Pasta Salad is a classic dish that’s perfect for picnics, potlucks, and barbecues. Here in the South, we call them summer cookouts.
Pasta Salad is versatile, easy to make, and can be customized to suit any taste. But what goes with pasta salad? Pasta Salad can be a simple side dish or a main dish – just mix in some grilled chicken – but it also pairs well with a variety of other side dishes, too. From grilled vegetables to savory garlic bread, these sides are sure to be a hit at your next meal or gathering.
My favorite pasta salad recipe is a cold pasta dish, perfect for hot summer days. It is a classic pasta salad, loaded with juicy cherry tomatoes, veggies, and colorful rotini pasta, then its coated in a delicious Italian dressing. It’s one of our family’s favorite recipes.
Pasta Salad Add-Ins
If you’re having company and you’re looking for an easy pasta salad recipe, there’s nothing easier than starting with a blank slate and letting your guests build their own pasta salad. You can start with the base – the pasta – and let everyone add the flavors that they love. (The best thing about doing it this way is that no one (me) is going to complain that they got too many olives!) Let the main ingredient, the pasta, be the star; then, everyone can make their own customized “perfect dish” of delicious pasta salad.
If you prepare the pasta in advance, toss it in some olive oil so it doesn’t dry out.
Here are some of my favorite things to mix into pasta salad:
- Olive Oil
- Red Wine Vinegar or Lemon Juice
- Salad Dressing – We like Italian Dressing, but for people who like creamy pasta salad, you can make a mayonnaise-based creamy dressing.
- Fresh Herbs – I love to add fresh basil to pasta salads in the summer!
- Italian Seasoning
- Red Onion, diced – If you soak the onion in cold water for a few minutes, you can still serve it raw, and it won’t be as pungent.
- Green Onions
- Black Olives – My husband and my mom LOVE olives in their pasta salad.
- Pickles – Yes! I like pickles.
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – I love to use the little bite-size balls in water – Cilegine or Bocconcini.
- Parmesan Cheese, grated or shredded
- Cheddar Cheese, cubed or shredded
- Fresh Juicy Tomatoes, quartered or diced
- Juicy Cherry Tomatoes, whole or cut up
- Fresh Vegetables – Zucchini, Summer Squash, Broccoli, Carrots, or Bell Peppers. I like to roast, grill, or blanch the vegetables so they aren’t totally raw, but they still have a nice crunch.
- Artichoke Hearts – I love to use the kind quartered in water and just cut them up a little smaller. So good!
- Crispy Bacon – Bacon is ALWAYS a good idea. Be sure to use the real stuff!
- Grilled Chicken, Grilled Shrimp, or Grilled Steak
- Cured Meats, diced or sliced – Salami, Ham (this is a great way to use up some leftover ham), Soppressata, Prosciutto, Chorizo, or Mortadella
- Spices – Salt, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, or Red Pepper Flakes
What Goes with Pasta Salad?
Grilled chicken is always a good choice to serve with pasta salad because it is so neutral. Season your chicken with your favorite herbs and spices – try different flavors! Chicken is a great source of protein and will make a great addition to your pasta salad meal.
This flavorful and spicy Cajun-style chicken is perfect to serve alongside pasta salad. The blackened crust on the chicken adds a crispy texture that complements the soft and chewy pasta. You could also slice the chicken and toss it into the pasta salad for a complete meal.
Hot Dogs and Hamburgers
A classic backyard barbecue staple, hot dogs and hamburgers are great to serve with a refreshing pasta salad. The hot dogs and hamburgers are a filling main course, while the pasta salad provides a refreshing and delicious side dish to balance out the flavors.
Fried Chicken Tenders
Crispy and juicy buttermilk fried chicken tenders are a delicious addition to a pasta salad meal. The tender chicken provides a protein-packed main course that pairs perfectly with the fresh and colorful pasta salad. You could also chop the chicken tenders into small pieces and toss them into the pasta salad for added texture and flavor.
Crockpot BBQ Chicken
Tender and flavorful shredded BBQ chicken from a slow cooker is a perfect pairing with pasta salad. The smoky and tangy BBQ sauce on the chicken complements the cool and creamy pasta salad, while the shredded chicken provides a hearty and satisfying main course. You could also mix the chicken into the pasta salad for a unique twist on the classic dish.
Grilled steak is a perfect main course to serve alongside a pasta salad. The savory and juicy steak provides a protein-packed component to the meal that pairs perfectly with the refreshing and cooling pasta salad. You could also slice the steak and toss it into the pasta salad for added texture and flavor.
Best Side Dishes to Serve with Pasta Salad
Grilled vegetables make the perfect vegetable side dish to serve with pasta salad. Toss some fresh vegetables on the grill – bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and onions – and serve them alongside your pasta salad for a healthy and colorful side.
Creamy deviled eggs with a sprinkle of Cajun seasoning or paprika and a delicious crunch from diced pickles add a rich and indulgent touch to your pasta salad spread.
A flavorful pimento cheese spread is a great side dish to serve with a pasta salad. The rich and cheesy spread adds a decadent touch to the meal, while the pasta salad provides a bright and colorful side dish with fresh ingredients that balance out the flavors.
A simple green salad with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and radishes adds a light and fresh component to your pasta salad feast. You can also try a Chopped Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon to add a fun twist on a salad to the menu.
Fried okra is a delicious and crispy side dish that pairs well with a pasta salad. The crispy and flavorful okra provides a crunchy and savory component to the meal that complements the refreshing and cooling pasta salad.
Fried squash is a tasty and crunchy side dish that complements a pasta salad perfectly. The crispy and savory flavor of the fried squash provides a great contrast to the light and flavorful pasta salad.
Corn on the Cob
Corn on the cob with butter and salt is a classic summer side dish that goes well with just about anything, including pasta salad. You can cook it on the grill, in an Instant Pot, or on the stove.
Potatoes – Roasted, Fried, or Baked
Roasted potatoes seasoned with garlic, rosemary, and olive oil make a hearty and comforting side dish. You can also throw potatoes on the grill or make french fries, baked potatoes, or sweet potato fries.
A classic and creamy potato salad is a perfect side dish to pair with a pasta salad. The soft and flavorful potatoes in the potato salad provide a hearty and filling component to the meal, while the pasta salad provides a refreshing side dish that balances out the flavors.
Southern coleslaw is a perfect side dish to pair with a pasta salad. The crunchy and creamy coleslaw provides a refreshing and light component to the meal that balances out the rich and savory flavors of the pasta salad. Southern coleslaw is typically made with cabbage, carrots, and a creamy dressing, and it’s a great source of vitamins and fiber.
Baked beans are a delicious and hearty side dish to serve with a pasta salad. The sweet, savory, and smoky flavors of the beans complement the refreshing and cooling pasta salad, creating a well-rounded and satisfying meal. Baked beans are a great source of protein and fiber, making them a nutritious addition to the meal.
Garlic bread is a classic and flavorful side dish that pairs perfectly with a pasta salad. The warm and buttery bread is infused with the aroma and taste of garlic, adding a delicious and aromatic component to the meal that complements the refreshing and savory flavors of the pasta salad.
Dessert Ideas to End the Meal
A fresh fruit salad with berries, melon, and citrus fruits is the perfect way to finish a meal – and is a great side dish to pair with a pasta salad. The sweet and juicy fruits provide a refreshing and healthy component to the meal that balances out the savory flavors of the pasta salad. Serve a refreshing bowl of fruit salad on the side as a refreshing palate cleanser. Some great fruits to include in a fruit salad are strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and grapes.
Buttermilk Cookies with Fluffy Buttercream Frosting
Sweet and decadent buttermilk cookies with fluffy buttercream frosting are a perfect way to end a meal that includes pasta salad. The soft and sweet cookies provide a delicious and indulgent dessert option that complements the tangy flavor of the pasta salad.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Classic and delicious chocolate chip cookies are a great way to end a meal that includes pasta salad. The warm and gooey cookies provide a comforting and satisfying dessert option that complements the refreshing and savory flavors of the pasta salad.
Looking for More Easy Pasta Salad Recipes?
- Antipasto Pasta Salad – An Italian Pasta salad made with Italian cured meats, cheeses, olives, and marinated vegetables is a great way to add some variety to your pasta salad spread.
- Tomato Basil Chicken Pasta Salad – This pasta salad is one of my favorite main dishes to serve in the summer. Using fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and chicken – it is the perfect combination. It might just become your new favorite dinner.
- Veggie Pasta Salad – Veggie Pasta Salad is made with whole grain pasta, fresh tomatoes, and cucumbers. It is the perfect summer treat.
- Chicken Garden Pasta Salad
- Creamy Macaroni Salad – While not a traditional “pasta salad,” macaroni salad is a great option for a creamy, cold pasta salad.
There you have it – tons of ideas of what to serve with pasta salad. Lots of easy side dishes, a few main courses, and some easy desserts. Whether you’re hosting a summer barbecue or packing a picnic lunch, these recipes are sure to please your guests and complement your pasta salad perfectly.