Zesty Italian Pasta Salad (With Gluten-Free Variation)
This zesty Italian pasta salad recipe is perfect for picnics, backyard barbecues, lunches, potlucks, a summer dinner, and so much more! Made with cooked pasta, salami, and veggies, the cold pasta salad (with homemade Italian Dressing) is flavorful, healthy, and an easy recipe to customize.
Add water to a large pot. Add salt to the water. Salting pasta water is so important for flavor! I use about 1 tablespoon salt per 1 pound of pasta. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta to the salted water and cook according to the package directions.
While the pasta cooks, chop the salad ingredients: halve the cherry tomatoes, cut the mozzarella into smaller pieces, quarter the salami slices, slice the olives, chop the parsley, and cut the artichoke hearts into smaller pieces. The key is to cut everything into bite-sized pieces.
In a mason jar or small bowl, whisk the zesty Italian salad dressing ingredients: olive oil, red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt, minced garlic, a few turns of the pepper grinder.
Once the pasta is cooked (al dente), drain the pasta into a colander. Run fresh cold water over the pasta. Pour the drained pasta into a large mixing bowl.
While the pasta is still warm, whisk the dressing again and pour half the dressing over the pasta. Toss to combine and evenly coat the pasta with the dressing.
Add all the remaining pasta salad ingredients to the pasta: cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, salami, black olives, red onion, pepperoncini peppers, artichoke hearts, and parsley. Use your (clean) hands or large spoons to combine the ingredients.
Serve the salad immediately, at room temperature, or cover with a lid and place in the fridge for a cold salad to serve later. I think the salad tastes best after sitting in the fridge for 2-6 hours, as the flavors can marry together.
Just before serving the pasta salad, add the remaining salad dressing and toss the salad to evenly coat all the ingredients.
Salad Dressing Storage: Store the remaining salad dressing at room temperature for up to 1 day, or in the fridge until ready to use.Ingredient Substitutions: Canned or glass jar artichoke hearts can be expensive and hard to find at times. You're welcome to skip this ingredient and add more tomatoes, olives, or peppers. Or add fresh cucumber slices instead. This salad is very easy to customize based on your preferences. The same goes for the peppers, instead use chopped fresh bell peppers or skip the pepperoncini. See variations in the article above.Shrimp or Chicken Salad: If you want a meatier main dish salad, add more salami (8 ounces) or 2 cups of grilled chicken or cooked (peeled) shrimp.