. I also love tossing in a handful of whatever fresh herbs I have on hand, too. The more color and flavor, the better!
What’s the best pasta to use for pasta salad?
The best pasta to use for pasta salads are hearty pasta shapes like penne, fusilli, rotini, and farfalle (bow tie). These have the advantage of lots of nooks and crannies, which trap the dressing and bits of cheese. Smaller shapes can work, too. in fact, even though it’s much smaller, we both love orzo pasta for salads. Here’s our recipe for orzo pasta salad.
The extra ingredients we love to toss in
We love the saltiness of shredded parmesan in our pasta salad. Since it’s shredded, it almost melts into the dressing — just like when we make homemade Italian dressing.
In our photos, you can see that we also used fresh mozzarella. 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.
Here are a few ingredients to add to your pasta salad:
- Pickled veggies (try pickled onions or beets)
- Pepperoncini peppers — I love them in this salad!
If you aren’t going for a vegetarian pasta salad, try these:
- Chopped salami or pepperoni – we add salami to this Italian pasta salad
- Rotisserie or roasted chicken
- Flaked poached salmon
Our easy pasta salad dressing
We love this easy five-ingredient pasta salad dressing. Whisk red wine vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano, and a pinch of salt and pepper together.
It’s simple, but when mixed with the pasta and other ingredients, it tastes fantastic.
⭐️ To upgrade the dressing, try champagne vinegar. It’s a bit more pricey, but it tastes incredible. This dressing is similar to the dressing we use for our popular bean salad.
Make ahead tips
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 is a great idea.
- Use a variety of colors and textures. Vegetables add crunch, 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 to try
- 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.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will NeedPasta Salad
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, optionalHomemade Dressing
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.