Dear taste buds, prepare yourselves for the flavor sensation that is this Italian Pasta Salad! It’s loaded with artichoke hearts, basil, tomatoes, black olives and a big bright and bold garlic and red wine vinegar dressing to make it pop!

Overhead of pasta salad

It’s the newest recipe to make the BEST OF list here on Healthy Seasonal Recipes, and I cannot wait for you all to try it and let me know what you think.

With only a week away from the unofficial start of summer, I knew I had to get this Italian Pasta Salad into your hot little hands, my friends, because you’re gonna consider it your new favorite pasta salad recipe. 

pasta salad with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, basil and olives in a white bowl with a fork

About This Healthy Pasta Salad With Italian Dressing

  • Creamy Dressing Vs Oil and Vinegar Dressing: I am not saying I don’t like pasta salad with creamy mayonnaise dressing (I usually cut the mayo with Greek Yogurt, like in this Healthy Macaroni Salad with Cheddar.) But there is something so refreshing about a pasta salad with an oil and vinegar-based dressing instead. The red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil really adds a bright acidity that goes well with so many other cookout side dishes and grilled meat and chicken. 
  • It’s Vegan: Because mayonnaise and greek yogurt aren’t vegan, many pasta salads are off limits for plant-based picnics. But this pasta salad is completely vegan! 
  • Make The Italian Dressing From Scratch: I like to make my Italian Dressing from scratch, and it’s really easy to do it right into the bowl where the pasta salad will be mixed. This saves a dish! 
  • Make it Flavorful: This Italian Dressing is quite bold. But remember it’s the main flavoring for an entire batch of pasta, plus all the veggies. So it’s quite strong for a reason. 
  • Food Safety: Mayonnaise also has a bad rep for going bad when it is left out in the sun at barbecues and picnics, so that isn’t as much of a factor with this pasta salad recipe. It’s vegan in fact! That said, don’t leave any food (with or without mayo) out in the heat for too long! Two hours is about all you can safely count on. Four hours maximum if it isn’t super hot/sunny. You can read more about the temperature danger zone here in my post about how to thaw chicken safely. 
  • Sub In Bottled Italian Dressing: If you have a store-bought Italian dressing you like, you may certainly sub 1 cup of it in, but I would recommend adding a little bit more garlic, a splash of vinegar and a pinch of salt to it. The pasta needs the extra boost of flavor.
Pasta Salad in a serving bowl, plus another small bowl with a single serving of Italian Pasta Salad

Ingredient Notes

Which Pasta To Use:

I like the fusilli in this recipe because I love the way the oil and vinegar-based Italian dressing clings to all that surface area! It really makes it so much more flavorful. I did test this with brown rice pasta, for a gluten-free option. I didn’t love how the pasta was a little limp in appearance when it was cooked according to the package instructions. But we all agreed that we liked the flavor and texture of it. 

Veggies

We used a combination canned quartered artichoke hearts, jarred roasted red peppers, scallions, cherry tomatoes.

Olives and Basil

If you can find Italian black olives, those are preferable. But if not Greek olives are a good substitute. Do not use ripe California black olives as they are too mild for this recipe.

I also used a heavy hand with the fresh basil for a big pop of flavor. Make sure to wash it and spin it dry before chopping it. For the best flavor, add the basil just before serving.

Ingredients For The Dressing

The dressing is a classic vinaigrette with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Dressing Ratios: Use a little bit more oil than vinegar, so as to make the dressing not too tart. Remember that salt and vinegar balance each other, so use the full amount of salt if your diet can allow. If you are on a lower sodium diet, and need to drop the salt, use less vinegar too.

Step-By-Step Instructions To Make Italian Pasta Salad

boil the pasta and make the dressing

Step 1: First Cook the Pasta:

This recipe only takes about 15 minutes of actual prep work. Much of the start to finish time is waiting for the pasta water to boil and allowing the pasta to cool. So getting that pot of water on at the very beginning should be the first step. 

Step 2: Make Dressing

While you’re bringing that pot of water up to a boil and while it is cooking, you can get your dressing made. Simply whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic, dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl. At this point, you can also prep the veggies. 

add the pasta to the dressing and add veggies

Step 3: Add the Hot Drained Pasta To the Italian Dressing

The key to maximum flavor is to add the pasta to the oil and vinegar dressing when it is still hot. No need to rinse the pasta once it is drained, the dressing will coat the pasta so it won’t stick together. The hot pasta will absorb the dressing as it cools, and impart overall delicious Italian dressing flavor.

Step 4: Add the Veggies to the Cooled Pasta

After the pasta has cooled with the dressing for about 20 minutes, you can add in the artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, olives, basil and scallions. 

pasta salad from the side

FAQs and Expert Tips

Make-Ahead Tips for Italian Pasta Salad

  • The dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance. Store it in a jar in the refrigerator. It will become solid in the fridge, just bring it up to room temperature and whisk it in a large mixing bowl before adding the hot pasta to it. 
  • The entire recipe can be prepared through step three up to twelve hours in advance.
  • All the veggies, except the tomatoes, can be cut and stored separately in covered containers in the fridge up to 12 hours ahead.
  • Another option would be to prepare start to finish but omit the tomatoes and basil up to 12 hours ahead. Add them right before serving. 

What To Serve With Italian Pasta Salad

  • Marinate and Grill Something. I love making a batch of My Favorite Garlic Marinade and using it for which ever meat looks good or is on sale. The flavors of the garlic and herbs mimic those in the pasta salad dressing, and would make a nice compliment. The marinade works with chicken, fish, tofu or pork.
  • Shrimp Kebabs. These Rosemary Shrimp and Tomato Kebabs are a summery grilling treat that would go great with the basil and olives in this pasta salad. 
  • Grilled Steak. This Tomato Herb Flank Steak is a great recipe for entertaining and folks always compliment it when I serve it.
  • Panzanella. Another Italian salad I love is Panzanella, and this Panzanella Salad is so colorful. It would be an easy make ahead side to serve as well. 
  • Italian Inspired Pork Chop Dinner. This Italian Pasta Salad would round out the rest of the meal with this Pork Chops with Arugula Salad. 
  • For a Vegan Summer Cookout, you could also serve this with Grilled Zucchini and Grilled Eggplant
  • For a Vegetarian Weeknight Dinner make these easy Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers with Italian flavors. 

Variations To Try

  • If you want to add a bit of protein to this salad you can add chopped cooked chicken or chickpeas with the veggies.
  • Adding fresh mozzarella would be really yummy. Drain an 8-ounce container of small pearl or caliegine-sized balls and stir them in with the veggies.
  • Add a small amount of salami, cut into strips.
  • Use fresh bell peppers instead of roasted bell peppers.
  • Add toasted pine nuts for a nutty crunch and flavor.
  • Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of Basil Pesto to the dressing.
  • Add a half cup of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (cut back on the added salt by 1/2 teaspoon.)
Italian Pasta Salad in a bowl with tomatoes, basil and artichoke Hearts

More Of My Favorite Healthy Pasta Salads

  • If you are craving a creamy pasta salad, this Creamy Pasta Salad with Ham and Peas is light and healthy, but still creamy and comforting.
  • Our new Greek Orzo Pasta Salad is loaded with fresh veggies including cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs. The lemony dressing is amazing!
  • Our Mexican Pasta Salad is a non-traditional twist on pasta salad. It has an easy cumin dressing and fresh cilantro!

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought!

Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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A bowl of pasta salad

Italian Pasta Salad


Description

This easy Italian Pasta Salad is so good! It’s loaded with artichoke hearts, basil, tomatoes, black olives and a big bright and zesty garlic and red wine vinegar dressing to make it pop! There is no cheese or meats, so it is vegan and vegetarian friendly too.


Ingredients

Scale

1 16-ounce box fusilli (gluten-free if desired)

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup best quality extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning

1 ½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1 cup chopped scallions

1 cup cherry tomatoes, red and/or yellow, halved

½ cup black olives, pitted and chopped

½ cup chopped fresh basil


Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente, about 12 minutes.
  2. While pasta cooks, whisk garlic, oil, vinegar, mustard, Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Drain pasta, and immediately add it to the dressing. Toss to coat. Let cool, tossing once or twice, at least 20 minutes. To make ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 12 hours.
  4. Stir artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, scallions, tomatoes, olives and basil into the pasta. Serve immediately or chill.

Notes

  • The dressing can be made up to 5 days in advance. Store it in a jar in the refrigerator. It will become solid in the fridge, just bring it up to room temperature and whisk it in a large mixing bowl before adding the hot pasta to it.
  • The entire recipe can be prepared through step three up to twelve hours in advance.
  • If you cannot find dry Italian Seasoning, substitute 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dry basil
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minu
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 239
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 31
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 6 g

Keywords: pasta salad,pasta,Italian,summer,picnic,barbecue,easy,vegan,healthy

Italian Pasta Salad overhead with text overlay