Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Basil and Mozzarella

Italian Shell Pasta Salad

Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Basil & Tomatoes comes together quickly with the help of store-bought bottled Italian dressing. It’s wonderful as a chilled side dish or a vegetarian main course.

Pasta salad in a glass bowl with a red and white checked napkin, a large spoon, and fresh basil leaves.
This is a favorite when it comes to summertime entertaining.

I always gravitate towards a cold pasta salad when it’s out on a buffet table at a party or gathering. However, I honestly think it’s been several years since I’ve made one myself.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long (since I do love them so much), but all that changes as of today with this recipe for Italian Shell Pasta Salad.

**Please Note – The printable recipe card with detailed instructions, complete ingredient measurements, and nutritional information for making Italian Shell Pasta Salad is available at the end of this post. 

Closeup photo of pasta shell salad with fresh basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and title text.

The ingredient list;

  • Shell Pasta (cooked just shy of the package directions)
  • Red Onion
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • Prepared Bottled Italian Dressing
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Dried Basil
  • Dried Oregano
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Salt and Pepper

Check out my latest and greatest Kudos Kitchen tasty BBQ side dishes recipe roundup.

What makes this recipe work?

The thing I love most about this cold pasta salad side dish (besides the pasta itself) is the addition of the fresh Mozzarella Fresca (fresh baby mozzarella balls), so I made sure to add plenty.

There is something so tantalizing about biting into tender, soft pillows of fresh mozzarella that are partnered with perfectly cooked pasta shells, and then smothered in big, bold Italian flavors!

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Large glass bowl filled with shell pasta salad, grape tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

Can I add protein to this cold pasta salad?


If you’re looking to make this recipe as more of the main course (for the carnivores in your life), feel free to play around with it.

What about adding some cooked chicken (store-bought rotisserie chicken is always a good choice), or maybe even some Italian sausage (leftovers work well for this) that have been pre-cooked and then tossed in with the pasta before chilling.

Oooh, before I forget! Cubed salami or sliced pepperoni would be great too!

You be the judge. It’s your salad, done your way!

Title text vertical collage of how to make Italian shell pasta salad.

Can this cold pasta salad be made in advance?

Yes! That’s the great thing about cold pasta salads. They get better the longer they sit.

This BBQ side dish can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored, well covered, in the refrigerator.

Can this pasta salad be frozen?

No! At least I’ve never tried it, and I don’t recommend it.

Due to the fresh ingredients (grape tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and basil), I doubt their texture would be good upon thawing.

This Italian shell pasta salad is best when refrigerated only!

Do I have to use fresh mozzarella in this recipe? Would shredded mozzarella also work?

It’s your call, really. But I suggest the fresh mozzarella for its creamy consistency and mild flavor.

Using fresh mozzarella cheese is a beautiful contrast of textures against the bite of the cherry tomatoes, and fresh bell peppers and onions.

Want tons of other BBQ side dish recipes you can really sink your teeth into? I’ve got your back with this Popular BBQ Side Dish Recipe Roundup! Don’t forget to check it out!

Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Basil & Tomatoes -

Since every Italian dish is better with mozzarella Fresca (fresh mozzarella), here are a few of my very favorite from around the web:

Yum, right???

Glass bowl filled with Italian Shell Pasta Salad with fresh basil leaves and a red and white checked napkin underneath.

The easy instructions for making my easy cold Italian Shell Pasta Salad:

  • Cook the medium shell pasta according to the package directions, minus 2 minutes.
  • Drain.
  • Add the Italian dressing to the cooked and drained pasta along with diced green bell pepper, and diced red onion.

Making Italian Shell Pasta Salad

  • Add a touch of extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.
  • Stir well to combine.
  • Allow the pasta to cool for 20 minutes.

Cold Italian Shell Pasta Salad

  • Once the pasta has cooled, add grape tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and the mozzarella cheese balls.
  • Stir well to combine.
  • Refrigerate the salad at least 1 hour, but longer is better.
  • Garnish the pasta salad with freshly chopped basil and serve cold.

Assembling Italian Shell Pasta Salad

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Closeup photo of shell pasta salad and fresh basil leaves with a title text overlay.

Below is the printable recipe card for today’s Italian Shell Pasta Salad.

If you enjoy this recipe and are anxious to give it a try, I’d appreciate if you’d take a moment to give this recipe some feedback by way of stars. Thank you so very much! 🙂

4.75 from 12 votes
Cold Italian Shell Pasta Salad
Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Basil & Tomatoes
Prep Time
15 mins
chill time
1 hr
Italian Shell Pasta Salad comes together quickly with the help of store-bought bottled Italian dressing. It's wonderful as a chilled side dish or vegetarian main course.
Course: BBQ Side dish, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian Cuisine
Keyword: cold pasta salad, Italian Shell Pasta Salad
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 246 kcal
Renee - Kudos Kitchen: Renée
  • 1 pound shell pasta cooked 2 minutes less than package directions, and drained.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup bottled Italian dressing
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3/4 cup bell pepper seeded and small diced
  • 3/4 cup red onion small diced
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes halved
  • 2 8-ounce containters mozzarella Fresca (cherry size), drained
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves for garnish
  1. Add the Italian dressing and the olive oil to the hot cooked and drained pasta.

  2. Stir in the black pepper, bell pepper, red onion, garlic, dried basil, and dried oregano.

  3. Allow the pasta to cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese to the pasta.

  5. Stir well to combine.
  6. Season with additional salt if needed.
  7. Spoon the pasta salad into a large serving bowl.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 60 minutes.
  9. Right before serving stir in the fresh basil leaves, and additional Italian dressing if needed.
  10. Serve cold.
Recipe Notes

Tools and equipment:

large pasta pot, colander, wooden spoons, cutting board, paring knife, chef's knife, measuring cups, large bowl for serving


Add in suggestions:

cooked chicken, cooked turkey, cubed salami, cooked ham, tuna fish, cooked Italian sausage, pepperoni, capers, artichokes

Nutrition Facts
Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Basil & Tomatoes
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 246 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Cholesterol 3mg1%
Sodium 311mg14%
Potassium 194mg6%
Carbohydrates 32g11%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 555IU11%
Vitamin C 16.2mg20%
Calcium 66mg7%
Iron 0.9mg5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed today’s BBQ side dish recipe for this cold Italian Shell Pasta Salad as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing it to you!

Red and white checkered napkin with a large serving spoon and a large glass bowl of shell pasta salad.

And since every Italian dish is better with a nice glass of wine, I thought I’d pair this recipe post with my colorful and whimsical new apron design that’s all about food…and WINE!

Cooking with Wine Hand Painted Apron

Should you have any questions or comments regarding this recipe for Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Basil & Tomatoes or anything else you see on my site please don’t hesitate to contact me directly, or leave me a comment in the comment section below. It is always my distinct pleasure to get back to you with a reply just as soon as I possibly can!

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Until we eat again, I hope you have a delicious day!

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**Note – The post above includes affiliate links. As always, I truly thank you for your support!


  1. I love salads like this. Perfect for summer!

  2. Wow this salad not only looks amazing but it looks refreshing!

  3. I want to bring this to every summer picnic this year!

  4. I rarely use shell pasta but it looks perfect in this salad! Love how quick and easy it is.

  5. The name of this salad sold me right away but your suggestion of adding salami – yes! I am totally in!

  6. Pasta salad is one of my favorite things! Can’t wait to try this one!

  7. This is such a perfect Summer salad for barbecues and potlucks!

  8. You made a wonderful pasta salad here and I am really looking forward to it!

  9. I love shell pasta so I’m totally in love with this recipe. It’s perfect for summer picnic or to bring to a potluck. Great photos.

  10. I’m going to go have to go ahead and agree with you that nothing beats fresh mozzarella. This pasta salad looks divine!

  11. I am also drawn to pasta salads on a buffet table… mmm and I especially like shells! I can see this tasty salad in my picnic basket! What a wonderful recipe, Renee! And the apron is adorable. I’m always wowed by your creativity!

  12. wilhelmina

    5 stars
    This pasta salad will be at all of our summer parties! Yum!

  13. 5 stars
    Tis the season for cold pasta salads and this one did not disappoint I made it for a work party and everyone loved it!

  14. 5 stars
    I too head straight for the cold pasta salads! If this dish is being served, I may or may not take the whole bowl – delish!

  15. 5 stars
    This salad has all of my favorite summer flavors!

  16. 5 stars
    So easy, so delicious and just in time for summer barbecues. I love pasta salads and caprese salads so this one is really checking off all my boxes. Can’t wait to try it!

  17. 5 stars
    This salad is easy to make and delicious with leftover grilled chicken for dinner. Definitely a repeat!

  18. Tanya Schroeder

    This is such a great side for all my BBQ’s!!

  19. Dara Michalski

    5 stars
    Summer in a bowl! We made this pasta salad for a picnic last week. Not only was it really easy to make, but my family loved the mozzarella and tomato combo.

  20. 5 stars
    I have a backyard party coming up in a couple weeks that I have to bring a dish for. I think I might bring this. It looks great! Thanks for the help!

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