This antipasto pasta salad is like the best of an antipasto platter with al dente pasta and a tangy, Italian vinaigrette dressing. This pasta salad is easy to make, and it has the best combination of textures. I serve it as a delicious side, but I have also used it as a quick meal.
Pick the Ingredients for Your Salad
First, choose ingredients that compliment each other like you would an antipasto board. I'm going to tell you what I use and why, then I'm also going to give you other suggestions.
For veggies, I use red and green bell peppers for crunch and color. I add sliced black olives because I love them. Last but not least, I chop and add red onion for added flavor that isn't too spicy. Next, I add in the antipasto. I prefer hard salami (or mild soppressata), and cheese with a pop of mild flavor (like Provolone or Asiago).
I've also added or substituted with these ingredients:
*Orange or yellow bell pepper (always stick with bell peppers for the crunch)
*Balsamic BellaVitano (Sartori) cheese
Prepping Your Antipasto Pasta Salad
It has taken me years to master the fastest way to prepare this salad. Years. I finally have it down and it's all about the order of prep. Trust me when I say this salad can take you about 40 minutes to make (start to finish) or it can take a lot longer. Follow these steps, in the order shown, and you will be blown away by how easy this is.
First, start boiling the water for your pasta. Let the water get to a rolling boil before adding in the pasta. Once boiling, add in the pasta. As the pasta cooks-keep an eye on it. Start it at the highest heat setting, but lower it to medium as the starch starts to froth up so you don't boil over. Once the pasta is cooked al dente, remove from the heat and drain into a colander. See notes below on rinsing the pasta before tossing into the salad.
Second, dice your peppers and red onion. Place the diced onions and peppers in a medium sized mixing bowl.
Third, drain the sliced black olives and set aside (I usually put them in a smaller bowl on their own).
Next, remove the salami and cheese from the refrigerator and drain the sliced black olives. Place the sliced black olives in a small, separate bowl and set aside. Now, cut both the salami and the cheese into small pieces (salami in ½" squares, cheese in ½" cubes). Set each in their own bowl.
Rinsing the Pasta and Making the Italian Vinaigrette Dressing
When making this recipe, you need to rinse the pasta. I never (normally) rinse my pasta when I'm serving it as part of a warm dish, but served cold, the starch needs to be rinsed off. If you don't rinse the pasta, it will turn into one big, sticky ball in your colander as it cools.
To rinse the pasta, place the pasta (in the colander) in your sink and run it under the coldest water setting. Allow the cold water to run over the pasta while you finish prepping the rest of the ingredients.
Now, make the Italian vinaigrette dressing. Whisk the EVOO, red wine vinegar, salt, oregano, garlic, sugar, and oregano in a mixing bowl. It's best to use cold red wine vinegar if the dressing won't have time to chill in the refrigerator.
Strategically Tossing Your Antipasto Pasta Salad
Believe it or not, there is even a method to the madness of tossing this salad. After the pasta has been thoroughly rinsed and feels cool to the touch, blot the pasta with a paper towel to absorb excess water that didn't drain. Now, we toss.
First, add the pasta to your serving bowl, then use a wooden spoon to gently break apart any clumping.
Next, add the peppers and onion to the pasta and toss until well combined.
Now, add the salami, olives, and cheese and toss again until well combined.
Whisk the dressing well before pouring over the salad. Evenly distribute dressing over the salad and use two wooden spoons to toss ingredients thoroughly. If you're not sure how to distribute the dressing evenly, pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Then pour the rest of the dressing and toss again. I know it seems like an extra step, but the last thing you want is all of the dressing seeping to the bottom of the bowl.
Isn't it a beauty? Mangia!
Storing and Prepping Antipasto Pasta Salad Ahead of Time
I like to prepare this pasta salad at least a few hours (or even a day) before serving. Prepping ahead gives it time to really let all of the flavors marry together for the best possible result when you serve it. If you don't have time to let it chill for hours before serving, make the dressing first and let it refrigerate as long as possible before tossing it into the salad. When you do prep ahead of serving time, as a minimum, cover the salad tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing it in the refrigerator. For best results, store it in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Always refrigerate whatever is left after serving. The salad will store well for 3-5 days in the refrigerator, but will need to be re-tossed with each serving.
More Summer recipes:
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Antipasto Pasta Salad
- 24 oz tri-color rotini 2 boxes = 24 oz
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 2-3 bell peppers, diced (pepper colors are optional, I just like using 1 red, 1 green, 1 orange)
- 1 can (11oz) sliced black olives
- ¼ lb eckrich hard salami, cut into small squares
- ½ lb provolone cheese wedge, cut into small cubes (*other good alternatives are: asiago, fontinella, bellavitano balsamic)
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup red wine vinegar (I recommend Pompeii or Regina)
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- Begin boiling water for pasta. Once it reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta. Turn the heat down to medium so that it doesn't boil over. Once pasta is cooked al dente (about 10 minutes), remove from heat and pour into a colander to drain and rinse. Rinse under cold water until pasta is cool to the touch.
- Seed and dice bell peppers and red onion. Add bell peppers and onions to a medium mixing bowl.
- Cut salami and cheese into small pieces. Salami should be cut into ½" squares, and cheese cut into ½" cubes. Set cheese and salami in separate bowls from the peppers and onions.
- Whisk dressing ingredients together until well combined. Set dressing in refrigerator to chill as you assemble the salad.
- Drain the sliced black olives and set aside.
- Make sure that pasta is well drained in colander. Blot excess water with a paper towel and pour the pasta into a large serving bowl. Use a wooden spoon to gently break up any clumping in the pasta.
- Add diced peppers and onions incrementally, and stir into pasta so that everything is well distributed.
- Next, add the cheese, olives, and salami to the bowl with the pasta, peppers, and onions- again stirring until well distributed.
- Whisk dressing again before pouring over salad. Distribute the dressing as evenly as possible and use two large spoons to toss dressing into salad.
- Refrigerate before serving for best results. Salad can be made the day before serving. Cover securely to store in the refrigerator and toss again immediately before serving.
- Enjoy as a side or as a quick meal!!
Delicious!! I had to dinner party tonight it and a big hit.
Hi Kat thank you so much! I am so happy to hear you enjoyed it 🙂
This was sooo good! I love all the colors & it makes enough to feed an army!