This is the classic Midwestern Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing pumped up a few (dozen!) notches. It can and should be prepared in advance, so it’s perfect for parties and picnics.

A wooden bowl filled with pasta salad with Italian dressing and antipasto ingredients.

Antipasto Pasta Salad is the best side dish for any summer entree!

I grew up eating the classic Italian dressing pasta salad that everybody did in the Midwest. It was noodles, bottled Italian dressing, chopped raw onions and bell peppers, and sometimes olives. And it was great! It always hit the spot on a hot day.

I’m taking everything I loved about that salad and just pumping it up a few notches. Instead of raw bell peppers, we’re using roasted red peppers and pepperoncini. We’re adding two types of cheese and two types of Italian meat. Artichokes and sundried tomatoes are invited (if you want them to be). And we’re making our own dressing.

Come with me on a trip down pasta salad memory lane, updated for your taste buds today.

Why You Will Love This Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

  • It’s like the best Italian sub sandwich you’ve ever had, in a bowl with pasta!
  • It can (and should!) be prepared in advance, so it’s ideal to take to parties and picnics.
  • It’s served cold, so you’ll want a big scoop on a hot summer day. You can even eat it as your dinner. I won’t tell.
Ingredients on a light surface including dried noodles, lunch meats, cheeses and vegetables.

Italian Dressing Pasta Salad Ingredients

  • pasta – I’ve used fusilli as the base of this salad, but any short shape pasta will work, including penne or cavatappi.
  • Italian salad dressing – more on this in the section below!
  • mozzarella cheese – I like to buy the “pearl size” mozzarella, because you can simply toss them in directly from the container with no additional chopping. However, you can buy a larger ball of fresh mozzarella and chop it up.
  • salami and pepperoni – I buy thinly sliced deli meats and then chop them up into bite-sized pieces.
  • red onion – this adds a pungent flavor and crunchy texture, but you can also use white onion here.
  • roasted red pepper – I buy a jar of roasted peppers packed in water, and they bring a sweet and smoky flavor to this salad. You can also make homemade roasted red peppers if you want!
  • olives – I’ve used Kalamata olives here, but regular black olives or any type of green olive also works!
  • artichokes – I like jarred marinated artichokes because they’re so flavorful, but canned artichokes packed in water are also a good choice.
  • Parmesan cheese – I prefer shaved Parm (instead of grated) here so that you can see nice big shards of cheese.
  • pepperoncini – I buy the jarred kind that are already sliced, so I just need to fork them out of the jar and add them right to the salad for a mild heat and tangy flavor.
  • sun-dried tomatoes – I like the jarred kind packed in oil for the most flavor, but the dry-packed kind also work just fine here.
  • basil – fresh basil finishes this Italian dressing pasta salad with a nice fresh note.
Italian dressing pasta salad on a textured metal plate.

Best Italian dressing for pasta salad

The dressing is really the heart and soul of this pasta salad, and for the best possible flavor, I recommend making a batch of my Homemade Italian Dressing to dress this salad. It’s a recipe adapted from culinary school, but made with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen, and it’s the best choice for this antipasto pasta salad.

However, if you’re short on time, the next best thing is buying the highest-quality bottled Italian dressing available at your grocery store.

How to make Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

Cooked fusilli pasta in a white colander.

1. COOK PASTA. Cook the pasta according to package instructions for al dente in a large pot of salted water. Drain the pasta, but you do not need to rinse it.

Cooked fusilli pasta tossed with dried herb dressing in a glass bowl.

2. HALF DRESS. Place half of the dressing in a large bowl, then add the cooked, drained pasta to the bowl and toss to combine it with the dressing. At this point, cover and refrigerate the pasta for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

Antipasto pasta salad being drizzled with dressing in a glass bowl.

3. FINISH. Just before serving, you’re going to add the remaining half of the dressing to the pasta, along with the mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, onion, red pepper, olives, artichokes, Parmesan, pepperoncini, sun dried tomatoes and basil, and toss until well combined. 

Pasta salad recipe with Italian dressing in a glass bowl.

How to make this Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing ahead of time

The recipe card below is already tailor made for this dish to be made ahead of time! You can even prep and chop all of the antipasto ingredients up to 2 days in advance. So, all you have to do before serving is just toss everything together.

Pasta Salad Recipe with Italian Dressing Home Chef Tips

  • Keep a close eye (and timer) on your pasta as it cooks, and be sure to only cook it to al dente (follow the directions on the package). This will help it hold up well in the salad.
  • I haven’t added additional salt to this recipe, beyond what is included in the dressing recipe, as many of the salad ingredients are salty on their own. However, you should taste the salad and adjust the seasoning to your preference before serving.
Easy pasta salad with Italian dressing in a wooden bowl and on textured metal plates.

What to serve with Antipasto Pasta Salad

This easy pasta salad with Italian dressing pairs really well with a big variety of summer dishes. Some of my favorites include:

A black spoon lifting cold pasta salad with Italian dressing out of a wooden bowl.

How to store Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

Store your pasta salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

How long does Pasta Salad last in the fridge?

When properly stored, cold pasta salad with Italian dressing can last for 3 days. Give it a good stir before serving again.

Noodles and vegetables in a wooden bowl.
A wooden bowl filled with pasta salad with Italian dressing and antipasto ingredients.

Easy Pasta Salad With Italian Dressing

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 9 minutes
Total Time: 29 minutes

This is the classic midwestern Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing pumped up a few (dozen!) notches. It can and should be prepared in advance, so it's perfect for parties and picnics.


  • 8 ounces fusilli pasta
  • 1 cup Homemade Italian Dressing, divided
  • 2 ounces mozzarella pearls
  • 1 ounce sliced pepperoni, chopped
  • 1 ounce sliced salami, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup marinated artichokes, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup sliced pepperoncini
  • 1/4 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes


  1. Heat large pot of salted water to boiling over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente, then drain. 
  2. Place half of dressing in large bowl. Add warm pasta and toss until well combined.  For best flavor, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days before serving. Keep remaining half of dressing in small covered bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve salad.
  3. Just before serving, add mozzarella, pepperoni, salami, basil, onion, red pepper, olives, artichokes, Parmesan, pepperoncini, sun dried tomatoes and reserved dressing to pasta and toss until well combined.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 357Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 514mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 9g

This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. Nutrition information does not include any optional ingredients or toppings. You should calculate the nutrition information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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