Pasta salads in the summer are a delicious cold carb that can be made a day ahead, economical, and easily put together. They can feed big groups with short prep time. There are numerous types of pasta salads. Each has their own base and pasta. The combinations are endless. They are a staple at BBQs, picnics, and on beach blankets. Pasta salad can be made with different proteins to make them a full meal or they can be served as a summer side. Many cultures have their own variations of this delicious dish. Pasta salad is a yummy way to add some excitement to meals when the weather is warm and the days are long.

Oil, mayonnaise, and pesto are the three main types of bases used in pasta salads. Some people, though, use a peanut butter base or a cream one. Salad dressings like buttermilk ranch and Italian dressing can be used as bases as well. Curries, BBQ sauces, and soy sauce work well with these summer salads. Remember that anything that has mayo in it can go bad in the heat. Some bases are better for outdoor events, while other salad sides are better enjoyed straight from the fridge or cooler. 

Pasta salads can be made with an assortment of pastas from tortellini to fusilli. Gemelli, rotini, penne, orecchiette, shells, and spaghetti all are great pastas for salads. The pastas can be made from whole wheat, mung beans, cauliflower or even beats. There pastas are from all over the world to choose from. Japchae is made from glass noodles and can be paired with a peanut sauce. Some pastas like tortellini are stuffed with meat and cheese, while others are thin strips of dough. No matter what you choose as the pasta for your dish, the pasta usually is the star of your plate. 

The last part of this pasta pairing is what to add to the base. Do you add dill or basil? Chives or spinach? What about meats? Shredded chicken, thinly sliced veal, beans, or maybe shrimp will go on your latest pasta salad creation? BLT pasta salad with a ranch dressing base, curried chicken pasta salad, vegetarian cowboy pasta, and spicy fried tofu pasta salad with green onions all make marvelous meals due to the protein content. Snap peas, tomatoes, red peppers, and red onions all go great with pasta salads. Taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, and curry powder all belong in this dish (at different times). Fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, rosemary, and chives can be added to pasta salads to add great flavor! Pasta salad is all about variety.

So, next time you are invited to a gathering and have to bring a dish, think pasta salad. It is the crowd pleaser that also is pleasing to your wallet! Summer salads don’t have to be leafy! Pasta salad as a main or side this summer is going to make people smile!

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