Pizza Pasta Salad
What says summer gathering like pasta salad? This fun twist on a classic side dish is extra filling. Serve with all your potluck or barbecue favorites.
After the last year we’ve all experienced, I’m sure we’re ready for a good old back yard bbq. Call me a show off, but I love to be the person who brings the “wow” dish.
Memorial Day is just a few days away and we all have our own way of celebrating. Some choose to remain a bit somber, reflecting on the sacrifices of so many men and women. Others like to liven things up and enjoy that hard-won freedom. I try to find a good balance between the two.
I originally planned on making some kind of fancy red, white and blue dessert or cocktail, but honestly, Pinterest is loaded with things like that. Sure, I can make something impressive, but I really wanted to come up with something that people will actually want to try.
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I used whole peppercorns for this just to get the most flavor out of them freshly ground. You can use already ground black pepper or a pepper grinder. If you do, just use a pinch.
Sweet or Hot Peppers
Do whatever your tastebuds are craving here. I don’t love spicy food, so I opted for some small and colorful sweet peppers. You can do banana peppers, jalapeños (either fresh or pickled) or even something with more heat like a Thai chili.
My favorite little mushrooms for just about anything are Baby Bellas. They’re small portobello mushrooms that are similar in size to white button mushrooms, but they have a bit more flavor. If you happen to have button mushrooms on hand, those are okay too.
Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese
You can use the real thing if you’re not dairy free, of course. As far as dairy free options, I’ve tried a couple different kinds. The Violife vegan parmesan block is the best one so far. It tastes so close to the real thing.
I used a couple different kinds of vinegar for this recipe. Balsamic vinegar offers a richness and sweetness that I adore. It’s beautiful with any Italian-inspired dish. I didn’t want its strong flavor to overwhelm everything else, so I also used apple cider vinegar to get enough tang that we all love in a good pasta salad.
I used dried because that’s what I have. I used to grow oregano in my garden but I don’t have it currently. If you have fresh, by all means, use that! You probably won’t need as much though.
This is one that I’ll always choose for my garden. I adore having fresh basil for so many things. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried growing your own herbs.
Making Pizza Pasta Salad
Start with the Pasta
Get some water boiling, stir in some salt and olive oil and then add your pasta. While that’s cooking, get started prepping your other ingredients. As soon as the pasta is tender, drain it and transfer it to a bowl. Don’t put it back into the pot because we want it to cool as quickly as possible. It needs to be completely cool so that our other ingredients stay crisp and fresh.
Making the Dressing
I used a mortar and pestle for this because it’s such a small amount. You can use a blender, but it would be pretty tricky to get an even blend.
Another great thing about using a mortar and pestle is that you can add dry spices and grind them to release the flavor even more. Since the oregano isn’t going to be cooked, like in a tomato sauce, grinding it really helps to bring out the flavor.
Add the peppercorns to the mortar and grind them up. Then add the garlic and swish it around into a paste. Next, add the oregano and grind it until it becomes finer and intensely fragrant. Then you can add your vinegars, honey and olive oil. Swish those around to combine them and then pour it into the cooled pasta.
Toss the pasta around to coat it evenly.
Adding in all the Fun Stuff
Add in all the other ingredients and toss everything around. Cover the pasta salad and chill for at least half an hour. You can serve it then, but it will taste even better if you can wait 2-3 hours.
Pizza Pasta Salad
- Mortar and Pestle
For the Dressing
- ⅛ tsp whole peppercorns - about 8 peppercorns
- ¾ tsp dried oregano
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces dry rotini pasta
- ⅓ cup chopped baby bella mushrooms - about 4 whole mushrooms
- 1 2.25 ounce can black olives
- ½ cup mini pepperoni
- ⅓ cup shredded parmesan - regular or dairy free
- 2 roma tomatoes - diced
- 2 small sweet peppers - diced or sliced
For the Pasta Water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Add salt, olive oil and pasta and give it a stir.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the mushrooms and a little bit of olive oil. Toss them around and sauté just until they start to brown. You don't want them to completely cook down and soften.
- Remove mushrooms from heat and add to a bowl. Set aside.
- When the pasta is done, drain it and set it aside in a bowl. Don't put it back into the hot pot.
Making the dressing
- Add peppercorns to mortar and use the pestle to grind them into a coarse powder.
- Add in garlic and oregano and grind everything into a paste.
- Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar and honey. Mix thoroughly.
Assemble the pasta salad
- Once the pasta is completely cooled, pour in the dressing and stir it in to evenly coat the pasta.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and toss it all together.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but ideally 2-3 hours.
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Fresh tropical fruit, crunchy pistachios and tangy, sweet honey and lemon. A beautiful and tasty fruit salad is the perfect compliment to so many meals. It makes a great picnic or potluck food, too.