This Italian Antipasto Salad is the perfect side dish for summer picnics and barbecues in the backyard!
I’ve mentioned before that my wife comes from a
huge gigantic Italian family. I remember the first time I visited her hometown in central Pennsylvania. She told me that the family wanted to meet me, so they were having a backyard picnic with burgers and hotdogs. Cool! Sounded like fun to me! At first a couple aunts and uncles showed up…then some of the cousins…then another aunt and uncle…then a family friend (who was distantly related somehow)…and then they just kept coming.
All I could think about was the opening scene of The Godfather when Don Corleone hosted that outdoor party. I didn’t have to go kiss anyone’s ring, but there were all sorts of Italian relatives everywhere! I come from a very small family, so I quickly retreated to the grill where I “helped out” by cooking the burgers. (“Helping out” is also known as “hiding.”) Either way, I’ve grown to enjoy these huge Italian family gatherings…and the fact that this Italian Antipasto Salad always makes an appearance certainly helps!]
But back to this delicious Italian Antipasto Salad. This salad is like your favorite antipasto platter…all in one bite! It’s a great year-round dish, but it’s particularly perfect for summer picnics and barbecues. There is no cooking involved, but it does take a bit of time to chop all of the yummy veggies, cheese, and meats. Oh, and it’s critical that you use medium shells as the pasta for this salad! The shells help catch bits of the dressing to create these amazing bites loaded with flavor. When I told my wife I was making this salad for Spiced, she was beside herself with excitement. But I’m a bit of a jokester, so I told her I decided to mix it up and make it with tri-colored penne instead. Her immediate reaction was, “You did what!?” Haha. Funny Dave.
So this recipe makes a ton of salad! (Not literally a ton…but almost.) After all, it’s designed to feed a large Italian family. You could easily cut this recipe in half and still be good to go. But if you’re making this for a summer party or barbecue, then go ahead and make the whole thing. Just save one container for yourself! Or, if you’re like my buddy Chris over at Shared Appetite, you could just steal my bowl. (Just kidding…we somehow ended up with the exact same serving bowl. How does that happen?)
Oh, and here are a couple of tips for making/serving this Italian Antipasto Salad:
(1) Make it the day before if possible. The flavors will meld overnight and just get that much tastier.
(2) Hold the cubes of provolone cheese out and mix them in right before you serve it. The cheese tends to get a bit slimy if it sits in the salad too long. (Sorry, slimy doesn’t sound appetizing at all…but that’s kinda what happens.)
(3) Wondering how to get cubes of hard salami and pepperoni? Go to the deli counter at your local market to purchase the provolone, hard salami and pepperoni. Just ask them to cut 2-3 slices about 1/2″ thick. Then just slice them into cubes at home. Easy peasy!
Italian Antipasto Salad
For the Salad
- 2 16-ounce box medium shells pasta
- 8 ounces provolone cheese cubed
- 6 ounces hard salami cubed
- 1 small onion diced
- 8 ounces pepperoni cubed (see note)
- 2 green peppers diced
- 3 celery stalks diced
- 1 3.8 oz can black olives, coarsely chopped
- 1 8 oz jar small green olives (not chopped)
- 3 tomatoes coarsely chopped
For the Dressing
- 1 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ¾ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1½ Tbsp dried basil
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- ½ Tbsp black pepper
- 2 tsp salt
For the Salad
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Rinse and drain the pasta in cold water.
- Transfer pasta to a very large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined.
For the Dressing
- In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Pour dressing over salad and toss until salad is well coated. Keep salad refrigerated; serve cold.