Easy Bow Tie Italian Pasta Salad

Bow Tie Italian Pasta Salad is a make-ahead no mayo side dish that is customizable, loaded with flavor, and is perfect for cookouts.

gluten free bowtie pasta salad in large white bowl with green towel in the background.

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Are you a pasta salad lover like I am? To me, it’s like the best of both worlds. Not only is it a side dish, but it can really sub as a meal if you ask me. Protein? Check. Carbs? Check. Veggies? Check. Or at least in my world because I like to add all those things to my pasta salad.

What I like in particular about this Bow Tie Italian Pasta Salad is that it is so customizable and can be made days in advance. I made a big bowl of it the other day and it’s been my daily lunch or linner (what I call dinner that’s eaten just a little early when you skipped lunch). Once tossed, just pull it from the fridge and serve it up. It’s that easy. And that good!

here’s what you’ll need

ingredients needed to make gf italian pasta salad measured out and labeled.
  • Bow tie pasta — of course if you’re on my site, you probably need to eat gluten free. The only bow tie gluten free pasta I’ve found is Jovial brand (affiliate link). But use whatever pasta you can find. I personally like bow ties because they don’t fall apart as much as spiral pasta does.
  • Pepperoni — I like to get a stick of pepperoni and cut it into 1/2-inch wide chunks.
  • Salami — any kind of salami will do.
  • Tomatoes — no pasta salad is complete without tomatoes, right?
  • Cucumbers — I like the crunch they offer.
  • Fresh mozzarella — my favorite are the little pearls, but if you can’t find those, use a large ball of fresh mozzarella and cut it into small chunks. You can also use block mozzarella, but I find it doesn’t soak up the dressing as well.
  • Artichoke hearts — marinated or unmarinated, artichoke hearts are a crucial ingredient in any pasta salad. Feel free to leave them out if you’re not an artichoke lover like I am.

how to make pasta salad

  1. Boil the pasta. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Prep all the add-ins and add them on top of the pasta in a large enough bowl to toss freely.
  3. Whisk up the Italian dressing and pour over the salad ingredients; toss well.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld, but longer is even better.

Pasta Salad FAQs

Should the pasta be cooked “al dente?”

You would think so, but after much research and trial and error, it’s advisable to cook the pasta slightly beyond “al dente” by a few minutes. The pasta goes through retrogradation as it cools, which means any “al dente” pasta will become firmer and even hard in some spots.

Does the pasta need to be rinsed with cold water?

Yes, whenever cooking pasta for cold dishes, you should always rinse it under cold water. This is also true for gluten free pasta when serving hot.

Can pasta salad be made in advance?

Yes, it is actually preferred to make pasta salad in advance to allow the flavors to meld. I suggest at least an overnight rest in the fridge.

How much salt should be added to the water when cooking pasta?

When making a cold pasta salad, always add double the amount of salt you would normally add to the water. Cold pasta will always need more salt so it’s best to season it appropriately while cooking.

Variations and Customizations

  • Change the meat or leave it out. Don’t like pepperoni or salami? Leave it out or use deli meat, chopped cooked chicken, or beans (cannellini would be great) for a protein-packed pasta salad.
  • Change the vegetables. Use cherry tomatoes instead of grape, or zucchini instead of cucumbers. Don’t like black olives? Leave them out or use green olives. Like onions and bell peppers? Add them in. Don’t like artichokes? Skip ’em.
  • Substitute the type of pasta. If you can’t find gluten free (or regular) bowties, use a different type of pasta, such as rotini, fusilli, penne, or even shells or elbows (or any other short pasta you can find, gluten free or not).
  • Dairy free/vegan. Make sure your pasta is dairy free/vegan and leave out the cheese (or use a vegan cheese, such as Miyoko’s Cashew Milk Mozzarella.
pasta salad on white plate with large white bowl filled with salad in background and sage green towel on the side.

more Recipes to try

fork full of gf bow tie pasta salad on white plate.

Serve this Easy Bow Tie Italian Pasta Salad as a side at a cookout or party or even as lunch or dinner.

gluten free bowtie pasta salad in large white bowl with green towel in the background.

Easy Bow Tie Italian Pasta Salad

Bow Tie Italian Pasta Salad is a make-ahead no mayo side dish that is customizable, loaded with flavor, and is perfect for cookouts.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 16 servings


  • 1 12-oz box (340g) gluten free bow tie/farfalle pasta
  • kosher salt, for boiling pasta
  • 5 ounces (142g) dry or hard salami, chopped
  • 1 8 oz (226g) stick  pepperoni, sliced into ½-inch thick slices, then chopped
  • 1 6 oz can (170g)  black olives
  • 1 large English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 10 oz container (283g) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 8 oz packages (453g) mozzarella pearls (or whole mozzarella cheese, chopped into ½-inch pieces)
  • 2 14 oz cans (794g) artichoke hearts, drained
  • ½ cup (30g) chopped fresh parsley
  • cup (7g) chopped fresh basil


  • 1 cup (240ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Cook pasta about two minutes over the recommended "al dente" time on the package in heavily salted water. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  • While pasta is cooking and cooling, chop ingredients.
  • For the dressing, whisk together all dressing ingredients until emulsified.
  • Add the pasta to a very large bowl, along with all the add-ins. Pour the dressing over the ingredients and toss to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.


Pasta salad will keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator, well covered.  
Change up the add-ins to suit your tastes (see blog post for suggestions).
For dairy free/vegan, leave out the cheese (or use dairy-free cheese) and meat.   
Keyword Gluten Free, pasta salad
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