Italian Pasta Salad is a classic for a reason: its combination of flavors and textures is so satisfying that it can’t help but be a crowd-pleaser.
Cold pasta salads have been on repeat all the sweltering summer long. This Italian Pasta Salad is one; the other will be arriving shortly on the blog.
I love pasta salads because (1) they’re make-ahead easy, and (2) they make awesome leftovers for quick summer meals.
I’m definitely a make-ahead kind of cook. It’s so satisfying to pre-prep parts of a recipe, so that the actual meal-time cooking is reduced. I feel so accomplished and efficient! I do this often with soups: I’ll buy groceries in the morning, and do all the knife work when I get home, stashing everything in the fridge for later.
Of course, with cold pasta salads, you can make the entire dish ahead, which means that dinner is as easy as setting the table and pulling the bowl out of the fridge. In the summer, that’s the perfect meal, in my book!
Italian Pasta Salad has so much goodness going for it, it’s no wonder most everyone loves it. Crunchy vegetables, salty cheese, carby pasta, verdant herbs … and decadent crowd favorites, salami and pancetta.
Then, an Italian or Greek vinaigrette brings everything together under a perfectly seasoned veneer of flavor.
The addition of salami and pancetta will please the carnivores in your posse who are skeptical about a pasta salad’s ability to serve as a standalone meal. I don’t consume pork products very often, and usually associate salami with party appetizers. So, Italian Pasta Salad always seems a little extra special in that regard.
What is the white stuff on the salami?
You bought a special, artisan-sounding log of salami just for this salad, because you wanted something special for your peeps. You get the salami home, open the outer retail wrap and … gasp! It’s covered in some kind of white powdery substance. What the what?
Don’t run screaming, but, it’s mold. Deep breaths, lol, it’s okay! It’s the same mold you find on the rinds of soft, bloomy cheeses. It’s perfectly edible, but you generally want to remove it. Here’s why.
Many salami producers inoculate their salami with Penicillium to help with the aging process and to form a protective barrier against unwanted contaminants.
The mold is usually applied to the casing. During the aging process, the casing becomes a bit papery, covered in the powdery mold. While the flavor result for the salami within is awesome, the appearance and texture on the outside is generally off-putting, so it’s better all around to remove the casing.
How to peel salami
Not all salami comes in a casing, but if it does, here’s how to take care of it quickly:
- Some brands pre-score the casing for easy peeling; look for a string on the side of the salami to expose the slit.
- Cut off one end of the salami and, with a sharp paring knife, work the blade under the casing to enlarge the slit.
- The casing should be fairly simple to peel off from here.
Then, just slice and serve. Easy peasy!
Tip for dressing pasta salads: Pasta salads like this one are best served cold, I think. Combining the vegetables with the dressing and pasta, and then giving it a rest in the fridge, lets all the complex flavors of the salad bloom and develop into a beautiful cohesiveness.
But, cooked pasta is also a hungry little sponge, and it will absorb the dressing to point of drying out a bit. So, before serving, make sure you give the salad a good toss, and add drizzles of dressing to recoat everything.
You won’t need a lot. Just enough to let the pasta glisten.
I used tri-color rotini here because it makes everything look so festive and summery in the bowl. From what I’ve observed, though, tri-color rotini is usually packaged in 12 ounce boxes, whereas single color rotini might come in 14 or 16 ounces boxes.
My recipe here assumes 12 ounces, so feel free to color things up without having to adjust the math. But if you bought a larger box, just up your favorite ingredients a little. No need to fuss with preciseness. It’s summer. We’re chill. It’s all good!
Italian Pasta Salad
- 12 ounces dried rotini pasta
- 6 ounces sopressata salami, peeled* and cubed
- 4 ounces cubed prosciutto or pancetta (cooked)
- 4 ounces aged Parmesan-related cheese, cubed (such as Parrano, BellaVitano)
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
- 1 small red or orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 small green bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup mixed olives, sliced
- 1/2 cup diced red onions
- 1/4 cup shredded carrots
- 12 cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups Italian or Greek salad dressing, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
- Boil the pasta according to package directions (about 7 minutes). Drain into a colander and rinse immediately with plenty of cold water.
- Combine all of the meats, cheese, and vegetables in a large mixing bowl and toss with about 1/2 cup of the dressing.
- Make sure the pasta has drained completely, and pour it into the bowl with the other ingredients. Begin adding the remaining dressing, about a 1/4 cup at a time, tossing as you go, to coat everything well. Cover, and chill for at least 2 hours.
- Prior to serving, thoroughly stir the pasta. If the salad is too dry, add more dressing.
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