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best pasta salad recipe

This Creamy Italian Pasta Salad is one of our go-to recipes for summer cookouts and potluck dinners.

The phrase, “a meal in itself” definitely applies to this hearty pasta salad. It is loaded with chunks of Italian deli meats and cheeses, olives, red onion, chick peas, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, jarred fried peppers, and grape tomatoes – all tossed among tender cork screw-shaped pasta in a homemade (and absolutely fantastic) Creamy Italian Dressing.

Italian pasta salad with meat


You can, of course, swap in different deli meats and cheeses of your choosing in this Creamy Italian Pasta Salad, but the combination of flavors in today’s recipe is one of our favorites.  We used sweet capicola, Genoa salami, and baked deli ham, plus sharp Provolone cheese.  Ask your deli to slice single, thick quarter-pound slices of each meat and cheese so you can then cut them into cubes for tossing into this salad.

When ready to serve – just toss the pasta, meats, cheese, veggies and dressing together, then place in a serving bowl.  We topped our Creamy Italian Pasta Salad with quartered hard-boiled eggs, and some crispy fried prosciutto in the center.  (That crispy salty contrast is wonderful against the creaminess of the pasta and other ingredients.)

pasta salad with creamy italian dressing

You can serve this Creamy Italian Pasta Salad as is – but we love to serve this with more of that delicious Creamy Italian Dressing on the side. Then, drizzle more of the dressing over your served pasta salad.  Enjoy!

Creamy Italian Pasta Salad - This salad is loaded with pasta, Italian meats, cheese and vegetables and tossed in a creamy Italian dressing. So good

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Creamy Italian Pasta Salad - A Family Feast

Creamy Italian Pasta Salad

  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 8-10 servings


8 ounces dry Cavatappi pasta (cork screw shaped with ridges)

3 hard boiled eggs (see here)

1 tablespoon olive oil to fry the Prosciutto

¼ pound domestic Prosciutto diced (this will be fried crisp so don’t waste your money on imported), also ask the deli to slice it a little thicker than you would normally slice Prosciutto to make it easier to dice

¼ pound sweet capicola (ask deli to slice one, ¼ pound piece)

¼ pound Genoa salami (ask deli to slice one, ¼ pound piece)

¼ pound baked ham (ask deli to slice one, ¼ pound piece)

¼ pound sharp Provolone cheese (ask deli to slice one, ¼ pound piece)

¼ cup sliced red onion cut against the grain, see tip in notes section below

1 15.5-ounce can pitted black olives, drained

1 15.5-ounce chick peas, drained

1224 whole pepperoncini, depending on size

1 10-ounce container grape or cherry tomatoes

1 12-ounce jar roasted red pepper, drained and sliced into bite sized slices

1 12-ounce jar fried peppers, drained and sliced (We used Mancini brand found in Italian isle of our supermarket or you can find it online here)

¾1 cup prepared Creamy Italian dressing (See recipe here)


Cook the pasta to al dente, drain, rinse and set aside

Cook the eggs and quarter, set aside.

In a small sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high and cook the diced Prosciutto until crispy, about five minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Dice all of the cold cuts and cheese into small pieces and set aside.

Remove all water from pasta and pat dry with paper towels to remove any excess water.

In a large bowl, toss pasta with cold cuts, cheese, onion, olives, chick peas, pepperoncini, tomatoes, roasted peppers and fried peppers.

Add ¾ cup of the dressing, more if needed and toss to combine.

Top with the hard-boiled eggs and the crispy Prosciutto and serve.


Helpful Tip: Sometimes raw red onions are very strong in taste and many people cannot tolerate them in a salad. If you soak the sliced red onion in cold water for 15 minutes, it diminishes the potency of the raw onion. (Thank you for this tip, Sara Moulton!)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links:

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Creamy Italian Pasta Salad - This salad is loaded with pasta, Italian meats, cheese and vegetables and tossed in a creamy Italian dressing. So good



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  • Tracy wrote:

    I went to 3 grocery stores before declaring that I didn’t “need” the Mancini® Fried Peppers. Last ditch effort landed me at one last store on my way home. FOUND THEM! Had to pop them open to taste as soon as I got home and ….. I’m so glad I did! They are completely different than soggy mushy jarred peppers. Absolutely delicious! Fantastic recipe ♥ You’re recipes/suggestions never let me down, so thank you for that!

    • Martha wrote:

      LOL – so glad you found the peppers Tracy! (And I’m glad you felt they were worth the effort to find them too!) Hope you enjoy the recipe!

  • Linda R wrote:

    Hi Martha,
    I made your recipe for the Creamy Italian Dressing this morning, after tasting it with a bite of lettuce, I made another container for my daughter. It is absolutely delicious!!! Can’t wait to try it on pasta and green salads. I pinned it and sent it to several friends.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Linda! (I hope your daughter loves it too!) 🙂

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