Inspired by the classic pasta salad found in delis the world over, this one combines olives, pepperoncini, soppressata, and cheese as well as scallions and red bell pepper. Dressed in a red wine vinaigrette and loaded with texture and flavor, this one gets better by the day, so don’t be afraid to make it ahead of time.

A bowl of deli-style pasta salad.

This has been the summer of discovery for my children and their palates: ​​pretzel rolls​​, kani salad (from a local sushi restaurant), and ​​muesli​​ (my favorite, but historically not theirs).

Their latest love is classic, deli-style pasta salad, something we picked up on a whim a few weeks ago at a favorite deli in Chestertown en route home from the Adirondacks. It was as classic as they come, a mix of rotini, olives, cubed cheese, sliced meat, and chickpeas, and their enthusiasm for it both shocked and inspired me.

You’ve never liked olives, I thought. But also: Hooray! Perhaps this can be your school lunch (until you get bored with it anyway.)

Upon returning home, I had to recreate it. Much to the disappointment of the children, I did not use tri-color rotini, but despite this oversight, they approved of the rendition, which featured the expected pantry players — cubed meat and cheese, sliced olives and pepperoncini — as well as some fresh elements: diced bell peppers and scallions. I left out the chickpeas, and nobody complained.

As is the case with so many of these sorts of salads, this one is easily customizable to tastes and preferences: leave out the olives, add sun-dried tomatoes; leave out the raw bell pepper, add roasted red peppers; omit the meat and cheese, add chickpeas. The possibilities are endless.

In addition to school lunch, this salad would be great for many a lunch as it holds up well in the fridge, and tastes even better as it sits. And should you be searching for something to make for a long weekend get-together, look no further. This one’s just about potluck perfect.

How to Make Deli-Style Pasta Salad, Step by Step

Gather your ingredients: I’m using olives, pepperoncini, mozzarella, scallions, red bell peppers, and soppressata.

Ingredients to make deli-style pasta salad.

Incidentally, I prefer the Barilla brand for pasta. The one pictured above fell apart in the pot. Barilla holds its shape so nicely.

A box of Barilla pasta.

First, make the dressing:

Ingredients to make red wine vinaigrette.

In a large bowl, macerate diced red onion in red wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, and salt.

Red onions macerating in vinegar and lemon juice.

Let stand for at least five minutes, then whisk in honey and olive oil.

Red wine vinaigrette whisked together in a bowl.

Chop up all the fixings: scallions, pepperoncini, olives, mozzarella or provolone, red bell peppers, and salami or soppressata.

The add-ins of a deli-style pasta salad.

Boil the pasta in well-salted water.

A large pot of water boiling with rotini inside.

Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water, then transfer to the bowl with the dressing.

The components of a deli-style pasta salad, each in separate bowls on a countertop.

Add all of the fixings.

A bowl of the an untossed deli-style pasta salad.

Toss. Taste, and adjust as needed with more salt, pepper, lemon, and/or vinegar.

A bowl of deli-style pasta salad.

Transfer to a serving bowl or store in the fridge until ready to serve.

A bowl of deli-style pasta salad.

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A bowl of deli-style pasta salad.

Deli-Style Pasta Salad

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Inspired by the classic pasta salads found in delis the world over, this one combines a red wine vinaigrette and a mix of pantry items and fresh produce. This is a salad that lends itself well to improvisation, so use what you have on hand, and use the ingredient list as a guide. 

The dressing recipe is inspired by one I read about on Dinner A Love Story from Odette Williams’s Simple Pasta.


For the dressing: 

  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound pasta, such as rotini or ditalini
  • 4 to 6 scallions, thinly sliced (to yield 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, finely diced (to yield 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sliced olives (I’ve been using kalamata)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced pepperoncini
  • 2 to 3 ounces soppressata or salami, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces cubed mozzarella or provolone
  • freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • flaky sea salt


  1. Make the dressing: In a large bowl, place the onions, salt, vinegar and lemon juice. Let stand for at least 5 minutes. Whisk in the honey and olive oil. Taste. Adjust with more salt to taste. Add more vinegar or lemon if you like a sharper dressing.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Boil the pasta al dente according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water. 
  3. Assemble the salad: Add the pasta to the bowl with the dressing. Add the scallions, peppers, olives, pepperoncini, soppressata, mozzarella, and a few generous twists of black pepper. Toss to combine. Taste. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste. For a sharper dressing, squeeze in more lemon or add a splash more vinegar. 
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American