Actual pasta salad recipes might seem kind of unnecessary if you’re used to winging it. And while you could just toss a box of boiled pasta with some bottled dressing or mayo and a shredded carrot, that’s really selling pasta salad short.
Pasta salad can be anything you want it to be, from a versatile side of rotini tossed with cherry tomatoes and Italian dressing, to a zesty Southwest-inspired bowl packed with chipotles and avocado, to a fancy bow tie-shrimp number that you’d get at a swank lunch event. While pasta salad usually gets relegated to side dish status, if you add enough tasty and filling ingredients, it can absolutely be a filling one-dish meal.
And no matter what flavor direction you decide to go in, pasta salads tend to be pretty easy to make. (That’s one reason why people always have it at cookouts—no one wants to spend hours in the kitchen making side dishes for a meal where all anyone really cares about are the burgers and dogs anyway.)
These pasta salad recipes are still fast and simple, but they’re interesting enough that they can hold their own at a BBQ. And, yes, you should definitely have a heaping bowl of pasta salad leftovers for lunch any day of the week, too. Once some of the grill hounders catch on to your game plan, they just might follow suit.