Zesty Italian Pasta Salad: The Perfect Side for Pulled Pork Sandwiches


Searching for the ideal side dish to complement your flavorful pulled pork sandwiches? Look no further than Hook’d Up Bar and Grill’s Zesty Italian Pasta Salad. Bursting with Mediterranean ingredients like olives and sun-dried tomatoes, this vegetarian delight is quick and easy to make, making it the perfect addition to any picnic, potluck, or lunch gathering.

Pasta salad with Italian ingredients in bowl flatlay.

A Versatile Crowd-Pleaser

Zesty Italian Pasta Salad pairs well with just about everything. Not only is it incredibly versatile, but it’s also a breeze to whip up, making it an excellent last-minute addition to any gathering. The combination of pasta, feta cheese, marinated vegetables, and olive oil creates a homemade Italian salad dressing that is sure to impress. This simple yet flavorful recipe has become our go-to for potlucks, always leaving guests asking for seconds.


  • Fusilli pasta: This corkscrew-shaped pasta is designed to hold sauce, ensuring every bite is full of flavor.
  • Marinated baby artichokes with marinade juice: The tangy artichokes and their juices add a refreshing twist.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes with marinade juice: These tomatoes add a tart and bold tomato flavor.
  • Kalamata olives: These black olives provide a sweet and light olive taste.
  • Feta cheese: The crumbly texture of the feta cheese blends perfectly with the other ingredients, ensuring a cheesy surprise in every bite.
  • Red onion: The pungent and sharp kick of red onion adds an extra level of flavor.
  • Fresh basil: Torn basil leaves add brightness to the dish, enhancing the aroma and taste of the tomatoes.
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil: Olive oil acts as the base of the salad, bringing all the flavors together.
  • Garlic powder: A touch of garlic powder infuses the salad with that quintessential Italian flavor.
See also  Homemade Pork Shoulder Rubs

How to Make Italian Summer Pasta Salad

  1. Cook Pasta: Start by cooking the fusilli pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Once cooked, strain and set aside to cool.
  2. Mix the Ingredients: While the pasta cooks, mix the artichokes in their juices, sun-dried tomatoes in their juices, kalamata olives, red onions, olive oil, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.
  3. Fluff the Pasta: Gently fluff the cooled pasta and transfer it to a large bowl.
  4. Combine the Final Product: Gradually stir in the olive oil and ingredient mixture. Next, fold in the feta cheese and torn basil leaves. Ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed without becoming mushy. Once mixed, allow the pasta to chill in the fridge for at least an hour before transferring it to a serving bowl.

Pasta salad with Italian ingredients in bowl flatlay.


Have a question about this delicious pasta salad? Check out our FAQ section for answers to commonly asked questions.


Want to switch things up? Here are some tasty substitutions you can try:

  • Fresh Mozzarella: Replace feta with mozzarella balls if you prefer the flavor of mozzarella.
  • Goat Cheese: Swap feta for crumbled goat cheese for a sharper flavor.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano: Use freshly grated parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano to add extra cheesiness to the salad.
  • Spicy: Add more ground black pepper or red pepper flakes to give the pasta salad a kick of heat.
  • Penne Pasta: If you’re out of fusilli, penne pasta can be a great alternative.
  • Italian Dressing: For an extra kick, substitute olive oil with Italian dressing.
  • Tri Color Pasta: Want to jazz up the appearance of the dish? Try using tri-color fusilli for added vibrancy.
See also  Wine Pairing With Pork Tenderloin


Looking to experiment with flavors? Give these variations a go:

  • Vegan: Omit the feta cheese or replace it with vegan cheese to make this recipe vegan-friendly.
  • Pesto: Use pesto sauce as the base for the salad.
  • Italian Dressing: Combine marinated veggies, olive oil, and Italian dressing for a unique twist.
  • Cherry Tomatoes: Add sliced cherry tomatoes for a burst of juicy brightness.
  • Cucumbers: Include sliced cucumbers to bring a refreshing touch of light sweetness.
  • Meat: Craving protein? Add sliced salami or pepperoni for a zesty kick.
  • Bell Peppers: Red or green bell peppers add a sweet and mild flavor that complements the salad perfectly.
  • Parsley: For an earthy and peppery note, sprinkle in some fresh parsley.
  • Protein: Amp up the protein content by adding grilled chicken.

Equipment Needed to Make Pasta Salad

To prepare this zesty Italian pasta salad, you’ll need a few kitchen essentials, including a multi-purpose pot, mixing bowls, a wooden spoon for stirring, a knife, and a cutting board.

To explore more kitchen items and make your culinary adventures complete, head over to Hook’d Up Bar and Grill for our Kitchen Essentials.

How to Store Pasta Salad

Storing this pasta salad is a breeze. Once prepared, simply store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. You can also portion it into smaller containers for meal prep. Enjoy it cold or let it come to room temperature before serving. We advise against freezing the pasta salad, as it may become soggy.

Top Tip

For perfectly cooked pasta, make sure to cook it until al dente and avoid overcooking. The juices from the other ingredients will soften the pasta, resulting in a delightful texture.

See also  Fall Apart Slow Cooker Pork Chops

Pasta salad with Italian ingredients in bowl.

Did You Like This Recipe?

If you enjoyed this quick and easy Italian pasta salad, we would love to hear from you. Please rate and share your comments below! For more delicious salads and summer side dishes, check out these recipes from Hook’d Up Bar and Grill:

  • Peach Arugula Salad with Prosciutto and Burrata
  • Burrata Caprese with Balsamic Glaze
  • Veggie Pesto Pasta with Zucchini and Asparagus
  • Orange and Goat Cheese Salad
  • Harvest Quinoa Salad with Arugula
  • Healthy Greek Yogurt Coleslaw (with Napa and Red Cabbage)