This zesty Italian pasta salad is loaded with fresh Mediterranean ingredients and drizzled with an amazing dressing made with olive oil, vinegar & lemon. Prego!
This salad is one of our favorites at home all year round. But in summer, the vegetables are so flavored and also very cheap that is easy to fall in love with salads like this.
Here in Italy, people are so used to buy and cook seasonal food, especially if the recipe includes fresh products. Pasta salads are the most consumed in this season and you can see them often offered in restaurants and as a takeaway lunch every day.
They’re called pasta fredda and there are a lot of versions with all kinds of vegetables, cold cuts, cheese, and other ingredients.
You will need
Those are the ingredients you’ll need for this pasta salad. Feel free to add or replace some of them based on your taste and what you have on hand. This zesty Italian pasta salad can be easily customized without compromising the flavor.
- PASTA – I love fusilli, they’re small and fun! But other types are also fine, like pennette, macaroni, etc.
- FRESH TOMATOES – Cherry ones are pretty and very sweet in season, but you can also add diced fresh tomatoes.
- CUCUMBERS – Add a nice fresh kick to the salad. Dice them or cut them into half-moons.
- RED ONIONS – Are sweeter so this is my first option but you can add also white ones or anything you have in hand, even spring onions!
- BELL PEPPERS – In summer bell peppers are delicious! Don’t skip them, add any kind you have available but for a colorful plate, you better use at least red and yellow.
- OLIVES – I used XX olives because that was what I had at home, use anything available, just make sure they’re pitted.
- ARTICHOKES – Used preserved in oil artichokes because they add a nice tangy flavor to this salad.
- Ricotta salata – This cheese is a dry version of the traditional ricotta (which is more fresh), here in Italy is easy to find but maybe not so much overseas. You can replace ricotta salata with Feta cheese if you want.
I like to go as simple as I can. So, the traditional olive oil (extra virgin, of course) + vinegar + lemon + sweet + any herb I have, is my recipe to go.
Sometimes I change the white vinegar for balsamic vinegar, that’s up to you. Is so easy to make your vinaigrette at home in just a few minutes! Check below in the recipe card the ingredients I used for this Italian salad and feel free to make your own version by adding your favorite herbs or spices.
How To Make Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
- Pasta: Cook pasta to al dente and toss it onto a bowl with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Chop: All vegetables and add them to the bowl.
- Dress: Place all the dressing ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it until combined.
- Mix: Drizzle with dressing. Mix thoroughly to coat.
- Enjoy: As a lunch, easy dinner, or even as a side dish for your grilled meats!
Gluten Free Version
If you’re gluten intolerant, make your version of pasta salad using gluten-free pasta, just remember gluten free pasta doesn’t stay as soft as regular pasta for a long time after being cooked. I strongly recommend serving and consuming this pasta salad at room temperature right after preparing it.
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
- 12 ounces (350 g) fusilli pasta (or penne, macaroni.)
- 7 ounces (200 g) grape or cherry tomatoes (quartered)
- 1 small red bell pepper (deseeded and cut into thin strips)
- 1 small yellow bell pepper (deseeded and cut into thin strips)
- 1 small red onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 medium cucumber (cut into half-moons)
- 1 small Romaine lettuce (washed and dried)
- ½ cup kalamata olives (pitted)
- 1 cup artichoke packed in oil (drained and cut into wedges)
- ½ cup ricotta salata or feta cheese (crumbled)
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cook the pasta al dente in a large stockpot according to package instructions. Drain and transfer to a bowl, add 1 tsp of olive oil and mix well. Allow to cool down.
- Add all ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a tight fitting lid then shake vigorously to combine.
- Add the vegetables and cheese to the bowl and drizzle the dressing. Toss to coat well and serve immediately.
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