This Italian Pasta Salad with Italian dressing is one of my favorite cold pasta salad recipes to make!  This is a vegetarian pasta salad, but omitting the Parmesan cheese will easily turn it into a vegan pasta salad if you if you like.

bowl of tossed salad

This cold pasta salad is a healthy twist on a favorite classic that your whole family will love. It’s a delicious mix of pasta, quinoa and chickpeas (rather than straight up pasta) for a healthier take, along with an assortment of vegetables all tossed in a delicious Italian dressing.

bowls of pasta salad ingredients

I love everything about this Italian Pasta Salad recipe!. It’s loaded with fresh and colorful vegetables, chickpeas and quinoa all tossed with an easy Italian vinaigrette. It’s a great potluck dish that travels well and it’ makes a light summer salad that everyone loves.

Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Rather than using 100% pasta noodles for this salad, we use a mix of  2 cups pasta noodles, 2 cups chickpeas and 1 cup quinoa to cut down on the carbs and add plant protein and fiber.  It’s easy to turn this vegetarian pasta salad into a vegan pasta salad by simply omitting the parmesan cheese.

  • Fusilli Pasta (but penne works too)
  • Quinoa
  • Canned chickpeas
  • Red onion
  • Cucumber
  • Red pepper
  • Pepperoncini
  • Kalamata olives
  • Marinated artichoke hearts
  • Parmesan cheese (optional – omit if you want to make this a vegan pasta salad)
  • Fresh Basil
  • Homemade Italian salad dressing

Variations

This is a versatile vegetarian pasta salad, so feel free to add in some of your favorite ingredients.

  • Add chopped broccoli
  • Sprinkle in grated carrot
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes
  • Use mozzarella or provolone instead of parmesan cheese

How to Make Italian Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing

This is an easy Italian pasta salad recipe that you can pull together in about 20 minutes start-to-finish.

  • Cook noodles and quinoa:  Cook the noodles in a pot of salted water and cook the quinoa in a separate pot of water.
  • Make pasta salad dressing:  Mix the ingredients for this simple Italian salad dressing recipe (or if you’re short on time, use your favorite bottled Italian dressing)
  • Chop ingredients:  Rinse and chop vegetables.  I like them in bite size pieces, giving my fork something to sink into.  Also cut the tough ends of the artichoke hearts off.
  • Toss ingredients:  After the noodles and quinoa have cooled, toss all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Chill:  Chill for about 20-30 minutes before serving.
  • Serve:  Drizzle the salad with just enough of homemade Italian dressing to lightly coat the ingredients.  Add in the parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves and toss again.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

bowl of chickpeas, vegetables and quinoa

Pasta Salad Dressing Recipe

This Italian pasta salad dressing recipe is really just a classic Italian dressing that’s quick and easy to make.

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil

How to Make Pasta Salad Dressing 

This Italian pasta salad dressing recipe comes together in a pinch, but it’s really best if you can let it rest for up to 30 minutes for the flavors to infuse together for a tastier salad.

  1. Combine the ingredients in a mason jar and twist the lid tight.  Shake vigorously to blend ingredients.
  2. Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

bowl of pasta salad

What Noodles Should I Use

I use fusilli (corkscrew noodles) for this vegetarian pasta salad, but you can use penne, rigatoni, or whatever noodle suits you for this recipe. Just be sure to cook the noodles al dente so they don’t turn to mush. And I always like to rinse my noodles after cooking, which gets rid of excess starch and keeps the noodles from clumping together. Be sure to cool your noodles before adding the other ingredients and tossing with the dressing. This will keep your salad ingredients nice and fresh.

Why We Love This Cold Pasta Salad

  • We replace about 2/3 of the pasta (found in classic pasta salads) with chickpeas and quinoa (making it a lower carb salad for folks watching their carb intake) while still keeping noodle-lovers happy.
  • It’s loaded with healthy ingredients.
  • This easy pasta salad is lower in carbs than classic pasta salads.
  • It travels well.
  • This is an easy Italian pasta salad recipe to pull together for dining al fresco during warm summer months when no one feels like cooking.
  • It has an incredible combination of flavors!

Serving Suggestions 

This easy pasta salad is great on its own with a tall glass of iced tea and maybe some garlic bread, but it also makes a delicious side dish to serve with just about anything.

  • Serve as a side dish with grilled fish, grilled chicken or poached chicken. You can even chop some poached chicken to add to this cold pasta salad.
  • This cold pasta salad also makes a great side dish to serve with grilled chicken burgers, turkey burgers and  black bean burgers.

How Long Does Pasta Salad Last

This salad will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Noodles can become a little dry and flavorless after awhile, so I recommend re-tossing the salad with a little more pasta salad dressing (if needed) before serving.   

Is Pasta Salad Healthy

I would have to say that this vegetarian pasta salad is likely healthier than most, because we replace about two-thirds of the pasta with quinoa and chickpeas. Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant protein, they contain all but one of the essential amino acids (methionine), they’re rich with magnesium and potassium and they’re a good source of soluble fiber.They also may help prevent high blood pressure and reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind)  (1) (2) (3) As for quinoa, it’s rich with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called flavonoids (quercetin and kaempfero). It’s a complete source of protein, providing 8-9 grams of protein per cooked cup (it’s one of the most protein rich foods we can eat), and it’s relatively low in calories with one cup of cooked quinoa containing only approximately 222 calories. (4) (5) . You can read more here about the Benefits of Quinoa.

bowl of pasta salad

Looking for more healthy summer salads to make?

Here are some of my favorites that are also great for potlucks, barbecues and dining al fresco.

Want more ideas? Check out all my healthy salad recipes.

bowl of vegetarian pasta salad
Yield: 6 Servings

Italian Pasta Salad

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

This Italian Pasta Salad with Italian dressing is one of my favorite cold pasta salad recipes to make!  This is a vegetarian pasta salad, but omitting the Parmesan cheese will easily turn it into a vegan pasta salad if you if you like.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-1/2 cups dried fusilli noodles
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in half and sliced
  • 12-14 heirloom or regular cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 12 - 14 kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup pepperoncini, silced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
  • 2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pasta salad dressing

Italian Pasta Salad Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse under cold water for just a minute.
  2. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with 1 cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for about 15 - 18 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let set in the pan for about 5 minutes then fluff with a fork or spoon.
  5. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool.
  6. Place the noodles in a saucepan with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  7. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until al dente.
  8. Drain noodles and transfer to the refrigerator to cool.
  9. Place all of the prepared ingredients and the cooled quinoa and cooked noodles in a large bowl.
  10. Add the vinaigrette and lightly toss to incorporate.
  11. Add grated parmesan cheese and basil ribbons and toss again.
  12. Chill before serving. Serve with extra vinaigrette if desired.
  13. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Italian Pasta Salad Dressing

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a mason jar. With the lid tightly sealed, shake until the ingredients are well blended together.

Notes

VARIATIONS

  • Add chopped broccoli
  • Toss in some green bell pepper
  • Sprinkle in grated carrot
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes
  • Use mozzarella or provolone instead of parmesan cheese


TIPS

  • Soak the sliced red onion in a glass of water (drain and pat dry) before adding to the salad.  It will mellow the flavor of the onion.
  • Noodles in pasta salad can become a little dry and flavorless after awhile.  Toss salad and add more dressing if needed before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 561Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 662mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 9gSugar: 7gProtein: 14g

theharvestkitchen.com attempts to provide accurate information, however, this nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. The nutritional information provided comes from online sources and calculations.