Antipasto Pasta Salad is loaded with flavor from ingredients with several variations of acidity that brighten the dish along with the palate. Tossed with my homemade Italian dressing, it’s a delicious hearty salad that’s a meal in itself.
Giant bowls of pasta salad are a staple for cookouts for 3 reasons: They’re easy to make, can be made in advance, and they're versatile - making the possibilities endless. Let’s face the facts here: Whenever I see a pasta salad at a potluck or cookout, I skip it. But this antipasto pasta salad is full of flavor. People will actually run towards it instead of away from it. This has loads of tasty ingredients including briny flavorful olives, pepperoncini, fresh mozzarella, salami, and mortadella. Then the whole thing is coated with a bright, flavorful dressing that has a nice zing to it.
Antipasto pasta salad tips:
The pasta used is important. Although normally I would cook pasta to al dente, which means cooking until it has a bite to it. However, when I make a pasta salad, I cook it a minute or two over. This is the only time I cook pasta past al dente. Since the pasta isn’t coated with a hot sauce to continue cooking, we just need to make sure we cook it perfectly. Makes sense, right? We don’t want gummy and we don’t want mushy.
Rotini is a good choice for most pasta salads because it has spiral rings which grab and hold the dressing. You may find fusilli which basically looks the same as rotini. When picking a pasta, choose one that can stand up to a hearty dish such as this one. You can also use a ricotta cavatelli which not only adds flavor, but can hold its own in a pasta salad. You can find it in the frozen section of the market.
Dress the pasta right after it’s quickly rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking. The pasta will cool just a bit but will be warm enough to soak in all the flavors from the dressing. I never let the pasta get cold, gummy and sticky. I have the dressing ready so after the pasta is cooked and rinsed, it’s tossed together.
Salami has always been one of my favorite deli meats. When I buy it, I have it sliced very thin - almost shredded. I want it to be thin enough to be noticed in the dish and not sliced so thick that it makes it uncomfortable to chew. When the salami is sliced thin, it melts into the dish bringing flavor without a bulky or stringy texture. Same goes for the mortadella.
A lot of the ingredients have salt already, so you would think adding more wouldn’t be recommended. Well, that’s not the case here. Since most pasta salads are served cold, we need to make sure there’s flavor. I use a double batch of my homemade Italian dressing with some added salt. You can try it with adding half of the salt if you’re a little weary, however I do recommend incorporating it into the mix. The reason for doubling the dressing is to make sure the pasta is coated thoroughly with flavor and to keep it moist. Yes, I know people hate that word but it’s better than dryyyyyy.
If making this ahead, prepare and combine all the ingredients for the salad minus the pasta. Make the dressing and add about ¾ of it and mix it in. Then all you have to do is boil the pasta and mix it all together. I reserve a little of the dressing to mix in right before serving. I like this served warm or at room temperature. If stored in the fridge, take it out and let it come to room temp before serving for the best flavor.
Try some of my other salads:
- Sweet and tangy cucumber salad
- Mexican street corn salad
- Sonoma chicken salad
- Peruvian oil and vinegar potato salad
- Spinach watermelon feta salad
Life is too short for mediocre food.
Antipasto Pasta SaladPRINT PIN
- 1 pound fusilli or pasta of choice* See Notes
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata or Italian olives halved or quartered
- ½ pound fresh mozzarella cubed or use 8 ounces mozzarella cheese balls
- 1 pint sweet cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- ¼ pound thinly sliced genoa salami roughly chopped
- ¼ pound thinly sliced mortadella roughly chopped
- ½ cup sliced pepperoncini
- ½ red onion diced
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
- ½ cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup neutral oil - vegetable or safflower
- ½ extra virgin or regular olive oil *
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt - not fine salt I use Diamond Crystal
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Add all dressing ingredients in a cruet or a mason jar, cover, and shake to combine.
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions for 1 minute past al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water just to stop the cooking.
- Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Pour about three quarters of the dressing over the pasta salad. Toss to combine. We want to reserve some of the dressing to add to any leftovers or to mix in right before serving.
- Can be served right away or be made ahead.
- Use any leftover dressing to brighten it up before serving. When serving, toss the salad from the bottom to ensure you get any dressing that pooled to the bottom.
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