This zesty Italian pasta salad is one of my favorite pasta dishes for hot summer days! All you need is fresh vegetables, delicious pasta, and a zesty Italian dressing. Plus, the pasta salad is super easy to prepare, which makes it perfect for a quick lunch or dinner!
Pasta salads are great for many reasons. They usually are easy to prepare, taste great, are perfect options for lunch, dinner, or parties, and they can be varied in many different ways. And this zesty Italian pasta salad is simply perfect for summer. It is super light, simple, healthy, and tastes amazing.
To make this zesty Italian pasta salad, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Pasta: I used whole-wheat rotini for this recipe, but you can go for any type of short pasta, like farfalle or penne.
- Vegetables: Cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, shredded carrot, red onion, arugula, and black olives make this pasta salad super colorful, healthy, and delicious!
- Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese is one of my favorite types of cheese for Italian-inspired salad. It just makes everything tastier!
- Homemade zesty Italian dressing: You’ll need extra virgin olive oil, red or white wine vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, garlic, and Italian seasoning (optional) to make a zesty Italian dressing at home. I highly recommend keeping those ingredients in your pantry as they are great for making delicious and healthy salad dressing!
How to make this zesty Italian pasta salad
This zesty Italian pasta salad is super easy to make. Just follow these steps.
- Cook the pasta: Simply cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Then drain and rinse it with cold water.
- Chop the ingredients: While the pasta cooks, chop all the salad ingredients and add them to a large bowl.
- Prepare the dressing: Whisk together the dressing ingredients until everything is well blended.
- Combine: Combine all ingredients and toss until everything is well combined. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!
It is super easy to modify salad recipes to give them a different flavor. Here are some ideas for this zesty Italian pasta salad.
- Dressing: You can make the dressing more flavorful and add a bit of spice by using paprika powder. I like the classic version and the paprika version, just go with your own preferences!
- Salad Ingredients: If you feel like using other vegetables, then absolutely go for it. You could use other leafy greens, substitute the black olives with green olives, or use other cheese types like mozzarella cheese. I love the recipe as it is, but you can definitely make it yours!
- Herbs: I love to add fresh herbs to this zesty Italian pasta salad! I usually go for parsley, but basil leaves are another great option. I can absolutely recommend using fresh herbs!
Pasta salads are amazing for meal prep. I will usually make a few extra servings for the whole week. The pasta salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Just store the dressing and salad separately and pour it over the salad when you are ready to serve everything!
More healthy salad recipes
If you love salad recipes, then I’ve got you covered! Definitely try one of the following recipes. They are all super delicious, simple, and healthy.
- Pesto Spaghetti Salad
- Greek Chicken Pasta Salad
- Ginger Soy Soba Noodle Salad
- Red Pesto Pasta Salad
- Baked Feta Pasta with Shrimp
Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
- 8 oz. pasta of choice
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 carrot shredded
- ½ red onion finely diced
- ½ cup black olives sliced
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese grated
- 3 handfuls arugula
Zesty Italian Dressing
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Then drain and rinse with cold water.
- Chop the salad ingredients and add them to a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Add the pasta to the salad ingredients and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Vegan: Skip the parmesan cheese to make this pasta salad vegan.
- Gluten-free: Use gluten-free pasta to make this pasta salad gluten-free.
- Variations: You can switch up the flavor of this pasta salad by adding fresh herbs (parsley, basil), paprika powder (to the dressing), or choosing different vegetables.
Can the dressing be made without the maple syrup?
It probably will taste different but I think it should still be good. But I have never tried it myself without the maple syrup. 😊
Greek olives really work in this. Along with olive oil, italian seasonings, wine vinegar.
I agree! 😊