Zesty Pasta Salad

Zesty Pasta Salad

This zesty pasta salad is packed with super-flavorful ingredients – marinated artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, spicy Chicago-style giardiniera plus fresh mozzarella and plenty of fresh herbs. So delicious.

zesty pasta salad

Make this zesty pasta salad a couple of hours before serving. Or even better, make it the day before.

For some helpful tips before you begin, click here.



  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons (26 g) giardiniera, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (3.5 g) Italian seasoning (no salt)*
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon (12 g) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) MSG**

*Italian seasoning may be substituted with 2 teaspoons (1.5 g) dried basil and 2 teaspoons (1.5 g) dried oregano.

**MSG really enhances savory flavors, but if you do not like to use it, it can be omitted.


  • 1 lb. (450 g) package dried short pasta (like fusilli, rotini, farfalle, penne or combination)
  • 2 tablespoons (26 g) giardiniera, chopped fine
  • 1 cup (170 g) marinated artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1 cup (150 g) marinated roasted bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup (56 g) peperoncini, chopped
  • 1 cup (54 g) sun dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1 lb. (450 g) fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • 3/4 cup (65 g) grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (10 g) fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (13 g) parsley, chopped


1. Prepare the dressing.

– In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients until the sugar is dissolved and everything is well-combined. Set aside.

2. Prepare the pasta.

– Cook the pasta according to package directions in generously salted boiling water.

  • Use about 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt for 4 quarts of water.

– Drain the cooked pasta and then run under cold water to stop the cooking and cool it down quickly.

3. Combine all the ingredients, toss and chill.

– While the pasta is cooking, add the remaining salad ingredients to the large mixing bowl and toss into the dressing.
– Add the cooled pasta and toss until everything is well-coated.
– Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two.

  • This pasta salad will taste even better the next day.

– Give the pasta salad a quick toss before serving.

zesty pasta salad


This Zesty Pasta Salad comes together quickly and makes a beautiful side or main. The ingredients list looks long, but everything should be readily available and easy to find. And if there is something you can’t find, this salad takes substitutions easily.


1) What is giardiniera?

Giardiniera is a mix of spicy, pickled vegetables. There are two types of giardiniera. There is Italian-style which is preserved in a vinegar-based pickle. It can range from mild to very hot in spiciness. And there is Chicago-style which is pickled and then marinated in olive oil. It is usually pretty spicy.

  • We prefer Chicago-style giardiniera for this zesty pasta salad. But if you prefer Italian-style giardiniera, just reduce the amount of vinegar used in the dressing.
  • If you cannot find Chicago-style giardiniera, you can always substitute with other types of pickled peppers such as jalapeños or cherry peppers. But the amount to use may vary depending on the peppers’ heat levels.


– This zesty pasta salad is mildly hot. Feel free to add or reduce the amount of giardiniera to make it hotter or milder.

2) Prefer fresh veggies?

The marinated vegetables in this salad are super-flavorful pantry staples. But if you prefer, you can always use fresh veggies instead. Use cherry tomatoes, fresh bell peppers, cauliflower or broccoli – whatever you like. This salad is very versatile.

  • For maximum flavor, allow the vegetables to marinate a little bit in the dressing before adding the pasta.

3) No fresh mozzarella?

Fresh mozzarella is wonderful in this salad because of its creamy texture and mild, milky flavor. But if you can’t find any, feel free to use 1/2 lb. (225 g) cubed pepper jack or Monterey jack cheese instead.

zesty pasta salad

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