How to Make Italian Pasta Salad

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Start to Finish: 25 minutes


Servings: 4 to 6

Difficulty: Beginner

Versatile Italian pasta salads are the stand-by for potluck suppers, office lunch parties or a quick weeknight meal. You can take advantage of garden-fresh vegetables during the summer and early fall or, in the middle of winter, brighten your palate with a vegetable-laden, garlic-rich meal. Make the salad in advance so you have a fast, ready-to-eat, healthy one-dish meal or side dish during the work week. This recipe is adapted from The Kitchn's Italian Macaroni Salad by Megan Gordon and Italian Salad Dressing by Nealy Dozier.



Pasta and Vegetables

  • 2 cups small-size dried pasta
  • 1/4 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil, shredded
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley, shredded
  • 1/4 cup red onion, shredded
  • 1/4 cup peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup seedless olives, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Italian Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder or flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme



Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente -- there should still be some bite at the center. Allow the pasta to cool without rinsing under cold water until it is cool enough to handle.

While the pasta cooks, prepare the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients in a glass or plastic jar with a lid. Shake vigorously until the ingredients are thoroughly combined, adjusting the amount of salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

Transfer the pasta, bacon and all of the chopped vegetables to a large mixing bowl and spoon 2 to 4 tablespoons of dressing, or to taste, onto the pasta and veggies. Stir until thoroughly combined, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.



Add the dressing while the pasta is still warm so it can absorb the dressing.

Dress the salad with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and extra dressing if desired. Add the shredded Parmesan and fresh herbs at the same time, stirring to fully incorporate.


You can use any variety of chopped vegetables, although the combination of fresh basil, tomatoes and onions is a classic Italian blend.

Use any type of cheese, including cheddar or feta, in place of the Parmesan.


  • If you are making the salad in advance, save the final step for just before serving.
  • Bite-sized pastas and finely chopped vegetables, around a 1/4-inch each, work best as long noodles or large chunks of veggies can make the pasta difficult to eat.
  • Try to keep your vegetable pieces no larger than the size of your pasta.
  • Extra dressing can be stored in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for upwards of 2 months.