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Loaded Italian Rainbow Pasta Salad


The weather is warming up, the birds are singing, and the sun rises at approximately 5:57 in the morning. Yup, you guessed it, we have officially hit an early summer.

Here in North Carolina, it’s not that uncommon to have a blast of heat early in the springtime. It’s actually been an unusual year where we’ve been able to hold off the heat until May! But, hey, I’ll take what I can get!

Despite fall being my favorite season, I always have something I look forward to in each season. Summertime has one of my all-time favorite meals: Pasta Salad!

I love that something can be full of pasta, hearty ingredients, and typically a lot of cheese, and still be called a salad. I mean, I don’t have to understand everything in this world, I just get to enjoy the impossibilities.

This is my spin on an Italian Pasta Salad! My inspiration really came from a ton of my favorite Italian flavors: salami, mozzarella, basil, pepperoncinis! A ton of really delicious flavors that all get packed into one super flavorful salad!

But you can totally make your own version! I feel like there’s a formal to making your own pasta salad!

  1. Pasta – whole wheat pasta, elbow noodles, rotini, tortellini, orzo
  2. Crunchy – have something crunchy, like a fresh vegetable: peppers, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, or add in nuts, roasted chickpeas, bacon, or crotons at the very end
  3. Something with a tang – add in pepperoncini, red onions, some kinds of olives, pickles, maybe a roasted pepper
  4. Cheese – definitely feel free to go crazy with this, or you can just add the cheese at the final second
  5. Dressing – you can pretty much choose any store-bought sauce or make your own!

Optional: 6. Some kind of protein – I like to add some kind of protein to make it a little bit heartier but that’s up to you on whether you want this to be a side dish or main dish.

Just go through the list and pick a few ingredients that fit into each category and you have a killer pasta salad! So if you look at this recipe, I did make my own Italian dressing, but this could have easily been a store-bought Italian salad dressing. Then I picked tortellini as my pasta; for my crunch, I have red peppers and red onion. For my tang, I have pepperoncini, also the punch of the red onion, and the olives, which still are a little subtle, but add a nice salty kick. And, of course, there are the mini mozzarella balls!

Altogether, it makes for a real flavorful dish because each taste bud and texture is satisfied in some way!

Go on and give it a try!


1 bag of cheese tortellini, frozen or dried

1/2 cup of mini Mozzarella balls

1 8-oz block of Salami

1/3 cup of Black olives

2 red peppers

1/2 cup of sliced pepperoncini

1/2 of a red onion chopped

1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

A few pieces of basil, for garnish

For the dressing:

1/2 cup of olive oil

1/3 cup of red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of pepperoncini juice

1 tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning

3 cloves of garlic, grated

1 teaspoon of sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

To begin, cook the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta cooks, assemble the other ingredients. Cut the red pepper, onion, and salami into small 1/4 inch pieces. Drain the pepperoncini’s and the black olives, reserving a few tablespoons of the pepperoncini juice. Slice the tomatoes in half.

Then, it’s time to make the dressing. Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, pepperoncini juice, Italian seasoning, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper into a bowl and whisk together until everything is fully incorporated.

Drain the tortellini and pour over the dressing onto the hot pasta. Allow the pasta to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Once the pasta is cool, add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve, but at least one hour.

Top with chopped basil! Serve cold or at room temperature.

This salad is so bright and refreshing, it’ll become a staple at every summer function! I love that this salad can be served as a side or is still filling enough to be the main course! Loaded with flavor, textures, and delicious flavors, this will be your new favorite salad! Besides, who doesn’t love a salad with pasta in it?!?

-Holly Michelle

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