Italian Pasta Salad - by Jennifer Shellhorn

by Gabrielle Rossi

Jennifer Shellhorn, Atascadero, created and wrote up this beautiful recipe full of garden fresh goodness! Not only is she an amazing cook, but she clearly has a gift for recipe-writing and photographing her gorgeous creations!
Recipe, write-up, & photo cred: Jennifer Shellhorn


Holding onto the last bits of summer? Toss together your favorite end-of-summer vegetables (or whatever you have in your refrigerator and pantry!) and this sweet and tangy vinaigrette to highlight the best parts of summer. This Italian pasta salad recipe was inspired by both my mother’s lazy summer dinners from when I was a kid (who wants to cook when it is hot and humid out?) and a dressing from Ina Garten.

Italian Pasta Salad

A bright and light salad perfect as a side dish or filling enough for dinner - a good size batch giving you leftovers for lunch for the week!


  • Pasta Salad

    • 1 box pasta, cooked al dente (we use rotini, you can choose based on your preference)
    • 1-2 cup(s) grape tomatoes (more or less based on your preference)
    • 1 zucchini/squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces (we prefer GRG lemon cucumbers, but any cucumber works!)
    • 1 can black olives, sliced
    • 1 bell pepper, diced
    • 1 can beans, rinsed (we use kidney, but you can choose based on preference, ex. garbanzo, cannellini)
    • 1-2 cups Mozzarella cheese (we use fresh mozzarella pearls, but you can cut up a block of cheese or use mozzarella string cheese - string cheese sticks have come in handy many times!)
    • 1 can/jar artichoke hearts, diced (optional: use marinated artichokes)
    • Optional - sliced Italian meats (ex. pepperoni, salami)

[1] If you plan to enjoy this pasta salad throughout the week, you may need to add a little more olive oil and vinegar, as the pasta will absorb this dressing the longer it sits.

[2] If using fresh mozzarella balls, add just before serving as the vinegar may alter the texture of the cheese; add fresh mozzarella just before serving.

  • Dressing

    • 2 leeks, thinly sliced (white sections only) - if you do not have leeks, shallots work as well
    • 1 large lemon (zested and juiced)
    • ½ cup red wine vinegar
    • 3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, divided
    • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
    • ½ - ¾ Tbsp + 1 tsp white sugar (may use honey or agave, if preferred), divided
    • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
    • Black pepper, to taste
    • Dried oregano, to taste
    • Optional - crushed red pepper, to taste


  1. Boil 4 quarts of water. When the water comes to a boil, add at least ¼ to ⅓ cup salt to the boiling water
  2. Add your selected pasta and cook to al dente.
  3. Drain pasta in a strainer and rinse pasta under cool water to stop the pasta from cooking further. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the remaining salad ingredients:
    1. Drain and rinse beans
    2. Wash and cut veggies
    3. Slice and dice cheese/meats.
  5. Place prepped ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
  6. Prepare dressing:
    1. Sauté sliced leeks in 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, and 1 tsp white sugar until leeks are soft and slightly caramelized (optional - add ¼ tsp crushed red pepper if you prefer some spice/heat). 
    2. In a separate container, combine remaining sugar and sea salt, plus dried oregano, black pepper, red wine vinegar, and zest and juice of lemon.
    3. Whisk the dressing, drizzling in the remaining olive oil.. 
    4. Fold in fresh parsley and caramelized leeks.
  7. Pour dressing over prepped ingredients in large bowl, stir in pasta. Stir until all ingredients well-dressed.
  8. Chill and enjoy!

[3] I know it seems like a lot, but most of this will get rinsed off!