The Best Pasta Salad

The Best Pasta Salad:

The Best Pasta Salad is a vibrant, colorful medley of fresh ingredients, coming together in a harmonious blend of flavors and textures that captivate the senses. This dish begins with perfectly cooked pasta, al dente and tender, forming the ideal canvas for the myriad of ingredients that will soon join it. As you toss the pasta with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, it glistens, each piece lightly coated to prevent sticking and to add a subtle richness.

Next, a rainbow of crisp vegetables enters the mix. Juicy cherry tomatoes, bursting with sweetness, are halved and scattered throughout. Crunchy bell peppers, in hues of red, yellow, and green, add a vibrant crunch and a touch of natural sweetness. Crisp cucumbers, thinly sliced, bring a refreshing, cool contrast, while red onions, finely chopped, add a sharp, tangy bite that enhances the overall complexity of flavors.

To add a layer of heartiness, bite-sized pieces of cured meats like salami or pepperoni are incorporated, their savory, spiced notes infusing the salad with depth. Cubes of creamy cheese, such as mozzarella or feta, offer a luscious, melt-in-your-mouth experience, balancing the salad with their rich, tangy undertones. Olives, both green and black, lend a briny, salty pop, their distinct taste punctuating each bite with a burst of Mediterranean flair.

Fresh herbs, such as basil and parsley, are finely chopped and sprinkled throughout, their aromatic oils releasing a fragrant bouquet that elevates the dish to new heights. A handful of toasted nuts, perhaps pine nuts or slivered almonds, introduce a subtle crunch and a nutty essence that complements the other ingredients beautifully.

The dressing is a masterpiece in itself – a tangy vinaigrette made from a blend of red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and a hint of honey for balance. This dressing, whisked until emulsified, is poured over the salad, binding the ingredients together in a symphony of flavors. Each component absorbs the dressing, marinating and melding into a cohesive whole.

As you take the first bite, the complexity of The Best Pasta Salad unfolds. The pasta, vegetables, meats, and cheeses, all distinct yet perfectly balanced, create a delightful interplay of textures and tastes. The freshness of the vegetables, the creaminess of the cheese, the savory depth of the meats, and the bright, tangy notes of the dressing come together in a dish that is both comforting and invigorating.

This pasta salad is more than just a side dish; it is a versatile, crowd-pleasing creation that shines at picnics, potlucks, and family gatherings. It is a testament to the beauty of simple, high-quality ingredients combined with care and creativity, resulting in a dish that is as visually appealing as it is delicious. The Best Pasta Salad is a celebration of flavor, a culinary delight that leaves a lasting impression and beckons for another serving.


Pasta Salad Essentials:

1 pound uncooked pasta – I like rotini!

3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese balls, cut in half

1 lb. salami or summer sausage, cut into cubes

3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced

3/4 cup pepperoncini (optional, but do it)

1/2 cup sliced red onion

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Italian Pasta Salad Dressing:

1 1/2 cups olive oil

1/4 cup white vinegar (white vinegar or red wine vinegar work)

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt (yes, tablespoons – see notes!)

2 cloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons each dry oregano and dry basil

black pepper to taste

fresh herbs if you want! sometimes I add fresh parsley, basil, or chives.


Cook pasta according to package directions, in salted water for more flavor. Allow to cool slightly and toss with a little oil to prevent sticking.

Blend up the dressing, or shake together in a jar.

Toss all ingredients together! I like to use about three-fourths of the dressing, and then I save the rest of the dressing to add to my leftovers.

Keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. I think it actually tastes best the day AFTER you make it.

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