Italian Pasta Salad

4.97 from 88 votes

This cold, creamy Italian pasta salad is meat-free and combines fresh veggies, mozzarella, and with a zesty, tangy Greek yogurt dressing.

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Italian Pasta Salad is a delicious, easy-to-make staple side dish for any gathering! Tricolor rotini pasta, fresh veggies, and bite-sized mozzarella balls, all tossed in a zesty yet creamy Greek yogurt dressing. Simple yet so good, this vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad recipe is the kind of dish that both impresses guests and adds a vibrant touch to any BBQ, picnic, or potluck.

Italian pasta salad in a large serving bowl with a spoon dipped in a serving plates nearby.

Table of Contents

  1. Why you’ll love this cold Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
  2. Ingredients to make vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad
  3. How to make creamy Italian pasta salad
  4. Tips for making the best zesty Italian pasta salad
  5. Popular substitutions & additions
  6. What to Serve with Your Italian Pasta Salad
  7. How to store Pasta Salad
  8. Frequently asked questions
  9. More pasta salad recipes:
  10. Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

This Italian Pasta Salad doesn’t have to be a companion to your main course; it’s also a great base for a main! This recipe is vegetarian but that doesn’t mean you can’t toss in some grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon, and it makes a great lunch or light dinner! That’s the beauty of this salad. It’s flexible and adapts to your needs and preferences. The versatility of this cold Italian Pasta Salad makes it a surefire hit, regardless of the occasion.

This recipe was part of our June 2023 Cooking Challenge! Thank you for joining us in making this delicious recipe and the chance to win a prize!

Why you’ll love this cold Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

  • Full of Flavor: The Greek yogurt-based dressing is tangy, creamy, and packed with flavor, making this pasta salad a delight to the senses. Each bite reveals the taste of fresh vegetables, the richness of the mozzarella, and the herb-infused dressing.
  • Easy to Make: With simple, readily available ingredients and uncomplicated steps, this pasta salad recipe is something you can whip up without stress. It’s a testament that gourmet taste doesn’t always require complicated techniques or rare ingredients.
  • Cost-Effective: Tasked with bringing a side to an event? Pasta salad is a great option! You can feed a crowd without breaking the bank, making it an excellent choice for large gatherings without sacrificing taste.

Ingredients to make vegetarian Italian Pasta Salad

  • Rotini pasta: You can use traditional rotini or tri-colored for extra color.
  • Greek yogurt: The base of the homemade dressing is used to create a satisfying creamy flavor and texture.
  • Oil & Vinegar: Olive oil and red wine vinegar help balance the dressing and give it that zesty flavor.
  • Spices: Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper are all used to give this pasta salad it’s classic Italian twist. Add other spices and seasonings you have on hand to create even more flavor.
  • Garlic & Shallots: These provide a pungent flavor to the dressing and help round out all of the other flavors.
  • Vegetables: Bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, and olives, bring a burst of color and fresh flavor to this delicious salad.
  • Mozzarella balls: Fresh mozzarella balls give this Italian pasta salad a delicious creaminess.
Ingredients before prepping: english cucumber, bowl of cherry tomatoes, bowl of tricolor rotini, small bowls of seasoning, vinagar, yogurt, mozzerella balls, and sliced black olives, green bell pepper, shallot, and olive oil.

How to make creamy Italian pasta salad

  1. In a glass bowl, add the Greek yogurt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, shallot, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper.
  2. Whisk the dressing until smooth and emulsified.
  3. Combine the dressing with the cooked pasta. Top with olives, bell pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cheese.
  4. Toss until everything is combined and evenly coated in the dressing.
4 image collage making recipe: 1- dressing ingredients added to a bowl before combing, 2- after combining to show a creamy dressing, 3- pasta and vegetables in a serving bowl, prepped and seperated, 4- pasta salad after tossing together with dressing.

Tips for making the best zesty Italian pasta salad

  1. Chill Before Serving: Allowing the salad to chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving helps the flavors to meld together. The chilling time gives the pasta and veggies a chance to soak up the dressing and the flavors to fully develop. If you have the time, make it ahead – it’s one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day.
  2. Pasta Cooking Tips: Make sure to cook the pasta al dente (firm to the bite). Overcooked pasta can become mushy and lose its shape when mixed with the dressing and other ingredients. Remember also to salt your pasta water—it adds flavor to the pasta.
  3. Add the dressing to the pasta while warm: It’s best to dress the pasta while it’s still warm because it absorbs more flavor this way. However, don’t add the fresh veggies and cheese until the pasta has cooled down to avoid wilting or melting.
  4. Use a blender for a smoother dressing. If you chop the shallots finely, the dressing won’t come out chunky, but for an ultra-smooth consistency, you can make the creamy Italian dressing in the blender.
  • Experiment with different vegetables. Feel free to add other vegetables like mushrooms, artichoke hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, or roasted red peppers for some extra flavor.
  • No Greek Yogurt? If you don’t have Greek yogurt, you can use mayonnaise or sour cream as a substitute. Or, for a dairy-free version, use a plant-based yogurt.
  • Try other pasta. You can use any type of pasta to make this Italian pasta salad. Penne, bowtie, macaroni, and shells all work well in this dish.
  • Swap out the mozzarella. If mozzarella balls aren’t available, cubes of fresh mozzarella, feta cheese, or even chunks of sharp cheddar can work well in this salad.
  • Add fresh Herbs: Fresh basil, parsley, or even a handful of arugula can add an additional layer of flavor.

What to Serve with Your Italian Pasta Salad

Final dish of Italian pasta salad with fresh cut veggies, cheese, and fresh herbs.

How to store Pasta Salad

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag and kept in the refrigerator. Cold Italian pasta salad is the best pasta salad, so it can be eaten right out of the fridge.

How long will pasta salad last in the fridge?

It will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Be sure to stir and mix it before serving.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know when my pasta is ready to drain?

It’s important to cook your pasta until it is al dente or just tender. To test for doneness, lift a piece of pasta from the boiling water and bite into it. If it is still a bit chewy, you know to leave it in the boiling water a minute longer.

Can I make this pasta salad vegan?

Yes, as written, this recipe is already vegetarian, but you can easily make this Italian pasta salad vegan by using vegan mozzarella and plant-based Greek yogurt in place of their dairy counterparts.

Can I just use bottled Italian dressing instead of making my own?

Sure! If you prefer to use a bottle of Italian salad dressing, you can. To keep it creamy, mix it with the Greek yogurt. You can even use the same ratio¼ cup of Italian dressing to ¾ cup of Greek yogurt.

A serving of Italian pasta salad on a small plate with the serving bowl nearby. A fork is lifting up a bite.

This creamy Italian pasta salad is the perfect side dish for your summer cookouts and potlucks. It’s simple to make and is always a hit with family and friends. With some pasta, fresh veggies, and a zesty homemade dressing, you can create a vegetarian Italian pasta salad that’s full of flavor and will leave everyone begging for more.

More pasta salad recipes:

If you try this feel good Italian Pasta Salad recipe or any other recipe on Feel Good Foodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. We would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots, share it on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!

Italian Pasta Salad

This cold, creamy Italian pasta salad is meat-free and combines fresh veggies, mozzarella, and with a zesty, tangy Greek yogurt dressing.
5 from 88 votes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 270
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Video

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound tricolor rotini pasta
  • ¾ cup greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove grated
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more for pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 6-ounce can sliced black olives
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • ½ English cucumber diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • 8 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls ciliegine size

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt and add pasta. Cook according to the package directions, then drain and set aside in a large bowl.
  • Meanwhile in a small bowl or jar, make the dressing by whisking Greek yogurt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, shallot, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper until smooth and emulsified.
  • Add the dressing to the cooked pasta, then top with the olives, bell pepper, cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese. Toss until everything is combined and evenly coated in the dressing.
  • Chill before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

Notes

Tips:
  1. Chill Before Serving: Allowing the salad to chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving helps the flavors to meld together.
  2. Pasta Cooking Tips: Make sure to cook the pasta al dente (firm to the bite).  Remember also to salt your pasta water—it adds flavor to the pasta.
  3. Add the dressing to the pasta while warm: It’s best to dress the pasta while it’s still warm because it absorbs more flavor this way. However, don’t add the fresh veggies and cheese until the pasta has cooled down to avoid wilting or melting.

Nutrition

Calories: 270kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.001g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 341mg, Potassium: 251mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 441IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 111mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine Italian
Course: Pastas, Side Dish

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Comments

  1. What did I do wrong? I followed directions exactly. I made yesterday in the evening to serve today & it seems dry & def not creamy. The Italian seasoning is a little much as well. I guess I will add a little more yogurt or some olive oil🤷🏻‍♀️

  2. what a lovely salad and so many other different meals I am enjoying doing ♥️☺️ Merci! I love every I have tried so far.

  3. Tasty pasta salad which feels fresh to eat in summer weather. Easy to assemble, will be making again.
    Not US based so hopefully the challenge prizes will be available in Europe soon.
    Lol

  4. Recipe is easy, delicious, and most importantly, kids approved 😂👍. Perfect combination for summer. Loved it !

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