Zesty Italian Pasta Salad is a hearty vegetarian side that's loaded with Mediterranean ingredients, including olives and sun-dried tomatoes. It takes less than 45 minutes to make and is perfect for a picnic, potluck, or lunch.
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad goes with just about everything. It's easy also to make, perfect for a last-minute get-together, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The pasta and feta provide heartiness while the olive oil and juices from the marinated vegetables provide a homemade Italian salad dressing. This simple, flavor-packed recipe is our go-to for potlucks and is always the first side guests finish.
- Fusilli pasta - Fusilli is a corkscrew pasta with grooves for holding sauce.
- Marinated baby artichokes with marinate juice - The artichokes and juice add a light and tangy flavor.
- Sun-dried tomatoes with marinate juice - Sun-dried tomatoes adds a tart tomato flavor.
- Kalamata olives - The black olives add a sweet and light olive flavor.
- Feta cheese - The crumbly texture of the feta cheese blends perfectly throughout the salad for cheese in each bight.
- Red onion - Red onion contributes a pungent and sharp kick.
- Fresh Basil - Fresh torn basil adds a brightness to the tomatoes and aromatics.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil - Olive oil Provides the base for the salad and melds the flavors together.
- Garlic powder - Garlic Powder adds the aromatic quintessential Italian flavor.
How to Make Italian Summer Pasta Salad
- Cook Pasta - First, cook fusilli pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, strain, and set aside to cool.
- Mix the Ingredients - While the pasta noodles cook, mix the ingredients. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the artichokes in its juices, sun-dried tomatoes in its juices, kalamata olives, onions, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir until well mixed.
- Fluff the Pasta - Lightly fluff the pasta until cooled and transfer to a large bowl.
- Mix the Final Product - Gently stir in the olive oil and ingredients mixture. Then, fold in the feta and basil. Stir all of the ingredients until well mixed, but not mushy. Let the pasta chill in the fridge for at least an hour, then transfer to a serving bowl.
Yes, pasta salad can absolutely be made the night before. In fact, we recommend it! We often make a batch of this pasta salad on a Sunday night for us to have for lunch with a Clear Skin Smoothie for a couple of days. As each day passes, the pasta salad dressing from the marinated vegetables and olive oil gets tastier and more vibrant. It's a hearty lunch that makes you feel energized and satisfied.
This particular pasta salad is a bright, savory side salad that compliments the smoky and sweet flavors of barbecue, delicious picnic sandwiches, or can even be part of an Italian spread. Best of all, it's vegetarian, so everyone at the party can enjoy it!
While some people prefer to use an Italian dressing for pasta salad, we have found that just using olive oil and vegetable marinade creates a perfectly balanced dressing. It is subtle yet flavorful and doesn't overpower the flavor of the ingredients.
- Fresh Mozzarella - Replace feta with mozzarella balls if you prefer the flavor of mozzarella to feta.
- Goat cheese - Replace feta with crumbled goat cheese for a sharper flavor.
- Parimigiano Regiano - Replace feta with freshly grated parmesan or Parimigiano-Reggiano or add it in addition to feta to make the salad extra cheesy.
- Spicy - Add more ground black pepper or red pepper flakes to imbue heat to the pasta.
- Penne pasta - Penne pasta would also work well in this salad.
- Italian Dressing - Instead of olive oil, you can use Italian dressing for an extra kick.
- Tri-color pasta - If you want to add variety and color to the dish, you can use tri color fusilli.
- Vegan - omit the feta cheese or replace it with vegan cheese to make this recipe vegan.
- Pesto - Use pesto sauce as the base for the salad.
- Italian Dressing - While the marinated veggies and olive oil
- Cherry Tomatoes - Add sliced cherry tomatoes for juicy brightness.
- Cucumbers - Add sliced cucumbers for light sweetness.
- Meat - Add sliced salami or pepperoni for zesty protein.
- Bell peppers - Red or green bell peppers add a sweet and mild flavor to the salad.
- Parsley - Adds an earthy pepperiness to the salad.
- Protein - Add chicken for extra protein.
How to Store Pasta Salad
Storing pasta salad is incredibly easy. After you make the salad, store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also store the pasta salad in smaller containers for meal prep. Enjoy it cold or wait until it gets to room temperature. We don't recommend freezing this pasta salad because it will get soggy.
Cook your pasta until al dente and don't overcook it. The juices from the other ingredients in the salad will soften the pasta.
If you loved this quick and easy Italian pasta salad, please rate and comment below! For more salads and summer side dishes, check out:
- Arugula Salad with Prosciutto and Burrata
- Burrata Caprese with Balsamic Glaze
- Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Asparagus
- Quinoa Salad with Arugula
- Greek Yogurt Coleslaw
Did You Like This Recipe?
Love this easy pasta salad recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and leave a comment below. You can also try these dishes to serve with pasta salad.
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
- 1 lb fusilli pasta
- 1 cup marinated baby artichokes sliced into ¼-inch pieces (we love the Trader Joe's marinated artichokes in a jar) with 3-4 tablespoons of the marinate juice
- ½ cup marinated sun-dried tomatoes chopped with 3-4 tablespoons of the marinate juice
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives halved
- ½ cup crumbled feta
- ¼ cup red onion minced
- ¼ cup basil cut into ribbons, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper
- Cook the pasta - First, cook fusilli pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, strain, and set aside to cool.1 lb fusilli pasta
- Mix the Ingredients - While the pasta noodles cook, mix the ingredients. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the artichokes in its juices, sun-dried tomatoes in its juices, kalamata olives, onions, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir until well mixed.1 cup marinated baby artichokes, ½ cup marinated sun-dried tomatoes, ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, ¼ cup red onion, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper
- Fluff the Pasta - Lightly fluff the pasta until cooled and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Mix the Final Product - Gently stir in the olive oil and ingredients mixture. Then, fold in the feta and basil. Stir all of the ingredients until well mixed, but not mushy. Let the pasta chill in the fridge for at least an hour, then transfer to a serving bowl.½ cup crumbled feta, ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup basil