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The Best Pasta Salad

The Best Pasta Salad

A Legacy in Every Bite: Grandpa's Favorite Pasta Salad

This isn't your average pasta salad. It's a recipe bursting with family history and tradition, lovingly nicknamed "Grandpa's Favorite Pasta Salad." It all started with a simple request at family gatherings, and now, it's become a cherished dish passed down through generations.

The beauty of this recipe lies in its uncomplicated nature and incredible adaptability. Made with fresh, readily available summer ingredients, it's a fantastic way to showcase the vibrant bounty of your garden or farmer's market finds. Plus, it comes together in under 20 minutes, making it a lifesaver for busy weeknight meals.

Imagine a delightful medley of textures and flavors in every bite. Crisp, juicy cherry tomatoes mingle with refreshing red onions and plump kalamata olives. Creamy mozzarella balls and savory salami or summer sausage add a delightful richness. And to tie it all together, a light and flavorful Italian dressing bathes everything in its zesty goodness.

This pasta salad transcends the realm of a side dish. It's a vibrant celebration of summer flavors, perfect for picnics, potlucks, backyard barbecues, or simply a light and refreshing meal on a warm day.


  • Pasta Salad:

    • 1 pound uncooked pasta (rotini is a great choice for its twirls that hold the dressing well!)
    • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese balls, halved
    • 1 pound salami or summer sausage, cut into bite-sized cubes
    • 3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
    • 3/4 cup pepperoncini (optional, but highly recommended for a touch of spice!)
    • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
    • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Italian Pasta Salad Dressing:

    • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
    • 1/4 cup white vinegar (white or red wine vinegar works well)
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt (yes, tablespoons! It enhances the flavors without being overpowering)
    • 2 cloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder for convenience)
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 2 teaspoons each dried oregano and dried basil
    • Black pepper to taste
    • Fresh herbs (optional): Chopped parsley, basil, or chives for an extra garnish


  1. Cook the Pasta: Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, adding a generous amount of salt to the water for extra flavor. Once cooked, drain the pasta and toss it with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Let it cool slightly before assembling the salad.

  2. Whip Up the Dressing: In a blender or a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth for a perfectly emulsified mixture, or simply shake well if using a jar.

  3. Assemble the Salad: In a large bowl, toss together the cooled pasta, halved cherry tomatoes, cubed mozzarella, salami or summer sausage, sliced olives, pepperoncini (if using), red onion, and chopped parsley.

  4. Dress to Impress: Pour about three-fourths of the prepared dressing over the pasta salad and toss gently to coat everything evenly. You can always add more dressing later to your desired level of moistness.

  5. Chill and Savor: Refrigerate the pasta salad for at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight, to allow the flavors to meld perfectly. In true testament to its family legacy, it actually tastes even better the day after it's made! The flavors intensify, and the salad becomes even more refreshing.

This recipe is more than just a pasta salad; it's a testament to the enduring power of family tradition. It's a reminder that simple, seasonal ingredients can come together to create something truly delicious. So grab your favorite summer produce, whip up a batch of Grandpa's Favorite Pasta Salad, and create some delicious memories of your own!