Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Basil and Mozzarella

The Best Italian Shell Pasta Salad

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 a vegetarian main course.

Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Basil

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.

Cold Italian Shell Pasta Salad

The thing I love most about this Italian Shell Pasta Salad (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!

Delicious Italian Shell Pasta Salad

If you’re looking to make this recipe as more of a main-course, (and 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!

Making Italian Shell Pasta Salad

Check out these easy to follow step-by-step photos and instructions for making 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, and the mozzarella cheese balls. Stir well to combine. Refrigerate the salad at least 1 hour. Garnish the pasta salad with freshly chopped basil and serve cold.

Assembling Italian Shell Pasta Salad

Italian Shell Pasta Salad
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.
  • 1 box medium shell pasta, cooked 2 minutes less than package directions, and drained.
  • 1 cup bottled Italian dressing (I used roasted red pepper Italian), plus additional if needed.
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and small diced
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and small diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 containers (8 ounces each) mozzarella fresca (cherry size) drained.
  • fresh basil leaves, chopped
Tools and utensils
  • 1 large stock pot (for cooking pasta)
  • colander (for draining pasta)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Chefs knife
  • Large serving bowl
  • Plastic wrap
  1. Add 1 cup of the Italian dressing to the hot cooked and drained pasta.
  2. Stir in the black pepper, bell pepper, red onion, and olive oil.
  3. Allow the pasta to cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and drained mozzarella 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.
Cooked chicken
Cooked Italian Sausage
Salami cubes or sliced pepperoni
Nutrition Information
Calories: 2145 Fat: 147g Saturated fat: 45g Unsaturated fat: 86g Carbohydrates: 142g Sugar: 41g Sodium: 5964mg Fiber: 11g Protein: 71g Cholesterol: 179mg
Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Tomato and Basil

Cold Italian Shell Pasta Salad with Mozzarella

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

Spaghetti Con Mozzarella Fresca (spaghetti With Fresh Mozzarella)

Garlic and Herb Marinated Mozzarella Bites

Savory Peach and Mozzarella Bruschetta

Four Cheese Caprese Pizza

Caprese Avocado Breakfast Toast

Yum, right???

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! Many people think that this quote is from Julia Child, but I believe it’s actually a quote from W.C. Fields. Either way… I find it fun, and very appropriate. 

Cooking with Wine Hand Painted Apron

All of my painted fabrics are completely machine washable and dryable (no fabric softener, please) and are heat set for durability. The aprons I paint on are a 65/35 poly cotton blend with adjustable neck straps, two large front pockets, they’re stain resistant, and each one has extra long ties so one size fits most. Aprons are available in black or white. I love special custom orders and will work with any design, idea, logo, or photo you send my way. Please feel free to contact me for your price quote, or visit one of my shops to view my other designs: Etsy, Wazala, and Kudos Kitchen Paints.

Kudos Kitchen by Renée ~ Where food, art, and fun collide each and every day!

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

Kudos Kitchen Custom Signature


  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!