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Homemade Italian Pasta Salad

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, where every potluck or picnic included Italian pasta salad. It was always one of my favorite salads, but now it has entered the realm of comfort food. Living in places where not only was it not served anywhere but viewed as weird made me realize how much I love this dish. This homemade Italian pasta salad is a classic in my book.

The most mouthwatering picnic salad gets a Mediterranean twist in this Italian Pasta Salad recipe. All of the flavors of a classic Italian Sub are packed into this dish – it’s hearty, but not heavy, and packed with veggies, meats, and cheese. A simple vinaigrette brings the ingredients together for the perfect mix of savory, tangy, and just a little sweetness.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Additional Time: 1 hour (refrigeration)
  • Yield: 12 servings

Tools Used:

  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • Mixing bowls
  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Paring knife
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mixing spoon
  • Dressing jar or mason jar

Ingredients:

  • 1 box (16 ounces) rotini (I used tri-color)
  • ½ cup diced salami
  • ½ cup diced ham
  • ¼ cup diced pepperoni
  • ½ cup cubed mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup sliced pepperoncini
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion

For the vinaigrette:

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat on the stove.

Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box.

Drain and rinse the pasta in cold water, and place it into a large mixing bowl. Toss the pasta in a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking, and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, parsley flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper to a 16 ounce jar or bottle. Secure with a lid and shake vigorously to combine.

To assemble the pasta salad, add the salami, ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, tomatoes, pepperoncini, and red onion to the bowl with the pasta. Toss to combine.

Pour the vinaigrette over the pasta mixture, and toss again to coat thoroughly.

Refrigerate your pasta salad for a minimum of 1 hour, then toss again to distribute any vinaigrette that has pooled to the bottom of the bowl, and serve.

This homemade Italian pasta salad tastes like home to me–it just makes me happy. It’s an easy crowd-pleasing side dish, but I honestly enjoy it just on its own.

Notes:

  • I love the look of the tri-color rotini in this salad, but you can use just about any type of pasta shape that you prefer. Other great options include plain rotini or rotelle, gemelli, penne, bowtie, and celentani. You could also use tortellini for more flavor and texture.
  • You can prepare this pasta salad a day in advance if you like. It tastes even better after 24 hours, since the flavors have had a chance to meld together and infuse into the rest of the elements in the salad. Just be sure to toss again just before serving to make sure that those settled juices are re-incorporated throughout the dish.
  • If you like, you can also start by only tossing the salad with half of the vinaigrette, and reserve the other half for tossing just before serving.
  • If the vinaigrette isn’t being used right away, store it (or any unused portion of it) in the fridge, covered. Be sure to take it out of the fridge for 30 minutes before using to allow the ingredients to come up to room temperature – otherwise, the oils will be solidified from the cooled and will stay separate from the rest of the ingredients.
  • For more flavor, consider sprinkling some fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top before serving, or use your favorite brand of Italian seasoning for additional depth.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.

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