Italian Picnic Pasta Salad; family reunions

I refer to this as Italian because I found the recipe in an Italian cookbook.

I no longer have the book so I can’t give you any more info on it. Suffice it to say it was an American cookbook, probably not written by an Italian chef, and likely not very accurate.

So don’t criticize.

I call it a picnic salad because it’s perfect for picnics. It’s easy to transport, can be made ahead and doesn’t have any of those pesky ingredients that might spoil the fun.

Now you know.

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Italian Picnic Pasta Salad

This was originally made with bottled Italian Dressing. I prefer my own but use whichever you like.

  • Author: Kate
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Marinate: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


  • 6oz (180gr) sliced, hard salami, sliced, slices cut in half or quarters
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup green olives (or Greek dry-cured, kalamata, whatever you like) I used 1/2 green and 1/2 Greek, cut in half or thirds
  • 4oz (125gr) mushrooms, trimmed, sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 green bell pepper or any color, chopped
  • 8oz (240gr) bite-size pasta
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Italian Vinaigrette:
  • 1 tbs Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tbs white wine (tarragon) vinegar
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 5 tbs salad olive oil
  • 1 tsp snipped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley


  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. 
  • When done, drain, put into a large bowl and toss with olive oil.
  • Add tomatoes, pepper, celery to pasta and toss lightly.
  • Put salami, mushrooms, onions and olives into another bowl and add vinaigrette. Allow to marinate, at room temperature, for 1 – 3 hours.
  • Before serving add marinated vegetables to pasta and toss to combine. 
  • If not serving immediately, refrigerate to chill.
  • Italian Vinaigrette:
  • Place mustard, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk to combine. 
  • Slowly add olive oil, whisking constantly, to combine.
  • When all oil is in and emulsified, add herbs.


This is best made several hours in advance.


  • Serving Size: 1 bowl
  • Calories: 317
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Sodium: 566.1 mg
  • Fat: 19.6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.3 g
  • Trans Fat: 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 26.7 g
  • Fiber: 2.8 g
  • Protein: 9.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 22.7 mg

Keywords: pasta salad, picnic

Italian Pasta Salad

Another easy salad: Old-Fashioned Peas & Pasta Salad

Remember family reunions?

There were 3 or 4 of them every summer when I was growing up. My mother’s mother’s side, my father’s mother’s side, and so on.

It was inevitable that one year there would be 10 potato salads, lots of fried chicken and no baked beans; the next year would be nothing but baked beans and cole slaw.

I had only been attending as an adult (meaning I had to bring ‘a dish to pass’) for 3 or 4 years when I made this pasta salad for my ‘dish’.

My pasta salad was the only one.

I was so happy.  I remember thinking: whew, I got this one figured out. I’ll just make pasta salad every year and not worry about it.

The next year there were 15 pasta salads.

Mine was still the best.

6 thoughts on “Italian Picnic Pasta Salad; family reunions”

  1. This looks delicious! I really like that you used farfalle (they are so pretty). And, I was JUST reading about pasta salad in “The Italian American Cookbook” by John and Galina Mariani. If it’s any consolation, in the introduction to their Summer Pasta Salad recipe (not entirely unsimilar to your pasta salad), they write “Italian cooking teacher Marcella Hazan once said that she prayed nightly for God’s forgiveness after including a cold pasta salad in her first cookbook, The Classic Italian Cookbook, […] because Italians never made such a dish. But pasta salads have become very much a part of American menus.

    (I LOVE that you caused everyone to bring pasta salads to the family reunion because yours was so good. And I especially love that your pasta salad was always the best.)

    • I don’t remember the name of the cook book that I got the original recipe from – and I can’t believe I no longer have it. Now I have to go look up her recipe in her cook book, which I do have, just behind me on the shelf.
      I still think mine is the best – mainly because it has so many ingredients! Plus a good vinaigrette.

      • I’m always amazed to be unable to find a cookbook that I feel certain I still have.

        Your pasta salad really does look good. It’s all those extra ingredients, especially the olives – personally, I like several different kinds. But not one of them to be those revolting canned pitted black olives that have lost all of their olive flavour and texture. (Are they dyed black too?)

        Might your recipe be derived from a Best of Bridge cookbook? (Are those North American, or just Canadian?)

        • I like the Greek brined black olives, but the ones in (water?) in the can are worthless. I looked everywhere for The Joys of Jello cookbook I got when I got married. Not that I was going to make anything from it, but I wanted a laugh…. Can’t imagine why I would have gotten rid of that!

  2. I love this pasta salad and it’s so versatile. You can put almost anything in it, or not, and it’s still delicious.

    We didn’t do reunions every year. Maybe one every few years. Eventually, they kind of just petered out. Over time, things changed and now, I really don’t even see any family on my side anymore. We don’t often see any on my husband’s side either. Those who held his side together have mostly passed on. I tried, but it didn’t work out. Things change…

    • I’m sure they are not done anymore – families are too dispersed. But I remember all the old aunts, great aunts, uncles, great uncles, etc. that we had to ‘pay our respects to’. Once that was out of the way we kids had a great time, even if we only saw each other once a year.

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