Italian pasta salad with fusilli, salami, mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and a simple vinaigrette is a tried and true summer classic! This pasta salad bursts with flavor, color, and texture, transports really well, and is so EASY making this a must-have for warm-weather gatherings, big and small.
You've been invited to a summer gathering and you're not sure what to bring.
You don't want to spend a ton of money or time, but you still want to bring something fantastic that everyone will love.
If this describes your situation, you need to make Italian pasta salad!
This is the pasta salad you're likely to come across in many New York delis and supermarkets. It's full of varying flavors from salami, olives, capers, and vinaigrette.
And the tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fusilli provide an array of textures.
So add this Italian-style pasta salad to your summer recipe list.
In fact, don't just add it - put it at the TOP!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Slice the tomatoes or mozzarella balls in half, cube the salami, and slice the olives. Rinse and drain the capers to remove excess salt. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. When it's done, drain it and rinse with cold water to prevent the pasta from cooking further.
- Combine the pasta, mozzarella, salami, tomatoes, capers, and olives in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a smaller bowl, combine the red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, Pecorino Romano, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic paste, and minced parsley and whisk together until emulsified. Alternatively, you can use a food processor or blender. Taste the dressing and season with salt and pepper if required.
- Pour half the dressing on top of the pasta and mix well. If you need more dressing, add a bit at a time to get the consistency just right. The remaining dressing can be served on the side or saved in the fridge for a green salad during the week. Chill for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
Top tips for perfect Italian pasta salad
- The pasta. I used fusilli in this recipe because I love the texture and think it looks great. You can definitely use other pasta shapes like penne, gemelli, or radiatore if you prefer. You can also use tri-color fusilli, or even whole wheat or chickpea pasta. Whichever you use, just be sure to cook it al dente and rinse with the cold water to stop the pasta from cooking further. Note: Pasta salads are the only time you will ever want to rinse the pasta to cool it down. If left hot, the pasta salad will get mushy by the time you bring it to your party or barbecue!
- The salami. When purchasing salami for pasta salad, ask the person at the deli counter to slice it thick. You can ask for it to be ¼ inch thick, or even thicker if you prefer. You can omit the salami if you prefer a meatless pasta salad.
- The cheese. Fresh mozzarella balls, or ciliegine, were used for this recipe but you can also use a large ball of fresh mozzarella cut into chunks or cubed block mozzarella.
- The olives. I love using Gaeta or kalamata olives for this pasta salad but if you can't find them, use what's available to you. Try to get pitted olives (olives w/the pits already removed) to save prep time.
- Let it chill. I know it can be tempting to eat this salad right away, but it will taste so much better once it's chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours.
More super summer sides
Italian pasta salad isn't the only simple side dish I turn to time and time again. Here are a few more of our summer must-haves:
- Spinach gorgonzola pasta salad - Bowtie pasta with crumbled gorgonzola and baby spinach in a simple vinaigrette.
- Greek pasta salad - Penne pasta tossed with feta, Kalamata olives, fresh dill, cucumbers, and tomatoes in a Greek-style vinaigrette.
- Potato green bean salad - Tomatoes, potatoes, and fresh green beans tossed in a tangy vinaigrette.
- Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts - Easy summer salad with a ton of flavor.
- Tomato mozzarella salad - Cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onion, and basil.
- Grilled fennel salad - With lemons, oil-cured olives, and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Orange fennel salad - Sicilian style salad of orange segments, sliced fennel and onion, and toasted pine nuts in a citrus vinaigrette.
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- 12 ounces fusilli cooked al dente and rinsed until cold
- 8 ounces mozzarella balls halved, or cubed block mozzarella
- 8 ounces thick deli sliced salami cubed
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- ¼ cup capers rinsed and drained
- ½ cup Gaeta olives pitted and sliced, sub Kalamata
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Italian dressing
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup Pecorino Romano grated
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley minced
- 3 cloves garlic paste
- salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing
- Combine together all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together until emulsified. Alternatively, use a food processor or blender. Taste test the dressing and season with salt and pepper if required.
For the Italian pasta salad
- Cook pasta in salted water until al dente, then drain and rinse until cold.
- In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, mozzarella, salami, tomatoes, capers, and olives.
- Pour half of the dressing on top of the pasta and mix well. If you need more dressing, add a bit at a time to get the consistency just right. The remaining dressing can be served on the side or saved in the fridge for a green salad during the week.
- The Italian pasta salad flavor will taste much better if chilled for at least an hour before serving. Enjoy!
- Chilling for a couple of hours before serving really amps up the flavor.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days.