Italian Pasta Salad - An Awesome Summer Side
Updated: May 28
Pasta salad is one of those side dishes that is always a crowd pleaser at barbecues. There are so many different things that you can do with it. Being that it is super versatile, you can literally make it fit whatever type of menu you are planning. Pasta salad is an American dish that rose to fame in the 1960s. Since then it has been commercialized and you can now buy pasta salad kits in your local grocery store. I know in some areas pasta salad is always made with a mayonnaise base - from some reason I have a deep routed hatred of mayonnaise. I also attribute that to my Grandma - she was the matriarch of a Miracle Whip household and I feel as if there is a distinct difference between the two. People that were raised with mayonnaise hate Miracle Whip and vice versa.
The best pasta salad I have ever had was when I lived on Briarwood Lane in Union - our neighbor across the street made the most amazing Italian pasta salad. It had salami, pepperoni, different cheeses, olives, roasted red peppers and mushrooms. It was basically an antipasto tray chopped up and tossed with pasta. Anytime there was an event you knew Mrs. O was bringing pasta salad - and it was always devoured. I have never been able to duplicate her recipe exactly, but this recipe brings back all of that nostalgia. In my opinion, that's what a good recipe does - it gives the ability for great memories to be made that will ensure feelings of happiness in the future. What makes this recipe, in my opinion, is the dressing that you make to coat it. The roasted garlic olive oil, Italian seasoning and balsamic vinegar give it a ton of flavor. Below you will see that I used whole wheat rotini, but you can use whatever pasta you'd like. I personally prefer Farfalle, but my son for some reason doesn't like where the noodle "touches" in the center so we never use it.
I hope this recipe will bring you and your family as much happiness as it has brought mine. Thanks for following along ~ LC
Gather up all your ingredients! Not pictured, but in the recipe is Italian Seasoning and salt and pepper. I use the Savory Spice Shop Italian Seasoning and Tableside Salt and Pepper. If you haven't bought spices from them before, I recommend checking out their site. They ship everywhere, but if you can get into a local shop definitely do it. They have so many different blends it's amazing to see and taste. Their staff is also very knowledgeable about flavor profiles and what will pair well.
Next you want to roast the garlic so that it can infuse it's amazing flavor into the olive oil. I use four cloves of garlic for this recipe, and roast it in an aluminum foil pouch. Once I remove it from the oven and lightly mash to let it infuse I like to let it sit for at least four hours before making the vinaigrette.
If you can get already quartered artichoke hearts this will save you a step, I could only find whole so I simply cut them into quarters myself. You will want to make sure that when you cut your pepperoni and cheeses that you make them small bite size pieces as shown above. For the basil, I find that chiffon is the best way to maximize the flavor without having someone eat full leaves in one mouthful. In total between the meat, cheese and vegetables I am adding about 5 cups of ingredients to the cooked and cooled pasta. I recommend making this whole recipe in the 4 Quart Pyrex bowl (the one with the orange top) you'll have enough space to mix everything in if you're careful, and then you can serve out of it as well.
Once your pasta is cooled, add all your cut ingredients and dressing and gently fold to incorporate. The longer you let the pasta sit in the dressing the more flavor it will get. So feel free to make this the night before!
Italian Pasta Salad
1 box of pasta, use any shape you prefer, works best with rotini or farfalle
4 garlic cloves
5 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp
1/4 red onion
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
14oz artichoke hearts, drained, quartered
1 red or orange bell pepper
4 oz provolone
4 oz fresh mozzarella
4 oz pepperoni
6 basil leaves
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel garlic cloves, place on a sheet of tin foil with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper. Fold foil into a packet and put in the oven on middle rack. Bake for 20 minutes.
Once garlic is done remove carefully from tin foil - it will be hot - lightly mash with a fork and let sit in 5 Tbsp of olive oil to infuse.
Prepare pasta according to box instructions. Drain, toss with 1 tsp of olive oil and put in refrigerator to cool.
While pasta is cooling prepare your mix-ins. Dice the provolone, mozzarella and provolone into bite size pieces. Chiffon the 6 basil leaves. Quarter the artichokes if whole or halved. Dice the bell pepper and red onion. Slice grape tomatoes in half. Slice pepperoncini thin, make sure to remove the seeds.
Once pasta is cooled, mix in vegetables, meat and cheese.
Remove garlic cloves from the oil and combine with balsamic vinegar and Italian seasoning. Toss pasta salad with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.