Experience the flavors of Italy with this recipe that is the best Italian pasta salad with pepperoni. This vibrant and hearty dish combines tri-color rotini pasta, mini pepperonis, fresh vegetables, and a tangy Italian dressing, which promises to be the star of any meal.
This Italian Pasta Salad is a fast and easy side dish that’s perfect for those busy weeknights or when you’re entertaining guests and need something delicious that won’t keep you tied to the kitchen.
It’s a dish that’s as versatile as it is flavorful, making it a go-to recipe for any occasion.
One of the key elements that make this pasta salad so good (and easy!) is the use of Italian dressing. This dressing infuses the pasta with a robust and tangy flavor that’s both refreshing and satisfying.
But what’s an Italian pasta salad without a little protein? Enter mini pepperonis. These bite-sized delights provide a savory punch of flavor without overwhelming the rest of the ingredients.
In essence, this cold Italian pasta salad is a celebration of simple ingredients coming together to create a dish that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
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This recipe will make [number of servings].
Here is your shopping list:
- pasta: 16-ounce package tri-color rotini pasta. I like rotini since the ridges help to hold the dressing, enhancing the flavor of the pasta.
- dressing: 1 cup Italian dressing, divided
- meat: 1 5-ounce package sliced mini Pepperonis
- fresh vegetables: 2 bell peppers – 1 yellow and 1 orange, 1 16-ounce package grape or cherry tomatoes
- canned vegetables: 1 6-ounce can black olives
- cheese: 1 8-ounce package of Mozzarella pearls, ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
- herbs: 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning, Fresh oregano or parsley sprigs for garnish (optional)
- Any small pasta can be used in place of rotini.
- Regular pepperoni can be used instead of mini slices. Simply chop it into bite-sized pieces.
- Alternatively, salami can be used in place of or in addition to the pepperoni.
- Any color of bell pepper can be used. I like to use yellow and orange ones because of their bright colors.
- Regular mozzarella can be used instead of the pearls by chopping it into ¼ inch cubes.
- For a zesty twist, consider adding some banana peppers to the mix.
- For a vegetarian option, you can omit the pepperoni and add more vegetables or some chickpeas for protein.
How to make italian pasta salad
Boil the pasta
Start by boiling the pasta as per the instructions on the package.
If the package provides a range of cooking times, opt for the lower one to avoid overcooking.
Once done, drain the pasta in a colander and rinse it under cold water immediately to halt the cooking process.
Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and mix it with ¼ cup of the Italian dressing.
This will help to infuse the pasta with flavor as it cools.
Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill.
Chop the vegetables
While the pasta is chilling, chop the bell peppers into bite-sized pieces.
Cut the tomatoes and olives in half. This will make them easier to pick up with a fork and ensure a more even distribution of flavors in every bite.
Make the salad
Once the pasta has completely cooled, add the mini pepperonis, chopped bell peppers, grape tomatoes, olives, mozzarella pearls, grated parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning to the bowl.
Pour ½ cup of Italian dressing over the top.
Toss the salad to ensure that everything is thoroughly coated with dressing and the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Cover the salad and put it in the refrigerator.
Allow to chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. The longer it chills, the more dressing the pasta will absorb, resulting in a more flavorful salad.
Just before serving, toss the salad with the remaining ¼ cup of Italian dressing.
This pasta salad is a versatile dish that can be served as a main course or as a side dish at barbecues, picnics, or potlucks.
It pairs well with grilled meats or fish.
Garnish with additional grated parmesan cheese and sprigs of parsley or oregano, if desired, for a fresh and vibrant presentation.
The pasta salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
If the salad seems a bit dry when serving leftovers, simply pour a little extra Italian dressing over it to brighten up the taste.
Frequently asked questions
Can I use any type of pasta for pasta salad?
Yes, you can use any type of pasta for this recipe. However, shorter pasta shapes like rotini, fusilli, or penne work best as they hold the dressing and other ingredients well.
Can I customize this recipe by adding other vegetables or toppings?
Absolutely! Italian Pasta Salad with Pepperoni is a versatile recipe, and you can add or modify ingredients according to your preference. Some popular additions include chopped cucumbers, artichoke hearts, or banana peppers. Feel free to experiment and make it your own!
Other salads recipes you might like
- Bow Tie Pasta Salad With Italian Dressing
- 4 Ingredient Caprese Pasta Salad With Pesto
- Grilled Chicken Avocado and Mango Salad
Or browse all of our salad recipes.
Best Italian Pasta Salad With Pepperoni
- pot for boiling pasta
- large bowl
- Chopping knife
- salad spoons
- measuring cups and spoons
- 16- ounce package tri-color rotini pasta
- 1 cup Italian dressing divided
- 1 5- ounce package sliced mini Pepperonis
- 2 bell peppers – 1 yellow and 1 orange
- 1 16- ounce package grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 6- ounce can black olives
- 1 8- ounce package of Mozzarella pearls
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese plus extra for garnish
- 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
- Fresh oregano or parsley sprigs for garnish optional
- Boil the pasta as directed on the package, using the lower cook time if there is a range.
- Drain it and pour cold water over it immediately to prevent it from cooking any longer.
- Add the pasta to a large bowl and mix with ¼ cup Italian dressing.
- Put it in the refrigerator to chill.
- Meanwhile, chop the bell peppers into bite-sized pieces, and the tomatoes and olives in half.
- Once the pasta has completely cooled, add the mini pepperonis, chopped bell peppers, grape tomatoes, black olives, mozzarella pearls, grated parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning to the bowl.
- Pour ½ cup Italian dressing over the top.
- Toss the salad so that everything is thoroughly coated with dressing and the ingredients are distributed throughout.
- Chill for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
- Toss with the remaining ¼ cup Italian dressing just before serving.
- Garnish with more grated parmesan cheese and some sprigs of parsley or oregano if desired.
- Any kind of small pasta can be used instead of rotini. However, I like Rotini best because the ridges hold the dressing which gives the pasta more flavor.
- To use regular Pepperoni instead of the mini slices, chop it into bite-sized pieces.
- Any color of bell pepper will work. I like to use the yellow and orange ones because of the bright colors.
- You can use regular mozzarella instead of the pearls by chopping it into ¼ inch cubes.
- Substitute salami for the pepperoni if you prefer.
- To make a zesty Italian pasta salad, add some banana peppers to the mix.
- Feel free to change the amounts of any of the vegetables and cheese. Pasta salad is very forgiving so exact measurements are not required.
- Be sure not to overcook the pasta. It will soak up some of the liquid from the dressing, and will fall apart if it is too soft to start with.
- While not absolutely necessary, chopping the grape tomatoes and olives in half makes them easier to pick up with a fork.
- The longer the pasta salad is allowed to chill, the more dressing the pasta will absorb and the better it will taste.
- Garnish with more grated parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley or oregano if desired.
- Pasta salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You may want to pour a little extra Italian dressing over it before serving to brighten up the taste.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.