Make Ahead Italian Pasta Salad
This pasta salad is flavorful and easy to throw together! It includes three types of cheese, pepperoni or salami, veggies, and a quick dressing. Make this tasty dish ahead of time so the flavors continue to build. Enjoy as an entree or side!
I made this Make Ahead Italian Pasta Salad for our 4th of July celebration with friends this year. It took three tries to get it absolutely perfect but it was worth it! (And also my family and neighbors thought it was perfect at attempts 1 and 2 too. I am maybe a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to food!)
This pasta was a long time coming. I’ve been tagged no less than one hundred times on instagram by people using my Easy Homemade Italian Dressing for their pasta salad. I started with that delicious dressing but I amped up the spices since we’re flavoring a lot of noodles and veggies.
I recommend making this pasta salad ahead of time because the flavors just get better and more pronounced as it sits. You can absolutely enjoy it right after assembling, but if you have 8 to 12 hours to let it sit in the refrigerator you’ll definitely be happy you did.
Serve this pasta salad as a quick lunch or an impressive side when entertaining guests. Either way, this dish is a winner!
For this recipe you’ll need (full list of ingredients and instructions are in the recipe card below):
- Rotini or elbow pasta
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Fresh parsley
- Mozzarella pearls
- Grated parmesan
- Olive oil
- Red or white wine vinegar
- Lemon juice
What kind of pasta is best?
I’ve tested this pasta with rotini and elbow pasta. They both work beautifully! Rotini is my favorite just because it makes for a really pretty finished dish. Angel hair would be another good option. That’s what I use in my 20-Minute Greek Pasta Salad.
Should you peel or remove the seeds from your cucumber?
This is really a matter of personal preference. I like to leave the peel on my cucumber for that extra bit of crunch.
If using a medium sized cucumber you may have no problem leaving the seeds in. I tend to find large cucumbers extra seedy and I like to scoop the seeds out. To do that simply trim the ends and then slice the cucumber vertically so it’s in two long pieces. Run a spoon right down the middle of each half to scoop out the seeds. Slice each half into strips, lay the strips together on a cutting board and hold them still while slicing horizontally. Now that cucumber is perfectly diced!
What are mozzarella pearls?
Mozzarella pearls are mini-sized mozzarella balls. They’re the perfect size for a pasta salad. If you’re having a hard time finding them in your grocery store you can always purchase a mozzarella ball (they’re usually about the size of an orange) and dice it.
Can you use a different herb?
Fresh basil also works well in this pasta salad.
Want to add more protein?
If you’re looking to make this dish a bit heartier just add shredded rotisserie chicken or diced sautéed chicken breasts.
Can you make this in advance?
Yes! I actually recommend making this 8 to 12 hours before you plan to enjoy it so the flavors continue to build. Just refrigerate in an airtight container. Give it a good stir before serving so the dressing doesn’t stay sitting in the bottom of your bowl.
Do you have to make this in advance?
You can definitely enjoy this pasta salad as soon as you assemble it. But keep in mind that it’s only going to get better and more flavorful the longer it sits!
Is this pasta salad good for meal prep?
This is actually a pretty perfect entree for meal prep since the flavors get stronger over time.
More recipes like this:
Make Ahead Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 lb rotini or elbow pasta, can use gluten-free pasta if you prefer
- 1 cup cucumber, diced
- 3 oz pepperoni or salami, diced, about 1 cup
- 1/2 cup julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
- 8 oz mozzarella pearls
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup red or white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Add all dressing ingredients to a jar, put the lid on, and shake until everything is combined.
- Cook your pasta per package directions.
- Drain water and then stir in pepperoni, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, mozzarella, parmesan, and parsley.
- Pour the dressing on top of your pasta and stir.
- Refrigerate the finished pasta until you're ready to serve. It's even better after it's had time for all your flavors to mix so I like to make mine 8 to 12 hours before we're planning to eat. When you're ready to serve give it a good stir so the dressing isn't settled on the bottom.