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Ditch the same old pasta salad you usually make, and try this Italian Sub Pasta Salad instead. It’s sure to become a new summer favorite! Take all the delicious flavors of an Italian sub and mix the cold cuts, veggies, and cheeses with pasta instead. It’s a colorful, crowd-pleasing side dish that’ll be a total hit at your BBQs and picnics.
Pasta salad is a classic side dish, especially for cookouts, potlucks, and picnics. And while most of us have a reliable recipe, it’s fun to mix things up once and a while. If you’re looking to get out of your pasta salad rut, try this Italian Sub Pasta Salad.
It’s basically an Italian sub sandwich in pasta salad form!
You’ll find all the delicious cold cuts, fresh veggies, and a tangy, creamy dressing all tossed with tri-colored rotini to create a pasta salad that’s full of flavor.
This pasta salad recipe is quick and easy to put together in less than 30 minutes and is a fantastic option for meal prep or last-minute get-togethers. Plus, with all the veggies and protein, it’s a meal in itself.
The next time you’re asked to bring a dish to a BBQ or potluck, make this delicious twist on a classic pasta salad. Serve it alongside these Italian Hawaiian Roll Sliders for a complete meal.
Ingredients for Hoagie Pasta Salad
This section includes ingredient notes and substitution options. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
- Rotini Pasta — The spiral shape of the pasta is perfect for holding onto all that yummy dressing, and the tri-color version just makes the salad more colorful. Feel free to use any pasta you like, such as bowtie or macaroni.
- Cucumber — Refreshing and crunchy!
- Bell Peppers — I use a green and red bell pepper to add color and variety, but you can use two of the same kind if you prefer. Note that red bell peppers are sweeter than green bell peppers.
- Cherry Tomatoes — These tiny tomatoes are sweet, juicy, and bursting with flavor. You can also use grape tomatoes, but they’re less sweet and have more flesh with less water (per Kitchn).
- Red Onion — The bright color and fresh crunch make red onions perfect for salads. They also hold up well in the dressing over several days.
- Spinach — Get a dose of healthy nutrients from green veggies.
- Salad Peppers — You can find sweet and hot salad peppers near the pickled items in your grocery store. This is a combination of banana peppers and onions and is really tasty on hoagies and salads. If you can’t find them, pepperoncini peppers work well.
- Deli Ham, Salami, and Pepperoni — This trio of meats are what you typically find in an Italian sub, so that’s what we’ve used here.
- Provolone Cheese — Sweet, mild, and slightly sharp, this cheese ties all the flavors together perfectly. You can sub a different cheese if provolone isn’t your favorite, though. Fresh mozzarella would be yummy.
- Italian Dressing — Use your favorite brand of dressing for zippy, tangy Italian flavor.
- Mayonnaise — This adds creaminess and richness to the dressing.
- Parmesan Cheese — You can’t have an Italian dish without some savory grated parmesan. Freshly grated is best, but you can buy it grated already.
- Italian Seasoning and Black Pepper — Italian seasoning contains all the herbs you need for that classic flavor, like oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary. I also like to add black pepper for a little bit of kick.
- Parsley — Optional, for garnish.
To make this tasty pasta salad, you’ll need these kitchen tools:
How to Make Italian Sub Pasta Salad
This section shows you how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions. For the full printable recipe, see the recipe card below.
Step 1: Boil a large pot of water, add the rotini, and cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Drain the pasta once it’s cooked and immediately rinse it thoroughly with cold water to stop the cooking process. Put the pasta in a large mixing bowl.
Step 2: Add the rest of the salad ingredients — vegetables, deli meat, and cheese.
Step 3: To make the dressing, add the Italian dressing, mayo, Italian seasoning, pepper, and parmesan cheese to a medium-sized bowl. Whisk it all together until well combined. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and gently toss the ingredients to combine.
Step 4: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and let the pasta salad chill in the fridge for at least one hour before serving. Chilling for a few hours is even better because it gives the flavors a chance to mingle.
Step 5: Stir before serving to mix in the dressing that’s sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Garnish with fresh parsley to make it pretty!
This pasta salad is versatile and goes well with many different main dishes. It pairs beautifully with meat from the grill, making it a great choice for summer barbecues. Serve it alongside a juicy grilled chicken breast or a perfectly seared steak. It’s also yummy with our crockpot steak bites and slow cooker brisket. If you’re more into seafood, it’ll be amazing with lemon grilled fish or some succulent grilled or popcorn shrimp. Burgers and pasta salad are a match made in heaven. You can also serve it alongside some of your Italian favorites, like Margherita pizza or chicken parmesan.
Storage and Freezing
Refrigerator: Store leftover pasta salad tightly wrapped or in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezer: I don’t recommend freezing pasta salad, especially recipes with a creamy dressing. The texture of the pasta will change, and the ingredients in the dressing may separate during freezing.
Tips and Tricks for Making Grinder Pasta Salad
- Don’t overcook the pasta. Make sure it’s cooked only to al dente and no more. If it’s cooked longer, it’ll become mushy and will not hold up well in the salad. You want the pasta to be firm and have some bite to it so it holds its shape.
- Make sure you rinse the pasta. Just as you don’t want to overcook the pasta, you want to stop the cooking process as soon as you drain it. Just run cold water over it until the rotini is completely cooled to stop it from cooking.
- Don’t like one of the cold cuts or veggies? Swap them out for your favorites! This recipe is very forgiving and versatile.
- Keep the flavors balanced. If you substitute ingredients, replace a sweet component with another sweet ingredient or a tangy ingredient with another tangy one. You get the idea.
Additions and Variations for Cold Meat Pasta Salad
Add some heat. If you like spicy foods, add some chopped jalapeños, red chili flakes, or a dash of hot sauce to the dressing for a bit of a kick.
Make it Greek. Replace the Italian dressing with Greek dressing, swap the Italian cold cuts with slices of grilled chicken, and the provolone cheese with feta. Include some black olives and cucumber, and you’ve got a Greek pasta salad!
Add crunch. Mix in some slivered almonds or toasted pine nuts to add more crunch and a slightly nutty flavor to your pasta salad.
Try different cheeses. A sharp cheddar, creamy mozzarella, or even tangy feta could offer interesting new dimensions to the salad.
Make it low carb. Instead of pasta salad, make it an antipasto salad! Leave out the rotini, and just toss the meat and veggies together with the dressing instead.
FAQ for Italian Hoagie Pasta Salad
Absolutely! Making this the day before gives the flavors of the pasta salad time to mingle together and deepen. It’s a great make-ahead dish.
Pasta is considered al dente when it is cooked to be firm when bitten. The best way to know if your pasta is al dente is to taste it! It should have a slight resistance or “bite” to it. The instructions on the box will also include time guidelines to cook the pasta to al dente, so that’s a good place to start.
Sure, use whatever bite-size pasta you have on hand, like bowtie, elbow macaroni, or shells.
Rinsing the pasta stops the cooking process to ensure it stays al dente. For pasta salads, it also helps cool the pasta down quickly and removes some of the starches that could make your salad sticky.
Yes, using Greek yogurt can lighten up this dressing and make it a little healthier. The flavor will be altered a bit, but it should still be delicious.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
Get more hearty pasta salad ideas with these recipes:
Italian Sub Pasta Salad
- 1 pound tri colored rotini
- 1 cucumber peeled and sliced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced
- 1 small red onion diced
- 2 cups fresh spinach chopped
- 1 cup sweet and hot salad peppers
- ¼ pound deli ham diced
- ¼ pound salami diced
- 1 cup pepperoni diced
- ½ pound provolone cheese diced
- 16 ounce bottle Italian dressing
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Fresh parsley optional garnish
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the box. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop it from cooking. Place in a large bowl.
- Add the vegetables, meat, and cheese.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk to combine the salad dressing, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.
- Stir before serving and garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.
- This recipe is very flexible. You can switch up the cold cuts, cheese, or vegetables as you like.
- Other small, bite-size pasta such as bow-ties or macaroni would work as well.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.