Summer Pasta Salad
A delightful summer pasta salad full of crunchy veggies and fresh herbs, with a light Italian dressing. This salad is a perfect lunch or dinner.
Why you’ll love it: This salad is tasty, filling, versatile, and easy! It can be made up to a day ahead.
How long it takes: 30 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: pasta pot, colander, large bowl
Servings: 8 generous servings
You’ll love this summer pasta salad. Full of crunchy fresh vegetables, tender pasta, flavorful bits of sharp provolone cheese and zesty salami, and a sprinkling of fresh parsley, this salad bestows pleasure in every bite.
This isn’t what you would call a gourmet pasta salad. Most pasta salads aren’t. It’s an easy pasta salad and it’s packed with summer vegetables. (If you love pasta salads as much as I do, keep reading for more recipes that I love.)
This recipe makes a big bowl of salad. It keeps well in the fridge for at least a few days, making it perfect for lunch or dinner, or as a healthy side dish to grilled meat. It is welcome at any summer gathering or potluck dinner.
Don’t save this summer pasta salad for special occasions, or even just for summer. All of the vegetables are widely available all year round. If you can’t find one of the vegetables, it’s a cinch to make a substitution. It’s easy to make a vegetarian version, too.
Incidentally, if you prefer to eat your pasta warm instead of chilled, try my fresh tomato pasta recipe. Juicy red tomatoes are simply marinated to make a simple sauce which is added to hot cooked pasta. It’s a perfect summer recipe!
Reasons to Love This pasta salad
Any type of pasta will work: You can use whatever pasta you happen to have in the house. For this healthy summer salad, I like mini farfalle (or bow ties, if you prefer) which I bought because they’re cute. Any bite-sized pasta will work, from macaroni to orzo to mini penne to orecchiette (“little ears”) which are really cute, too.
The salad is very versatile: Use ingredients you like or happen to have. Feta cheese can be added instead of sharp provolone. Don’t care for red onions? Try green onions or no onions at all. Not in love with corn? Just leave it out. Use a chopped tomato, cherry tomatoes, or grape tomatoes. Add sliced celery or carrots. We love it with green peas. Need I say more? You get the idea, I’m sure.
Buy the dressing: To keep this salad really easy to make, I use bottled Italian dressing. Normally I make my own dressings and this homemade Italian dressing or red wine vinaigrette would be perfect. If you enjoy creamier dressings, try creamy Italian dressing, jalapeño ranch dressing or Parmesan peppercorn dressing.
I’ll get you started on your salad here and give you lots of helpful tips. As always, you’ll find the printable recipe card near the end of the post, with full instructions, measurements, and nutrition information.
What You’ll need
The list of ingredients looks long because I always go a little crazy with the vegetables!
- Pasta: Choose any type of bite-sized pasta, cooked to al dente. Whole wheat is fine. I haven’t tried gluten-free pasta but it should work, too.
- Cucumber: The tender skinned cucumbers don’t have to be peeled first and the dark green skin is nutritious. If you can’t find them, a regular cucumber is fine, as long as you peel it.
- Bell Pepper: Use a red, green, yellow, or orange pepper, or a combination.
- Tomatoes: Grape tomatoes are sweet and just the right size when sliced in half. If you happen to have tomatoes fresh out of your garden, choose whichever is ripe.
- Onions: Red onions give a nice color and if you soak them for ten minutes or so in ice water, they won’t be quite as sharp in flavor. Chopped green onions or sweet onions are good substitutes.
- Radishes: Another garden staple, radishes are nutritious, flavorful, and have a great crunch.
- Corn: Fresh corn cut off the cob is absolutely the best but canned corn or frozen corn (thawed) are fine, too.
- Sharp Provolone Cheese: This aged hard cheese is not the same as milder smoked provolone. It’s way more flavorful. A sharp cheddar is good, too, or feta cheese.
- Salami: There’s not a lot of meat (only 3 ounces) in this salad but cured salami provides plenty of flavor. Pepperoni can be substituted. If you’re serving a vegetarian, omit the meat.
- Fresh Parsley: In addition to providing brilliant color, fresh parsley adds a peppery herbal bouquet to the salad.
- Italian Dressing: To keep things super simple, use your favorite bottled dressing. I must say that it’s easy to make your own vinaigrette, too, and the link for homemade dressing is in the recipe card.
- Ground Black Pepper or Red Pepper Flakes: Choose one or use both to amp up the seasoning.
How To Make This Salad
This salad is easy to make. Cook your pasta al dente, rinse it with cold water, and let it drain well.
While the pasta is cooking, get chopping! A good sharp knife and big cutting board is very helpful. Cut the vegetables the way you like to eat them. If you like teensy small pieces, go for it. If you like nice big chunks, that works too!
The salami and cheese should be cut into pretty small pieces. Since you’re not adding a ton of it, you want it to be pretty evenly dispersed throughout the salad.
Once everything’s ready, put it all into a nice big bowl. I always make the mistake of grabbing a bowl that’s not quite big enough which makes it way more difficult to stir everything without spilling it over onto the counter.
Stir in the dressing and the parsley. Taste the salad and check for seasoning. Add more dressing if it seems dry. If you think it needs it, add a bit of salt. A few grinds of black pepper or a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes will give your pasta salad a wow! factor.
Serve the salad immediately, or cover it and refrigerate it for an hour or two.
Yes! Rinsing with cold water has two purposes here. It cools the pasta down quickly so it doesn’t keep cooking from residual heat. In addition, rinsing removes starch that is clinging to the pasta so your salad doesn’t get gummy or sticky.
This term is Italian and means “to the tooth.” It describes how perfectly cooked pasta should feel when you bite into it. The pasta should be tender but provide just a bit of resistance to the tooth, firm and chewy.
I find that pasta salad is best if you refrigerate it an hour or two before eating it. The ingredients soak up the dressing and become more flavorful. Pasta salad does keep well in the refrigerator for a few days. Remember that the pasta will continue to absorb the dressing so you may need to add more dressing the next day.
Make It Your Own
This salad is really versatile and I’ve given you lots of ideas! We love it just the way it is but remember, you can add (or subtract) any vegetables you like. Use any pasta. Make your own dressing or buy it. The kind of cheese you add is up to you. Make it vegetarian (add a can of chickpeas), or even vegan. Use gluten-free pasta.
Make Ahead & Storage Tips
Refrigerate: The salad keeps well in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Make Ahead: This recipe is an ideal make-ahead salad! Keep in mind that the pasta will continue to absorb liquid even while it’s refrigerated so you may need to stir in additional dressing before you serve it.
Easy pasta salads
I love all the different ways you can make pasta salads. They are so convenient and perfect for picnics and potlucks! Try:
- Grilled Ratatouille Pasta Salad
- Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
- The Best Caprese Pasta Salad
- Tortellini Pasta Salad with Pepperoni
- Greek Pasta Salad with Feta and Beans
- Bruschetta Orzo Pasta Salad
- Creamy Southwestern Orzo Pasta Salad
- Orzo Pasta Salad with yogurt dill dressing
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @rachelcooksblog on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!
- 8 oz. mini farfalle (or any other pasta of your choice)
- ½ English cucumber, sliced and quartered (about 1 cup)
- 1 bell pepper (any color), chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup halved grape tomatoes (heaping)
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onions (about ½ onion)
- ½ cup diced radishes (about 6-7)
- 1 cup diced sharp provolone cheese (4-5 oz.)
- 3 oz. sliced salami, diced
- 1 can (15.25 oz.) corn, drained
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup Italian dressing, or more to taste (see notes)
- Coarsely ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste
- Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well.
- Put pasta in large bowl with all other ingredients and mix until combined.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Recipe revised 2/10/2022.
- Makes 14 cups or 8 generous servings (1 ¾ cups each).
- This salad is quite lightly dressed. Add more dressing to taste, if desired. If salad is refrigerated overnight, the pasta will soak up the dressing and more dressing may need to be added.
- Use homemade Italian dressing or a bottled dressing of your choice.
- Add or substitute other vegetables of your choice.
- For a vegetarian salad, substitute a can (16 oz.) of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for the salami.
- Substitute feta, mozzarella, or another cheese of your choice for the sharp provolone, if desired.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
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