This Italian Grinder Pasta Salad has all the delicious flavors and textures of an Italian Grinder with only a few minutes of work!
THIS PASTA SALAD IS A WHOLE MEAL!
I don’t even know where to start with this pasta salad – it is so good! I can’t brag about it enough! t has everything you love about an Italian Grinder sandwich but without the bun. The pickled red onions really made this dish. I was gonna go with just plain onion and I’m glad I didn’t! The marinated mozzarella balls really make a difference as well because I use the seasoned oil from those to enhance the dressing (because it really is ALL about that dressing!) I promise if you make this once, you will make it again and again!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
The jars of pickled red onion are typically located in the pickle aisle near the peperoncini peppers, or occasionally among the salad items at your local grocery store. See my ingredient photo below so you know what to look for. If you’re unable to locate them or prefer not to use them, simply dice up a small red onion instead.
Yes but hold off adding the shredded lettuce until ready to serve. This will ensure the lettuce stays crispy (unless you like your lettuce a bit wilted.) However, I will say that I have stored this overnight with the lettuce and we all still really enjoyed it – the lettuce was just softer. If you’re ok with softer lettuce, then making it ahead is definitely an option.
This recipe is incredibly versatile, allowing you to customize it to suit your preferences. You can easily adjust the amount of ham, salami, and pepperoni to your liking, or swap them out for other meats such as turkey or chicken. You can even enhance it with some crispy bacon.
Absolutley! This is your pasta salad. Feel free to try adding these or swapping them out- I think gouda, pepper jack or cheddar would all work nicely.
The containers of marinated mozzarella balls can usually be found where all the other specialty cheeses are in your grocery store. They don’t always put them where all the other regular cheese and shredded cheeses are located. So look there first. If you still can’t find them, it’s ok. If you can find the whole mozzarella (the softer kind) – just cut that up into chunks or else use whatever is available to you. You don’t need to add any additional oil to replace the marinade from the mozzarella balls.
When you are not serving this pasta salad, it needs to be covered in the fridge. It’ll last about a day or two. Just remember that the lettuce will wilt when it’s all mixed together. I do not recommend freezing.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED: (SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR THE FULL RECIPE)
- mayonnaise – I have not tested this recipe with anything other than real, full fat mayonnaise so can’t say how any substitutions would work here.
- red wine vinegar – you could use regular vinegar or apple cider vinegar but the red wine vinegar adds a little something special to the mix.
- peperoncini pepper juice – you’ll just measure the juice straight from your jar of peperoncini peppers.
- marinade oil from the mozzarella balls – don’t toss that oil that the mozzarella balls were soaking in. We are going to use that for the dressing. I really love the marinated mozzarella balls from Aldi when I can get my hands on them. You can see what they look like here in one of my Instagram highlights. You will use all the oil from both containers. As I said above, if you can’t find these, you don’t need to add any additional oil if you are unable to use the marinade oil from these mozzarella balls. This dressing is plenty ‘wet’.
- oregano and garlic powder – feel free to use whatever seasonings you think go well here.
- red pepper flakes – this is optional. I don’t think it made this pasta salad spicy. It really just added a sublet background flavor.
- rotini pasta – use any similar size pasta for this. You can even use the tri-color rotini pasta.
- marinated mozzarella cheese balls – If you can’t find them, just grab plain mozzarella balls or a pack of whole mozzarella and slice it into bite sized chunks. See my ingredient image below so you have an idea of what to look for. They will usually be located where the other specialty cheeses are in your grocery store.
- peperoncini peppers – they give a nice little tangy background flavor and I don’t feel it really adds heat but you can leave them out. Also, you can also buy peperoncini peppers already sliced but I always have a jar of whole on hand since I make Mississippi Pot Roast and chicken pretty often.
- cherry tomatoes – I have found in recent years that I prefer cherry tomatoes over grape tomatoes. I think they are easier to eat because the skin is thinner but you can certainly use grape tomatoes or cut up some Roma tomatoes.
- pickled red onion – you could use regular red onion but the pickled red onion really sends it up a level. You can usually find them in the pickle aisle. You can even make them yourself.
- deli genoa salami– I bought this prepackaged. “Deli” just means it is sandwich sized. If you can’t find it with the other lunch meats, go to the deli counter of your grocery store.
- deli ham – I used Boars Head SmokeMaster Beechwood Smoked® Black Forest Ham. This ham is so good but can be pricey so please use whatever ham works for you and your budget.
- pepperoni – these are just regular pizza sized pepperoni. You can get larger slices of pepperoni at the deli counter.
- lettuce – I shredded it myself but you can purchase pre-shredded bagged lettuce to make this quicker to prepare.
HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN GRINDER PASTA SALAD
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, pepperoncini pepper juice, mozzarella ball marinade (from both containers) pepper, salt, oregano, garlic powder and red pepper flakes (if using) until smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, add in the cooked rotini, cut up mozzarella balls, sliced pepperoncini peppers, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onion, salami, ham and pepperoni (hold off on the lettuce for now).
Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients. Gently stir until combined well. Place a lid on the container or cover with plastic wrap and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. This will allow the flavors to really combine and meld together.
Then, when ready to serve, gently stir in the shredded lettuce.
Serve and enjoy!
CRAVING MORE RECIPES?
Italian Grinder Pasta Salad (+Video)
For the dressing:
- 1 ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon of peperoncini pepper juice from the jar
- marinade oil leftover from the marinated mozzarella balls (use all the oil from both containers)
- ½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
For the salad:
- 1 pound rotini pasta, cooked until al dente
- 2 (8 ounce) containers marinated mozzarella cheese balls in oil, sliced into quarters
- 5-6 peperoncini peppers, sliced in rings
- 10 ounce container cherry tomatoes, cut in half, or cut in quarters depending on how large they are
- 1 cup pickled red onion, loosely measured
- 10 slices deli genoa salami, cut into chunks
- 8 slices deli ham, cut into chunks
- 20 slices pepperoni, cut into quarters
- ½ head lettuce, shredded
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, pepperoncini pepper juice, mozzarella ball marinade (from both containers) pepper, salt, oregano, garlic powder and red pepper flakes (if using) until smooth. Set aside.
- In a separate very large bowl, add in the cooked rotini, cut up mozzarella balls, sliced pepperoncini peppers, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onion, salami, ham and pepperoni (hold off on the lettuce for now).
- Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients. Gently stir until combined well.
- Place a lid on the container or cover with plastic wrap and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. This will allow the flavors to really combine and meld together.
- Then, when ready to serve, gently stir in the shredded lettuce.
- Please refer to my FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) and ingredient list above for other substitutions or for the answers to the most common questions.
- Can’t find marinated mozzarella balls? No problem, this recipe still works. Just grab plain mozzarella balls or a pack of whole mozzarella and slice it into bite sized chunks. No additional oil needs to be added.
- The pickled red onion is usually found near the peperoncini peppers (often in the pickle aisle) or sometimes it’s near where the salad items are in your grocery store too. If you can’t find them or don’t want to use them, just dice up a small red onion.
- If you can’t find cherry tomatoes, just grab a large tomato and dice it up. I prefer cherry tomatoes over grape because they have a thinner skin and a sweeter flavor.
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days. I do not recommend freezing.
“The Country Cook” is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.