Italian Pasta Salad with Tortellini

Italian Pasta Salad bursting with your favorite Italian fixings with the best Italian dressing all on your table in 25 minutes!

Italian Pasta Salad is an in-demand potluck, picnic and party side and this cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing is made 1000X better with cheesy, pillowy tortellini!  It’s a quick chop and throw together recipe that can be made 100% percent ahead of time for the perfect stress-free side!

PIN THIS RECIPE TO SAVE FOR LATER

Italian Pasta Salad recipe Video

Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing in a white bowl being tossed with wooden spoons

Italian Pasta Salad

I love my Italian food in the winter months from Chicken Parmesan to Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta, and Shrimp Fettuccine,   And I love my summer food too from pineapple salsa, corn on the cob, baked beans, and sweet cornbread.  But what if you could have the best of both worlds?  Enter  Italian Pasta Salad!

Italian Pasta Salad is fabulous because:

  • It is delish eaten right away (soooo hard not to!)
  • Taste even better the next day (I was eating it for breakfast)
  • Can be made all in advance
  • It’s easy to customize with your favorite add-ins or simply by what you have in the refrigerator
  • It’s a quick chop and throw together side
  • It’s loaded with goodies!

This Italian Pasta Salad recipe is loaded with cheesy, pillowy tortellini, salami, mozzarella, olives, bell peppers, pepperoncinis, tomatoes and cucumbers then smothered in bright and tangy Italian Dressing.  It’s hearty, comforting and refreshing all at the same time and belongs on your table all spring and summer long – starting this Memorial Day!

tossing together best Italian Pasta Salad with pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, mozzarella with wooden tongs

What do you put in Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing?

  • Italian Dressing
  • 1 (20 ounce) bag cheese tortellini
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, sliced and quartered
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (6 oz.) can black olives, drained and halved
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini’s
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella balls, quartered
  • 8 ounces salami, chopped
salami, tomatoees, bell peppers, mozzarella, cucumbers on a cutting board for easy Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

OPTIONAL ADD IN Ingredients to Italian Pasta Salad:

  • Feta
  • zucchini
  • Pepperoni
  • Italian sausage
  • Crispy thick-cut bacon
  • shrimp
  • grilled or shredded chicken
salami, tomatoes, bell peppers, mozzarella, cucumbers in a white bowl board for easy Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients

  • Italian Dressing: I beg you not to, but if you must use premade Italian Dressing, then your salad will need about ¾-1 cup.
  • Tortellini: I use fresh refrigerated tortellini.  You can use any type of cheese tortellini and even think sausage tortellini would be yummy!
  • Cucumber: You can substitute the slicing cucumber for an English cucumber and then you don’t have to peel it.
  • Tomatoes: Don’t substitute the cherry tomatoes for Roma or another variety because they will fall apart in the salad.
  • Olives: I use whole olives and then chop them because they are juicer and tend to hold together better but you can use sliced olives if you prefer.  Sicilian olives would also be delicious.  Olives are optional, and I actually don’t love olives, but I loved them in this salad!
  • Bell Pepper: You can substitute the orange bell pepper for whatever you have on hand but my fav for this Italian Pasta Salad is orange.
  • Pepperoncinis: Can be found with the relishes and other pickled condiments.  They are tangier and have a slight more kick than banana peppers but if you already have banana peppers on hand then you can use those.  This recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons but you are welcome to taste and add more for additional tangy sweet heat.
  • Mozzarella: I prefer to use fresh mozzarella balls, cut into bite size pieces. These can be found in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store. You can also use a fresh mozzarella log and cube it. If this mozzarella is too expensive or you don’t want to make a separate trip, you can substitute regular mozzarella and chop it into cubes.
  • Salami: You can substitute chopped pepperoni or chopped summer sausage for the salami.

Best Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Most Italian Pasta Recipes will have similar ingredients but there are a few differences in this recipe that I think make it the “best:” 1) tortellini, 2) Homemade Italian Dressing, 3) pepperoncins,  4) mozzarella balls.

  1.  Tortellini: Does it get any better than your favorite pasta salad except with tender pillows of cheesy tortellini enveloped in tangy Italian dressing in every mouthful?  I am obsessed.  All pasta recipes should be made with tortellini in my book.  I already have shared Greek Pasta Salad with Tortellini, Southwest Tortellini Salad with Creamy Salsa Dressing and have a  Shrimp Po’ Boy Tortellini Pasta Salad and a Cubano Tortellini Pasta Salad with Mojo Dressing coming your way because like I said – I am obsessed with tortellini pasta salads!  If you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon – do it!
  2. Homemade Italian Dressing: I’ve enjoyed my fair share of tasty bottled dressings, but I promise, nothing tastes as fresh and fabulous as your own Homemade Italian Dressing – and it takes MINUTES to whisk together using pantry ingredients!  This easy Homemade Italian Dressing is a balanced tangy and testy blend of olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried herbs and spices and the best part – Parmesan Cheese!  It elevates this Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing to a whole new level because after all a salad is only as good as it’s dressing – so use the best!
  3. Pepperoncini:  Please don’t skip!  Pepperoncini bring this Italian Pasta Salad to life!  They are slightly sweet but mostly tangy with a slight zip of heat.  The pepperoncini (100 to 500 Scoville heat units) is much closer to a bell pepper than a jalapeño (jalapenos are about 40x hotter) so don’t be scared away.  Their sweet heat tang is explosively delicious.
  4. Mozzarella Balls:  There is a reason they call them “snacking balls” because I could eat fresh mozzarella balls by the handful!  They are soft and buttery and melt-in-your-mouth YUM. I promise you will be combing through the pasta salad just to find these pearls of satisfaction.
top view of easy Italian Pasta Salad with pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, mozzarella with wooden tongs

How to Make Italian Pasta Salad

This Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing is pretty straightforward, but here are some helpful tips and tricks!

  • It is important to not overcook your tortellini – you want it al dente so it still has a little bite otherwise it will fall apart when tossed.
  • To stop your pasta from cooking after it’s removed from the heat, rinse and drain it in cold water.
  • After pasta is drained, immediately add it to a large bowl then toss it with half of the dressing. By tossing it with dressing while it’s still slightly warm, it soaks in even more zesty flavor and the dressing also keeps the tortellini from sticking together.
  • If you are serving immediately, you can go ahead and add all your chopped goodies and the desired amount of remaining dressing, HOWEVER, I highly recommend chilling for at least 30 minutes. A chilled salad tastes far superior than a room temperature one and this gives some time for the flavors to meld.

Can I make Italian Pasta Salad in Advance?

This Italian Pasta Salad is excellent the next day.  When making in advance, gently toss all the ingredients together with half of the dressing, cover and refrigerate.  When you are ready to serve, toss with desired amount of remaining dressing.  If you use all of the dressing initially your pasta may soak up all the dressing.

How Long is Italian Pasta Salad Good For?

Cover leftover cold Italian Pasta Salad with plastic wrap or transfer it to an airtight container.  Store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. I think it actually tastes best days after you make it!

LOOKING FOR MORE PASTA SALAD RECIPES?

Cold Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing in a white bowl being tossed with wooden spoons

Want to try this Italian Pasta Salad Recipe?

Pin it to your SALAD, SIDE, PASTA or SUMMER board to SAVE for later!

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

top view of easy Italian Pasta Salad with pepperoni, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, mozzarella with wooden tongs

Italian Pasta Salad with Tortellini

Italian Pasta Salad bursting with your favorite Italian fixings and on your table in 25 minutes! This Italian Pasta Salad recipe is is made 1000X better with cheesy, pillowy tortellini and homemade Italian Dressing!  It’s a quick chop and throw together recipe that can be made ahead of time for the perfect stress-free side for all your potlucks and parties!
Servings: 10 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Recipe Italian Dressing
  • 1 20 oz. bag refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 cucumber peeled, sliced and quartered
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 6 oz.can black olives drained and halved
  • 1 orange bell pepper chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini’s
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella balls quartered
  • 8 oz. sliced salami chopped
  • Optional: feta cheese, Parmesan, parsley

Instructions

  • Prepare Italian Dressing according to directions. Refrigerate until ready to use then shake or whisk to recombine before using.
  • Cook tortellini in salted water according to package directions. Rinse with cool water, drain and add to a large serving bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the warm pasta and toss to combine. Add the remaining salad ingredients to the tortellini.
  • If serving within the hour: toss with desired amount of remaining dressing. Although you can serve salad immediately, I highly recommend refrigerating for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and salad to chill.
  • If serving later: Gently toss ingredients to combine but do NOT add remaining dressing yet. Cover and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, toss with desired amount of remaining dressing. This salad is excellent the next day.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!

Italian Pasta Salad Ingredient Tips

  • Italian Dressing: I beg you not to but if you must use premade Italian Dressing, then your salad will need about ¾-1 cup.
  • Tortellini: I use fresh refrigerated tortellini.  You can any type of cheese and even think sausage would be yummy!
  • Cucumber: You can substitute the slicing cucumber for an English cucumber and then you don’t have to peel it.
  • Tomatoes: Don’t substitute the cherry tomatoes for Roma or another variety because they will fall apart in the salad.
  • Olives: I use whole olives and then chop them because they are juicer and tend to hold together better but you can use sliced olives if you prefer.  Sicilian olives would also be delicious! Olives are optional, and I actually don’t love olives, but I loved them in this salad!
  • Bell Pepper: You can substitute the orange bell pepper for whatever you have on hand but my fav for this Italian Pasta Salad is orange.
  • Pepperoncinis: Pepperoncinis can be found with the relishes and other pickled condiments.  They are tangier and have a slight more kick than banana peppers but if you already have banana peppers on hand then you can use those.  This recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons but you are welcome to taste and add more for additional tangy sweet heat.
  • Mozzarella: I prefer to use fresh mozzarella balls, cut into bite size pieces. These can be found in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store. You can also use fresh mozzarella logs and slice into cubes.  If this mozzarella is too expensive or you don’t want to make a separate trip, you can substitute mozzarella cubes.
  • Salami: You can substitute chopped pepperoni or chopped summer sausage for the salami.
OPTIONAL ADD INS:
  • Feta
  • zucchini
  • Pepperoni
  • Italian sausage
  • Crispy thick-cut bacon
  • shrimp
  • grilled or shredded chicken

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

Carlsbad Cravings Original

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

36 Comments

  1. Debbie says

    jen how much of the homemade dressing do you use. Thx Debbie

    • Jen says

      Hi Debbie, I personally used it all – its about 1 cup but you can use less if you would like. Enjoy!

  2. Naomi says

    This looks delicious! Now that it is hot and muggy here in the South, this cold salad will be perfect. Can’t wait to make it!

    • Jen says

      Thank you Naomi! I can’t wait for you to make it either – its soooo good my husband and I couldn’t stop eating it! Enjoy!

  3. Karen says

    Hi Jen. This pasta salad sounds amazing and will make it for an upcoming potluck this weekend. However, I’d appreciate some input as you’ve made this gorgeous salad. I agree with you that these salads always taste better the next day (or two!). But what do you recommend regarding when to add the cut cherry tomatoes? If I add them to the salad and then they sit for a 2-3 days, will they get mushy? Perhaps I should hold off on adding them until I add the other half of the salad dressing and am leaving? Thanks Jen for an amazing recipe!

    • Jen says

      Hi Karen, I am so happy you are going to make this salad soon – you will love it! I haven’t had a problem with my cherry tomatoes getting mushy the next day – if you are letting it sit 2-3 days then you might want to wait to add them. I think it mostly depends on your tomatoes, if they aren’t soft to start with then I think you should be fine 🙂 Enjoy!

  4. Ashley says

    This was the BEST pasta salad ever!! The homemade dressing was everything and made it so much better!!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m thrilled you made it and loved it so much! Thank you Ashley!

  5. Linda Murri says

    You said this is the best, but the homemade dressing recipe is not included–at least I didn’t see it?

    • Jen says

      There is a link to it at the top of the recipe 🙂 Enjoy!

    • Jessica says

      I love this recipe along with my whole family! However, this year I have started a diet in which I have already lost 30 pounds!!! I would love to keep eating the salad, do you know the nutritional info on the salad and the dressing?

  6. Karen says

    Hi Jen. I love your salad recipes. I’ve got a question and am not sure you can aid me but I’ll ask anyway, just in case <3
    I cook made ahead freezer food for my elderly Mom. Once a month a load her freezer and she is good all month long. This is a dilemma; she loves salads and well I've not figured a way to accommodate her with them. I live over 2 hours away from her, so I cannot pop in and make them, or I would. I was contemplating some of your beautiful pasta salads and wondered if at any point they might be frozen and thawed and then mixed with dressing and tomatoes? I know it is a crazy question, but I'm always trying to give here foods she loves. If you have any thoughts or ideas I would love to hear them. If it is just to crazy you can ignore me. Thank you for all the recipes and your pictures are gorgeous. You have a wonderful web site.

  7. Laurie Miller says

    I made this yesterday (early in the morning to give all the ingredients several hours to meld) and it was so delicious! The only thing I did differently was to switch out the cucumber for zucchini (my husband doesn’t like cucumber). The dressing was so easy and tasty — I’m going to make up a batch for green salads, too. We both took leftovers for lunch, and my husband just told me that his lunch was “fantastic!” I can’t wait to try more of your recipes. Thank you so much!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Laurie, thank you for taking the time to comment and welcome to my site! I’m so pleased this Italian Pasta Salad was such a winner! I hope have fun exploring my site and hopefully find many new favorites!

  8. Denise says

    Sorry but I don’t see link for salad dressing for pasta salad.

  9. Sarah says

    Have you ever tried adding artichokes to the salad. I was just thinking they may be an interesting addition, but I’m not sure about the texture? I was wondering if you or anyone had tried it or had thoughts on it?

    • Jen says

      Hi Sarah, I think it’s a totally personal choice/preference. Some people love them, some others not so much so I usually leave them out.

  10. Peg says

    This salad is amazing! I made it for a family gathering and everyone raved about it. Sent this link out to share. Thank you for a new favorite pasta salad!!!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Peg! I love hearing that this Italian Pasta Salad is a new beloved favorite! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  11. Jennifer Fulk says

    Hi Jen. I have made this and it is as good or better than the recipe I have used for years. I was just wondering why you don’t put red onion in? I kept looking at the ingredients list to see if I missed it, but nope. I am making this again, do you think the red onion would be a good addition?

    • Jen says

      Sorry for the delay Jennifer as I’ve been in Italy for two weeks, but thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I’m honored/thrilled this Italian Pasta Salad is the best you’ve tried! I don’t add red onion because there is a full 1 teaspoon onion powder in the dressing but if you love red onion, feel free to add it!

      • Jennifer Fulk says

        Thanks! I did add it and it is great both ways, with or without! Thank you for the awesome recipe and I hope your trip to Italy was amazing!

        • Jen says

          Thank you so much Jennifer, it was magical! I’m so glad the salad turned out great!

  12. Karen Finkle says

    I made this yesterday for a dinner tonight. I used chicken tortellini from Aldi. Another person at the dinner was bringing a 15 veggie salad so I used none of the additional ingredients and substituted freshly fried chopped bacon. Your dressing recipe was out of this world and everyone went back for seconds. I used half the dressing yesterday and the rest just before dinner tonight. It does soak up the dressing. It also tastes better when it has set outside the fridge for at least 1/2 hr. This recipe is a keeper!! Thank you, Jen.

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Karen, I’m so pleased you (and everyone else!) loved the salad, specifically the Italian Dressing!

  13. Maxine says

    I took this to a porch party and everyone really liked it. One of the guys asked if it was a an old Italian family recipe.

    • Jen says

      Thanks Maxine, I’m so happy it was a winner and even tasted authentic!

  14. NancyT says

    This is the best pasta salad I have ever ever eaten! And like you said gets better with age. Can’t wait to work my way through all your delicious looking summer salads!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your awesome comment Nancy, I’m so happy you loved it! I hope you find many new favorite recipes!

  15. Hannah Brayshaw says

    Really delicious! Followed your recipe exactly- except for peperoncini, because I couldn’t find them here in Australia. I used Jalapeños instead. Yum! Dressing was delicious, and so much nicer than store-bought.

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy to hear that Hannah, thank you! I bet the jalapenos were delish!

  16. PRITI LAKHANI says

    I like the recipe But there is no list of spices you are using. Can you please let me know?

    Thank you,

    Priti

    • Jen says

      Hi Priti, if you click on Italian dressing it will take you to that recipe with the spices.

5 Secrets to
30 Minute Meals

Tips, tricks & recipes to get dinner on the table fast!

FREE EMAIL BONUS