Zesty Italian Pasta Salad

Confession: I am a horrible salad maker. We all know its not that hard to toss some veggies together with dressing on top, but I. Can’t. Do. It! I have to follow a recipe if I want to make a decent salad. So when someone asked me to bring a salad to a church potluck I said yes while freaking out a little inside. The lady could sense my nervousness because she hesitated and asked if I was sure. I reassured her and then my husband leaned over and said don’t you love those salads that aren’t really salads like a snicker’s salad? (Why, yes! I do love those “salads!”) I knew I couldn’t get away with a dessert salad, but his question got me thinking about other kinds of “salads” I CAN make.

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
I settled on Zesty Italian Pasta Salad. I vaguely remember my mom making this growing up, but my dad isn’t a huge pasta salad fan so I am starting to question where I actually learned this recipe. (If my dad didn’t care for something, we never ate it. Good thing my dad and I have similar tastes… except for pasta salad.) Either way, I love this recipe. Its so versatile. It’s perfect for baby showers, summer cook outs, or as a side to some grilled chicken or steak. I also love the “zest” that comes from the “Zesty Italian Dressing.” It gives a little zip and a boost of flavor.

Start out by boiling your pasta  until it is Al Dente. This is served cold so you don’t want to let it get too soft. Drain the pasta, and toss olive oil and a little dressing over the pasta. This will help the pasta from sticking while it chills. Chill the pasta in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

Bow Tie Pasta
I usually buy spiral pasta but I was experiencing the perfect storm at the grocery store. My 2 year old knocked over a glass bottle of salsa that exploded all over me leg. I was wearing flip flops, mind you, and had nothing to clean it up with. So I am literally up to my knees in salsa, desperately trying to find spiral pasta, with my 4 year old running up and down the isles, flapping his arms like a bird, making explosion noises, and my eyes finally settled on bow ties. I just wanted to get out of that store, so I grabbed the bow ties and hauled to the check out stand with salsa sloshing between my toes and leaving a little trail behind me. (Someone remind me to go back and pay for the salsa. I was so mortified all I wanted to do was get out of there and didn’t even think twice about the cost of the salsa until I left the store.)

Backing to cooking! After the pasta has chilled, add the rest of the vegetables, cheese and salad dressing.

Pasta Salad Vegetables
Stir until the vegetables are evenly distributed and evenly coasted with salad dressing.

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad


  • 1 lb spiral or bowtie pasta
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 of red onion, sliced
  • 4 oz feta cheese
  • 4 oz salami, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup Zesty Italian Dressing


  1. In a large pot, boil pasta until it is al dente. Drain pasta and place in a large bowl. Add olive oil and 1/4 cup to the pasta. Stir to coat pasta. Chill for 2-3 hours.
  2. Chop vegetables and slice salami. Add to pasta and toss salad.
  3. Add the rest of dressing and stir until the salad is evenly coated.
  4. Keep cold until serving.

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad. Perfect for summer cook out!


  1. Renee says:

    My mom used to make this salad when we were little! It was great for any kind of large group gathering. I like that you use feta cheese – is it plain feta or an herbed version?

    • KateCurtis says:

      That particular cheese is a “Mediterranean herb” version. Its the first time I’ve used it and I really didn’t notice that big of a difference in the end. That zesty salad dressing took over, so I’d just stick with normal feta.

  2. Dorey Larsen says:

    This one sounds great. I’ve tried cheddar and mozarella cheese in my salad but feta would hold up much better.

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