Italian Grinder Pasta Salad

 A delicious twist on a classic sandwich, this Italian Grinder Pasta Salad checks all the boxes. It’s loaded with bite-sized mozzarella, fresh veggies, bright pepperoncini, thinly sliced meats, crunchy red onions, and al dente pasta and is tossed in a seasoned, creamy dressing.

Over the last year or so, the Italian Grinder Sandwich, that originates from the New England states, has recently broken the internet thanks to TikTok and Instagram, and for rightful reason. It's a flipping delicious sandwich. If you've never heard of a grinder sandwich - let me paint a picture for you.

On one of these flavorful sandwiches, you'll find piles of deli meats that vary from recipe to recipe, melty cheese, sliced tomatoes, and a slaw made with mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, shredded lettuce, pepperoncini peppers, red onions, shredded parmesan cheese, and Italian seasonings all piled high on a crisp and toasted hoagie roll.

After I made these sandwiches for my husband and I, I knew that this would be delicious in pasta salad form. Turns out, it is. I meal prepped these pasta salads for my lunches one week, and I can't tell you just how excited I was to eat lunch each day. That's rare for me. I struggle with lunches. So, I call that a success.

Ingredients for Italian Grinder Pasta Salad

salad ingredients

-  pasta, cooked to al dente (I used gluten free rotini pasta)

- romaine lettuce heart, thinly sliced

- grape tomatoes, halved

- red onion, thinly sliced

- pepperoncini peppers, sliced

- mini mozzarella pearls

- shredded parmesan cheese

- honey ham (or smoked ham), thinly sliced

- hard salami, thinly sliced

- pepperoni, thinly sliced


dressing ingredients

- mayonnaise

- red wine vinegar

- juice from jarred pepperoncini peppers

- grated parmesan cheese

- Italian seasoning blend (use this homemade version for optimal flavor)

- kosher salt

- freshly ground black pepper

- red pepper flakes

Not a fan of a few of these ingredients? Check my substitution suggestions below for other ideas to modify this recipe to your liking.


Make Ahead or Meal Prep This Salad

Dressing: You can prepare the salad dressing and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. 

You can also mix all ingredients except for the lettuce and tomatoes in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4-5 days. Add the lettuce and tomatoes just before serving to keep them from getting too soggy. 

Leftovers with the lettuce and tomatoes added will last for around 24 hours in the refrigerator.

For meal prep, I like to portion out the pasta salad minus the tomatoes and lettuce and place those in a separate container to top the salad with it at lunch time. It works out perfectly every time. and, a little extra parmesan cheese never hurts, either.

Leftovers: This pasta has continued to wow me as it gets better with time in the fridge. I have contentedly eaten this pasta salad for the last 6 meals in a row, and I am still excited about eating it at the next meal. And, if you know me - that is a victory. I get bored with food pretty easily.

However, what seemed to be a never-ending pasta salad stock has come to an end. I am looking forward to making this again, because it is simply SO good.


Substitution Ideas for this Grinder Pasta Salad

Pasta: Any small shape of pasta works great for this salad. Recommended shapes are: penne, elbow, cavatappi, fusilli, ziti, farfalle, rigatoni, or rotini.

Deli Meats: Swap the meats in this pasta salad for any of the following: ham, turkey, pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, mortadella, soppressata, crispy bacon, or roast beef.

Lettuce: Use iceberg lettuce, shaved shaved Brussels sprouts, or thinly sliced green cabbage instead of the romaine lettuce.

Cheese: Instead of mini fresh mozzarella balls, use sharp cheddar, havarti, Swiss, Parmesan, or burrata.

Pepperoncini Peppers: Can't find pepperoncini peppers or don't love them? Use mild banana peppers, chopped pickles, or olives.

Onions: Swap the raw red onions for pickled red onions or even sweet onions. Or, if you're not a fan of onions, feel free to omit them.

Dressing: Make this pasta salad lighter with a homemade red wine vinaigrette or balsamic vinaigrette, in place of this creamy dressing.


Kitchen Tools & Essentials 

cutting board: these cutting boards are one of my biggest must haves. They are dishwasher safe, antibacterial, and do not dull knives. and, that's huge!

knife set: these are my favorite knives, and they are a great price

grater with measuring cup: my favorite tool for grating cheese

microplane: the best tool for a finely grated parmesan cheese

- glass mixing bowls with lids: perfect for mixing the pasta salad and storing! all in one.

- pasta pot: I love this pot because you can cook your pasta and strain the water out without dirtying another dish. Plus, it's the perfect shape to cook spaghetti in without breaking the pasta.

- favorite whisk set: sizes for all tasks

- pasta spoon: I use this all the time for cooking pasta. 

Shop all of my favorites for the kitchen here on Amazon.

Shop my must haves for the cook here on Amazon.

Shop my must haves for the baker here on Amazon.

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