Enjoy the flavors of an antipasto platter in this easy and delicious recipe for Antipasto Pasta Salad. Bursting with flavor from olives, salami, roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, sweet onions, and a simple homemade red wine vinaigrette, Antipasto Pasta Salad will be a hit at any gathering!
When it comes to pasta salad, there are endless varieties, but my all-time favorite recipe for pasta salad is Antipasto Pasta Salad. Along with my Papa's Baked Beans, it is my most requested side dish for summer potlucks and gatherings.
And with good reason!
why you will love this antipasto pasta salad
- Packed with Flavor. Made with a tangy homemade vinaigrette, tons of vegetables, salami, and salty olives, this pasta salad leaves a lasting impression on your taste buds.
- Crowd-Pleasing Recipe. Antipasto Pasta Salad is an unexpected and welcomed change-up from classic Italian Pasta Salads.
- Versatile & Adaptable. This recipe is dairy-free and can easily be made vegetarian-friendly, without sacrificing the results.
- Easy to Make. This pasta salad comes together relatively quickly, even counting the time to make the homemade dressing.
- Can Be Prepped In Advance. Like most pasta salads, Antipasto Pasta Salad tastes better if made the day before serving, making this a great recipe to entertain with.
Notes on Ingredients
Antipasto Pasta Salad is made with pasta, a homemade dressing, and then tossed with all the fixings you would typically find on an antipasto salad. Feel free to mix and match your favorite ingredients to create a pasta salad you will love.
- Noodles: You can use any variety of noodles you like, but I recommend selecting a type of noodle with twists and curves. This will help ensure the pasta holds the dressing and toppings, ensuring each bite is flavorful. Rotini, elbow, or cavatappi noodles are all great options.
- Red Wine Vinaigrette: This simple pasta salad dressing is made with red wine vinegar, olive oil, capers, garlic, and Italian seasoning. It is salty, and acidic, and adds incredible flavor to the pasta salad.
- Olives: I opt for a combination of Spanish and Kalamative olives. However, you can opt to use all one variety.
- Roasted Red Peppers: Roasted red peppers add a nice texture and smokey element to the pasta salad.
- Cherry/Grape Tomatoes: I recommend using grape or cherry tomatoes when making pasta salad, as their flavor is good year-round, they are already bite-sized, and their seeds don't water down the pasta salad. If you use vine-ripened tomatoes, be sure to deseed the tomatoes before chopping them to keep the pasta salad from becoming watery.
- Onions: Use a red or Vidalia onion. White or yellow onions can be used, but have a much stronger taste and can overwhelm some of the delicate flavors. I would only have half a white or yellow onion if you opt to use one of those varieties.
- Pepperoni/Salami: Mini pepperoni or cubed salami, makes a hearty, flavorful addition to the pasta salad. Feel free to leave the meat out for a vegetarian-friendly side dish.
- Optional Additions: Anything you would find on a classic antipasto platter is a welcome addition to this pasta salad. Cubed cheese, fresh mozzarella balls, bell peppers, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, and pickled cauliflower are all great options.
How to Make Antipasto Pasta Salad
Step One: Cook Pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water. Once the pasta is tender, drain the pasta, but do not rinse! That will rinse flavor down the drain.
Step Two: Prepare the Dressing. While the pasta cooks, use that time to prepare the dressing for the antipasto pasta salad. The red wine vinaigrette is best prepared in a small blender or food processor to fully break down the capers. The capers add an incredible depth of flavor to the pasta salad, but can be a bit overwhelming if left whole.
Step Three: Dress the Pasta Salad and Cool. After draining the pasta, you want to dress it with a small amount of the prepared dressing and then let cool to room temperatuer before adding the remaining dressing and toppings. Do NOT be tempted to add the remaining dressing before the pasta has cooled thoroughly. This will cause the noodles to absorb all the dressing immediately and the pasta salad will become dried out. You can speed the process of cooling the pasta up by spreading the noodles out on a sheet pan rather than leaving them in the pot.
Step Four: Add Toppings. Once the pasta is at room temperature add in the remaining vinaigrette, olives, tomatoes, onions, parsley, peppers, salami, and any other toppings you like.
Step Five: Chill. Cover the Antipasto Pasta Salad and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to really come together.
Antipasto Pasta salad is a dish that needs to be made in advance, to give the flavors time to develop, making it a great make-ahead recipe for a party or picnic.
While ready to enjoy after 4 hours of refrigeration, the pasta salad will taste even better if made 12-24 hours in advance. However, I recommend not preparing more than 24 hours before you intend to serve, for the best flavor and so that the pasta salad does not begin to dry out.
∗ tips for perfect pasta salad ∗
- Heavily salt the cooking water. Cooking noodles in heavily salted boiling water will help to flavor the pasta itself. Be sure to add 2-3 teaspoons of kosher salt to your water before adding the pasta to the water.
- Do NOT rinse your pasta! When you rinse pasta you remove the starch that allows the dressing or sauce to coat the pasta.
- Dress the pasta salad twice. Adding a small amount of the red wine vinaigrette to the pasta immediately after cooking, will allow the noodles to absorb the flavor of the dressing. But you want to wait to add the remaining dressing until the pasta is fully cooled to room temperature, to keep the pasta salad from drying out.
- Chill before serving. To allow the flavors to marry, it is best to refrigerate Antipasto Pasta Salad for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours, before serving.
Antipasto Pasta Salad can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, although it is best enjoyed within 48 hours of preparation.
As pasta stills in the refrigerator, the noodles can absorb all the dressing. If you feel that your pasta salad is dry, add ½ tablespoon to 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss again before serving.
- Vegetarian Modification: Omit the added meat. The other ingredients will keep this pasta salad plenty flavorful.
- Gluten-Free Antipasto Pasta Salad: Use your favorite gluten-free brand of pasta. I personally love Barilla gluten-free noodles.
- Make it Cheesy: Swap out the noodles for cheese tortellini and/or add cubes of provolone cheese or crumbled feta cheese.
This Antipasto Pasta Salad is easy to make and incredibly delicious. It pairs beautifully with Chicken Burgers, Grilled Greek Chicken, or Instant Pot Ribs for an easy, summer meal. It also makes a perfect addition to any potlucks or picnics, especially when paired alongside one of the following summer side dishes.
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Old Fashioned Baked Beans
If you enjoyed this Antipasto Pasta Salad, I would love for you to leave a comment and review below.
Antipasto Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces rotini noodles
- 8 ounces grape tomatoes halved
- ¼ cup Spanish olives sliced
- ¼ cup Kalamata olives pitted and halved
- ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers chopped
- 1 small vidalia onion or red onion finely minced
- 6 ounces diced hard salami or pepperoni
- ¼ cup minced parsley
Red Wine Vinaigrette
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and salt well. Cook the pasta according to directions, choosing the longest suggested cook time. Drain well, but do not rinse the noodles.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing by blending the olive oil, vinegar, capers, salt, garlic, and oregano together in a blender or small food processor until well combined.
- Toss the drained pasta with ¼ cup of the red wine vinaigrette and then let cool to room temperature before adding the remaining dressing or ingredients.
- Once the pasta is cooled, add the remaining dressing, tomatoes, olives, peppers, salami, and parsley, and toss well to combine.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight before serving.