Pasta Salad. The perfect side dish for any picnic, family reunion, fishing trip or weeknight dinner. Fresh Garden Pasta Salad with Dill Vinaigrette is a great go-to recipe. But if you’re feeling bored with your own pasta salad variations, and the usual Italian dressing and rotini noodles leave you yawning, here are some ways to liven it up.
Switch up the dressing:
Instead of using Italian dressing try ranch, balsamic vinaigrette, a creamy avocado, or the Cheesy Basil Buttermilk Dressing from our Summer Salad recipe. You don’t have to use salad dressing; pesto works perfectly for warm or cold pasta salad. Just by swapping the dressing, your salad will have a whole new taste.
Think outside the box when it comes to protein. Pepperoni is great but there are so many other simple options. Rotisserie chickens from the local deli are always tasty. Use Asian Chicken Skewers for a flavorful flair or fire up the grill and add Ginger Curry Shrimp Skewers for a fun and fresh addition. Don’t just stop at meat. Beans are a perfect pair to pasta. Consider garbanzo beans, navy beans, butter beans, or pinto beans. Just choose your favorite, rinse them off and toss them in!
Element of Crunch:
Good dishes become great dishes when you start to play with texture and a pasta salad is the perfect vehicle for adding a little crunch. Toasted nuts such as almonds, pine nuts or pecans instantly add flavor. Sesame seeds, chow mien noodles or peanuts work perfectly if making an Asian inspired pasta salad. Sunflower seeds, cashews, crumbled crackers or croutons are all options for adding some additional texture. If you’re topping your salads make sure to add the crunch just before serving.
Fresh, Fresh, Fresh:
Don’t be afraid to mix up the vegetables! Summer is the ideal time to try that veggie you’ve seen but never tried, and what better way than to eat it with pasta. Peppers, tomatoes, spinach, mangos, avocados, Brussels sprouts…I could go on and on. Experiment with different combinations like corn and blueberries, or melons with a sesame dressing. If you’re unsure of what to look for we have a great article from a couple years back that still holds true today, Farmers Market Tips-Selecting in Season Produce. Fresh herbs can also add yet another level of yumminess. Mint, basil, dill, rosemary – just as with fresh produce you really can’t go wrong.
Try these tips and use your own creativity when it comes to making a pasta salad. You’ll be glad you strayed away from the traditional and got a little crazy.