Zesty Italian Pasta Salad can be made two ways - with pasta or cauliflower. Both are delicious! A delicious, easy pasta salad with all your favorite Italian flavors. The perfect side dish for dinner, a potluck, cookout. It makes a great lunch option too!
Using cauliflower and our zesty Italian dressing makes this salad gluten-free, low carb, and keto.
🎥 Recipe Video
❤️ Italian Pasta Salad
"This pasta salad has always been one of my boy's favorite dishes. He requests it for birthdays, holidays, cookouts, camping trips...and so on. I've probably made it hundreds of times! When my husband and I started following a low-carb diet, I started making this two ways - pasta for our son and cauliflower us - and it's quite delicious! From my family to yours - enjoy" :) -Kori
Two Ways To Make This Salad!
You'll love that there are 2 ways to make this Italian salad - with pasta or using cauliflower florets as a pasta substitute. Both are delicious. This is one of my favorite salads, so I played around with the ingredients until it worked perfectly with cauliflower. 🙂
This is an easy zesty pasta salad that has only 10 ingredients unless you will make our homemade healthy Italian dressing - which I highly recommend. Our dressing is fresh, tasty, and healthy.
Cook your pasta or cauliflower, then do a little chopping, add all ingredients together and pour the dressing over the top.
From there, refrigerate for a few hours and serve. Straightforward. Voila! An easy pasta salad recipe! 🙂
Keto Italian Salad
Make this a healthy Italian "pasta" salad using cauliflower and our homemade zesty Italian dressing recipe. Now it's a gluten-free, sugar-free, low-carb pasta salad! 🙂
This salad makes a great keto lunch idea! It packs and keeps well. It has just the right balance between fat and protein to keep you satisfied for hours.
While the full nutritional value is provided at the end of the recipe card, here are the most important if you're following a low carb keto diet:
3.6 g net carbs | 22.2 g of fat | 11.6 g protein.
If you are interested in keto be sure to get our FREE keto food list and shopping list!
🥗 How To Serve
Need easy serving suggestions? Here are some ways that you can serve your Pasta Salad (Zesty Italian):
- What salad should you serve with pasta? I think the best salad to serve with Italian pasta salad is a fresh green salad or our Overnight Layered Salad.
- Serve as a side dish with grilled or baked chicken, beef, pork, or fish.
- Serve it as a main dish for lunch or a light dinner.
- If you are not following a low carb or keto plan, you can serve this with a fresh roll, breadstick, or a biscuit.
🥘 Ingredients and Tools
Here are the zesty italian pasta salad ingredients and tools you'll need:
- Bow Tie Pasta or Cauliflower - use bow tie pasta or fresh cauliflower cut into florets approximately 1" in size. Cook pasta according to package. Cauliflower should be cooked until crisp-tender, so it doesn't fall apart in the salad.
- Mini Pepperoni
- Olives - use pitted black olives, but you could also go with a different favorite variety if you prefer.
- Mozzarella - you can cube mozzarella or use the mozzarella pearls.
- Cherry Tomatoes - I like using cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, but you can also use Roma tomatoes. Cherry and Roma tomatoes are best to use because they are firmer, have less liquid so that they won't fall apart, and water down your salad as much as other varieties.
- Green Bell Pepper - I use green because it's an Italian pasta salad, and the green, red, and white in this salad are like the Italian flag. Any color of bell pepper can be used.
- Basil - I like to use fresh basil as it has the freshest taste, but you can certainly use dried basil if that's what you have on hand.
- Zesty Italian Dressing - try our easy healthy Italian dressing or buy bottled. Our recipe is zesty and has parmesan cheese which makes it a great dressing for pasta salad. If you're following a low-carb keto plan, make sure it is sugar-free! Our homemade recipe is low carb, gluten-free, keto, and sugar-free.
- Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
There are a few ways you can vary or make substitutions for this bow tie pasta salad with italian dressing:
- Feel free to substitute out different pasta shapes based on what you have on hand - rotini pasta, shells, even tortellini all work great.
- You can easily remove and add items to this pasta salad recipe. If you don't like pepperoni or want to use a different salami, go ahead. If you don't like green bell pepper you can take it out. Play around with what you got.
- This isn't a necessity, but if you buy bottled dressing you can add a little parmesan cheese to the salad too. My italian dressing recipe has parmesan cheese in it.
- Play around with the seasoning, or feel free to add extra salad dressing according to what you like! It's a VERY forgiving recipe.
🔪 How to Make Zesty Italian Pasta Salad
Here's how to make the zesty Italian pasta salad recipe - I think you're gonna love it!! 🙂
Please see recipe card for full details.
Cook Pasta or Cauliflower
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and then rinse with cold water.
If you're using cauliflower, cut into 1" pieces and steam, covered, in the microwave with 1/4 cup water for 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. You do not want the cauliflower too soft, or it will fall apart in the salad. Drain and then rinse with cold water.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Serve and Enjoy
Adjust salt, pepper, and use additional dressing to taste. Serve and enjoy!
💭 Expert Tips
- Use the freshest ingredients and spices for the best flavor.
- Adjust sweetener, salt, pepper, and the salad dressing to your liking.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- This recipe serves 8 but can easily be doubled or even tripled if serving for a party!
❓ Common Questions
How do you store pasta salad?
You can store this zesty pasta salad in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
How long can you keep this pasta salad?
This salad will keep for up to 4 days if stored in an air-tight container.
Is this pasta salad keto-friendly?
If you make this pasta salad with cauliflower and use a keto-friendly Italian dressing such as our Italian salad dressing recipe, this salad recipe is keto-friendly and has only 3.6 g net carbs in total, 22.2 grams of fat, and 11.6 g protein.
How many carbs in zesty italian pasta salad?
The carb content of pasta salad can vary quite a bit, but this recipe made with cauliflower and sugar-free dressing contains 7.3 g carbs, 1.6 g dietary fiber, and 5.6 g net carbs.
Nutrition content with pasta: 357 cal | 22.5 g fat | 718 g sodium | 24.7 g carbohydrates | dietary fiber 2.2 g | protein 14.3 g
Nutrition content with cauliflower: 264 cal | 22.2 g fat | 732.9 sodium | 6 g carbohydrates | 2.4 g dietary fiber | 11.6 g protein
Can you make pasta salad the night before?
Yes, this pasta salad can easily be made ahead of time - in fact, the flavors continue to improve as it sits. Store it in an airtight container.
Looking for more delicious healthy salad recipes? You'll love these keto and low carb recipes:
- Seafood Pasta Salad (Use Pasta or Cauliflower) - another pasta salad recipe that can be made with pasta or cauliflower! 🙂
- Grilled Shrimp Salad Recipe (Shrimp Louie Salad)
- Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
- Italian Antipasto Salad Platter Recipe
- Best Greek Salad Recipe
- Layered Salad (Layered Overnight Salad)
Here are a few more Italian inspired recipes you might enjoy:
- Stuffed Italian Meatloaf Recipe
- Italian Roasted Cabbage Slices (Keto Cabbage Recipe)
- Italian Crock Pot Beef Roast (Instant Pot Beef Recipe)
- Italian Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs (Low Carb Keto Slow Cooker Chicken)
- Zucchini Carpaccio (Low Carb Keto Gluten Free)
⭐ Stay Connected
If you tried Zesty Italian Pasta Salad or the low carb version with cauliflower, I'd love for you to come back and give it a star rating and/or a review in the comments! 🙂 Let's stay connected, so please share photos of your creations with me & others on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest!
📋 Printable Recipe
Here's a zesty Italian pasta salad I think you'll LOVE! Make it 2 ways - with pasta or cauliflower. An easy pasta salad with pepperoni, olives, mozzarella, tomatoes, and zesty Italian dressing. Make this zesty pasta salad with cauliflower and sugar-free zest Italian dressing, and you've got a delicious low carb, gluten-free, keto Italian salad! 🙂