My Zesty Italian Pasta Salad Recipe With Spicy Tomato
While there is an abundance of big flavors in this zesty Italian pasta salad recipe, I like keeping the presentation a bit delicate.
For this, I’m opting for bow tie pasta that’s light and tender, perfectly coated in the vinaigrette.
I’m also keeping the strips of chicken small, as well as the dried salami, Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts. I like to just sprinkle in the delicately shaved paremesan, pine nuts and flourish of fresh basil at the end.
The spicy tomato-basil vinaigrette has really delicious sweet, savory and bright notes to it, and with a little pinch of red pepper flakes, creates some of the fieriness, or bite, in this zesty Italian pasta salad.
Here’s a sneak peek at my zesty Italian pasta salad recipe:
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
This veggie-packed zesty Italian pasta salad is super flavorful and has officially become one of our new favorite simple meals thats even toddler-friendly! The base recipe is vegetarian, but theres also an option to add salami or sausage if youd like. You do you!
Im a big fan of pasta salad anyone else? Its just so easy and versatile! I mean pasta, veggies, and cheese drizzled with yummy dressing whats not to like, right?
Pasta salad is a great way to use up extra cooked pasta and veggies, and its perfect for packed or picnic lunches. It also makes a great side dish or main dish for a BBQ simple serve it with a grilled protein!
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients
For the Salad:
- Pasta You can use any type of pasta, in any shape for this salad. We like this gluten-free pasta from Thrive Market because it stays soft when chilled.
- Bell pepper Any color will work so use what you like best or what you have on hand. Jarred roasted red bell pepper will also work.
- Cherry or Grape tomatoes Sun-dried tomatoes in oil would also work if fresh tomatoes arent available.
- Zucchini or Yellow squash No need to peel the squash before dicing, leaving the skin intact adds color and flavor. Cucumber can be used in a pinch.
- Red onion No red onion? Opt for a shallot, sliced green onions, or a yellow onion instead.
- Hard salami Any hard salami will work so use the one you like best. This can also be left out for a vegetarian option.
- Fresh mozzarella We used small, cherry-sized balls of fresh mozzarella but you can use any size and cut it into bite-sized pieces. If you dont have fresh mozzarella, you can substitute cubed part-skim mozzarella.
- Chopped Parsley Fresh parsley gives the dish a bright and slightly peppery taste but you can leave it out if you dont have any on hand.
- Fresh Basil You could substitute a pinch of dried basil for fresh but it wont have quite the same effect
For the Dressing:
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Ingredients For Gluten Free Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Gluten Free pasta Banza is a great gluten free brand that tastes like the real thing
Salami swap out for your favorite cut of meat if you dont like salami. Chicken would be good too!
Roasted red peppers grab these in the jar, usually on the aisle with condiments or canned goods
Mozzarella cheese balls
Italian dressing use your favorite
My Tips For Making Easy Italian Pasta Salad
- Be sure and salt the pasta water before adding the dry pasta
- Use an Italian dressing that you LOVE. I really like the Olive Garden Italian dressing so that is the one that I buy. There are so many options. Zesty Italian dressing, creamy Italian dressing, parmesan Italian dressing. Pick one you love or one that sounds yummy!
- It’s best to seed the cucumbers for this pasta salad. Peel the cucumber and then cut it in half vertically . Take a metal dinner spoon and scoop out the seeds and flesh. Then cut and dice the cucumber.
- Use grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. Either one will work great.
- Eat this pasta salad right away or let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. It’s best not to make pasta salad the day before, because pasta salad tends to dry out as it sits in the fridge for a long time. When you are ready to serve, or are eating leftovers, give the salad a good stir and add a tablespoon or two of the dressing to moisten it all back up again.
- The recipe calls for 3/4 cup Italian dressing but feel free to use more or less depending on preference.
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How Many Carbs In Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
The carb content of pasta salad can vary quite a bit, but this recipe made with cauliflower and sugar-free dressing contains 7.3 g carbs, 1.6 g dietary fiber, and 5.6 g net carbs.
Nutrition content with pasta: 357 cal | 22.5 g fat | 718 g sodium | 24.7 g carbohydrates | dietary fiber 2.2 g | protein 14.3 g
Nutrition content with cauliflower: 264 cal | 22.2 g fat | 732.9 sodium | 6 g carbohydrates | 2.4 g dietary fiber | 11.6 g protein
Can I Prepare This Recipe In Advance
While Im not the biggest fan of leftovers, I am a gigantic fan of pasta salad leftovers! That is, if there are any leftovers after this Italian Pasta Salad is served. Its just that good, friends!
In fact, I think this salad may even taste a little better a day after its made. That way, it has some time to meld together and let the flavors combine. Which means that this classic pasta salad is perfect to make in advance.
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What Makes This Recipe Different Than Other Italian Pasta Salad Recipes
In my search for a copycat recipe, I never saw one that included the seasoning packets that Kraft included with their box mix.
Other recipes simply had the Italian dressing, but no seasoning or spices were added. Krafts version packed a punch of flavor and I sought out to recreate it.
This recipe is a very basic version of Krafts Italian Pasta Salad, but the small pieces of dried olives, red bell peppers, and zucchini can be added.
One of the things about pasta salad I love is that it is so versatile. You can add veggies, cheeses, meats, or change up the dressing altogether.
Some of my other favorite pasta salads are very different from this recipe. Like Mediterranean tortellini pasta salad, chicken caesar pasta salad, deviled egg pasta salad, and dill pickle pasta salad.
Try them, you wont be disappointed!
How To Make Italian Pasta Salad:
TIP: Rinsing the pasta and adding ice cubes while it drains helps stop the cooking process. You want the pasta to be slightly firm so it will absorb the flavors of the Italian dressing.
I like to add a bit of honey, garlic, and herbs to the dressing to really pop the Italian flavors because there are so many vegetables in the recipe. You won’t taste the sweetness of the honey. It just helps the dressing cling to the pasta.
Q& A: “Why do you add half of the dressing at the beginning and the other half at the end, instead of all at once?”
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Easy And Delicious Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Theres nothing better in the summertime than a cold salad like my Zesty Italian Pasta Salad. This recipe is easy and delicious using fresh vegetables, pasta, and a zesty Italian dressing. This cold pasta salad comes together in minutes and is always a crowd-pleaser.
Italian Pasta Salad is perfect to take to a family gathering or even for a week night side dish. The Zesty dressing takes this salad to a new level of yummy goodness.
Vegetables And The Extras
Now that you know what type of pasta and dressing to use, it is time to add in the extras. Here is where you can customize the Zesty Italian Pasta Salad to your liking.
The recipe included below is my favorite everyone likes it recipe. However, feel free to mix up the vegetables and add a few other speciality ingredients.
For instance, add in a handful of diced pepperoni. Or how about small mozzarella balls?
And if you like black olives, you can even add those in as well. The choices are endless when it comes to homemade pasta salad.
Although the ingredients listed below dont include olives, cheese or broccoli, feel free to add whatever ingredients that you like into your pasta salad!
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How To Make Easy Pasta Salad
Two Ways To Make This Salad
You’ll love that there are 2 ways to make this Italian salad – with pasta or using cauliflower florets as a pasta substitute. Both are delicious. This is one of my favorite salads, so I played around with the ingredients until it worked perfectly with cauliflower.
This is an easy zesty pasta salad that has only 10 ingredients unless you will make our homemade healthy Italian dressing – which I highly recommend. Our dressing is fresh, tasty, and healthy.
Cook your pasta or cauliflower, then do a little chopping, add all ingredients together and pour the dressing over the top.
From there, refrigerate for a few hours and serve. Straightforward. Voila! An easy pasta salad recipe!
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Zesty Salad Supreme Pasta Salad
Salad Supreme Pasta Salad is the ultimate pasta salad recipe! Made with rotini pasta, colorful vegetables, parmesan & mozzarella cheese, zesty Italian dressing, and McCormick Salad Supreme Seasoning this simple salad is incredibly flavorful, easy to make, and sure to be a total crowd pleaser. Its the perfect dish for any summer barbecue, party, or potluck!
Couple Things You’ll Need
- Cook garden rotini al dente according to package directions.
- Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Dump the cooled pasta in a large bowl.
- Slice, dice and measure the other ingredients.
- Add mozzarella slices to the mixing bowl.
- Add chopped green peppers.
- Add sliced olives.
- Add chopped roasted red pepper.
- Mix well.
- Pour rds the Italian dressing over the pasta salad.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container.
- Put in the fridge to allow all the delicious flavors blend and pour other half of dressing over the salad right before serving.
- You can garnish you’re cold salad with fresh parsley or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
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How To Make Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta to al dente and rinse it. Usually I dont recommend rinsing your pasta, but thats just for hot dishes. A quick rinse in cold water will help the pasta stop cooking. Then put it in the fridge to chill.
Chop the veggies and add to the pasta. Chop the veggies if you havent already and add them into the cooled pasta. You can optionally marinate the veggies in the dressing for 3-4 hours for more flavor, before adding to the pasta.
Add olives. Drain the olives and add to the pasta salad. You can use any kind of olives you like here. Black olives are always a favorite while Kalamata olives add a more tangy flavor.
Mix in dressing and seasoning. Pour half a bottle of Zesty Italian dressing and sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of the dry Zesty Italian seasoning mix over the pasta and toss together.
Tell Me Whats In Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Pasta I love using Rotini for this salad but feel free to substitute your favorite pasta.
Broccoli if youre short on time, look for pre-cut broccoli in the produce department. I dont recommend using frozen because the thawed veggie gets too soggy after sitting in the refrigerator.
Bell Peppers multi-colored peppers add a festive look to this easy pasta salad.
Mozzarella Cheese cubes work best here. I buy the blocks and give them a quick chop. Shredded cheese will work in a pinch, but you may want to use a little more to balance out all of the flavors.
Pepperoni I like using the mini ones because they are less work, convenient . You can also cut full-size pepperonis into quarters. Salami is another option if youre not a pepperoni fan.
ZestyItalian Salad Dressing Feel free to use a creamy version if thats what you have. Or try my Creamy House Dressing recipe if you prefer a homemade dressing.
Other Ingredients: black olives, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
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Cook Pasta Or Cauliflower
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and then rinse with cold water.
If you’re using cauliflower, cut into 1″ pieces and steam, covered, in the microwave with 1/4 cup water for 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. You do not want the cauliflower too soft, or it will fall apart in the salad. Drain and then rinse with cold water.
Can I Add Different Mix
If you love zesty salads like I do, then this easy pasta salad with Italian dressing will hit the spot! Not only is it super easy to throw together, but you can also customize it however you would like.
Since I love mozzarella pearls and black olives, I added a little extra of those. But, if you dont like mozzarella, swap it out for cheddar. Dont like black olives? Swap the for green! Like red peppers? Add em in! See how easy this salad is?
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Crisp Tender Broccoli Is A Must In This Pasta Salad
In my family raw broccoli is not always a favorite vegetable on the crudités platter. But no worries, we have a quick and easy trick for prepping this chewy vegetable. The broccoli is cleaned and cut into bite sized florets then placed in a colander in the sink. Very hot, almost boiling water from a kettle is poured over the broccoli to brighten the color and take the edge off the crunchiness. The broccoli is still crisp tender without tasting raw. This easy step makes all the difference in this salad.
Tips For Prepping Ahead
If you plan to eat this pasta salad within 2 days, feel free to prepare it as directed. The basil will lose its color after a day or so and the salami will get a little softer but its not a deal-breaker if serve-and-enjoy convenience is what youre after or you want to pack this Zesty Italian Pasta Salad for lunch.
However, if youre just looking to do a little work up front to make assembly nearly effortless later in the week, then here are a few of our suggestions for doing so.
- Make the pasta up to 2 days in advance. Toss with a bit of olive oil before storing in the fridge until ready to use
- Prep the bell pepper, onion, and zucchini up to 3 days in advance and store in a covered container in the fridge.
- Slice salami and halve mozzarella balls up to 3 days in advance and store separately in the fridge until ready to use.
- Prepare the homemade Italian dressing and store for up to 1 week in the fridge in a jar with a lid.
- Chop the parsley and store in a container with lid for up to 3 days. Wait until youre ready to combine the salad and dressing before chopping the fresh basil to keep it from turning brown.
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