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.
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.
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
- Dried Basil
- Dried Oregano
- Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Salt and Pepper
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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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!
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!
Since every Italian dish is better with mozzarella Fresca (fresh mozzarella), here are a few of my very favorite 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
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.
- Add the Italian dressing to the cooked and drained pasta along with diced green bell pepper, and diced red onion.
- Add a touch of extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.
- Stir well to combine.
- Allow the pasta to cool for 20 minutes.
- 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.
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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! 🙂
- 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
Add the Italian dressing and the olive oil to the hot cooked and drained pasta.
Stir in the black pepper, bell pepper, red onion, garlic, dried basil, and dried oregano.
Allow the pasta to cool for 20 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese to the pasta.
Stir well to combine.
Season with additional salt if needed.
Spoon the pasta salad into a large serving bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 60 minutes.
Right before serving stir in the fresh basil leaves, and additional Italian dressing if needed.
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
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!
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!
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Until we eat again, I hope you have a delicious day!
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