Italian Pasta Salad with cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, feta cheese, bell pepper, and Italian Dressing is an incredibly flavorful side dish perfect for summer barbecues and picnics! This lighter no-mayo pasta salad recipe tastes fresh and vibrant, leaving you feeling great!
Italian Pasta Salad may just be the only pasta salad we ever need! Pack it up, our work here is done…that’s a wrap!
Flavor talk: it’s tangy with the briny olives, feta cheese, and Italian Dressing. Light and springy due to the bouncy spiral pasta shapes.
It has that nice bite and crunch from the red onion and bell pepper, the fun poppiness of the cherry tomatoes, and that amazing herbiness to tie all of the flavors together into one big smile for your taste buds.
While my Kale Pesto Pasta Salad and my Pasta Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing have been a classic at my picnics and barbecues for years, I am absolutely loving this classic Italian Pasta Salad.
The ingredients are very simple and minimal and the whole thing took me about 20 minutes to make in total.
Pro Tip: Make the Italian Dressing up to 5 days ahead of time if you’d like! You can always use your favorite store-bought dressing if you want to minimize prep.
These ingredients…let’s talk about them.
Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients:
Pasta: Truly, any pasta works for this recipe, so you can pick your favorite brand and shape. Because I eat gluten-free, I go with Tinkyada Spiral Brown Rice Pasta, which maintains its form really well! It’s my favorite brand of gluten-free pasta for taste, texture, and the fact that it’s made entirely of organic brown rice and literally nothing else.
Again, go with your own personal favorite pasta! Elbow pasta works really well in pasta salads as well.
Italian Dressing: I made my Easy Homemade Italian Dressing Recipe, which took a total of 2 minutes to throw together. I make it a day or more ahead of time to minimize the prep when I’m actually making the pasta salad, and also to ensure all the lovely flavors settle and shine through.
Use your own favorite homemade Italian dressing, or go with a store-bought version to make this extra simple!
Veggies: Cherry tomatoes, red onion, bell pepper, kalamata olives. These ingredients put off all the Italian vibes and produce a ton of vibrant flavor, making this healthy pasta salad recipe taste fresh and inviting.
You can easily toss in some spinach, chopped up cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, artichoke hearts, swap the kalamata olives for black olives, swap the green bell pepper for red…plenty of options to change it up!
Cheese: I use crumbled feta cheese in this recipe because I absolutely love it, but it is very common to use fresh mozzarella balls. They can be found in the deli section of most grocery stores and come in small bite sized balls. Or you can buy a log of fresh mozzarella and chop it up!
Here are some ideas for you to change it on up!
- 2 cups baby spinach (add after draining the pasta when it is still hot to help wilt the spinach)
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped cucumber
- ⅔ cup chopped salami (It’s very common to add chopped up salami!)
- 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
- 1 cup pesto sauce (instead of Italian Dressing)
- 2 Tbsp mayonnaise to make the dressing creamier if you’d like.
How to Make Italian Pasta Salad:
Begin by preparing the Italian Dressing. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions (I always cook mine a couple of minutes less than instructed to keep it al dente). Drain pasta into a colander and run cold water over it to help cool it off.
While the pasta is cooking, chop the bell pepper, tomatoes, olives, and red onion.
Transfer the cooked and cooled pasta to a mixing bowl along with the remaining ingredients.
Stir the pasta salad until everything is well combined and coated in dressing.
Taste for flavor and add sea salt and/or more Italian dressing to taste.
Serve with your favorite entrees and enjoy!
This pasta salad would pair marvelously with many of the main entrees on this site! Here are some of my personal suggestions.
- 30-Minute Sausage and Peppers
- Basil Crispy Baked Chicken
- Mediterranean Chicken Breasts
- Pesto Chicken and Broccoli
- Beef Tenderloin Recipe
- Mediterranean Shrimp Skillet
How to Store Pasta Salad:
Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
I hope you, your friends and family get a kick out of this simple, nourishing dish!
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Italian Pasta Salad Recipe
Fresh, light, and healthful Italian Pasta Salad made gluten-free and vegetarian. The perfect side kick to any main entrée and perfect for summer entertaining!
- 16 ounces gluten-free spiral pasta noodles
- 1 green bell pepper
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- ⅔ cup kalamata olives or black olives, chopped
- ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbles
- 2/3 cup Italian Dressing
- ½ tsp sea salt, to taste
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped, optional
- Prepare the Italian Dressing and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions (I always cook mine a couple of minutes less than instructed to keep it al dente). Drain pasta into a colander and run cold water over it to help cool it off quickly.
- While the pasta is cooking, chop the bell pepper, tomatoes, olives, and red onion.
- Transfer the cooked and cooled pasta to a mixing bowl along with the remaining ingredients, including the Italian dressing.
- Stir the pasta salad until everything is well combined and coated in dressing. Taste for flavor and add sea salt and/or more Italian dressing to taste.
- Serve with your favorite entrees and enjoy!
Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1 of 12
Amount Per Serving Calories 273Total Fat 13gCarbohydrates 33gFiber 2gSugar 3gProtein 5g
Saturday 12th of June 2021
I omit the olives use green onions rather than red, only half of a green pepper, add mini colored sweet peppers to make one cup of peppers, since I love tomatoes I add extra, and mini cucumbers. Such a delicious salad!😋😋😋
Saturday 12th of June 2021
Sounds amazing, Linda! Thanks so much for sharing! xoxo
Thursday 10th of June 2021
This is a great dish to make ahead for our weekend camping trips. I love these flavors together.
Saturday 12th of June 2021
Yeeeees it's perfect for that! Such an easy make-ahead dish! And it tastes better over time, too! xoxox