Pasta salads are a staple at potlucks and deli counters -- and with good reason. These versatile salads are inexpensive, flavorful and simple to make. They pair well with many dishes and can be made ahead because they are usually served cold.
Pair traditional pasta salads with grilled chicken or steaks and a big green salad. Try Asian pasta salads with grilled salmon or teriyaki chicken. Serve cheese-filled pasta or add meat for a light main dish served with roasted vegetables, rolls and sliced fruit.
For a traditional pasta salad, use creamy dressing, roasted peppers, pepperoni, green onions, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. Greek salads typically include feta cheese, Kalamata olives, red onion and tomatoes. Make Asian salads with cabbage, edamame, cilantro, green onion, chicken and a drizzle of ginger-soy sauce. Small, chunky pasta shapes -- such as penne, macaroni, ziti or rotini -- are best because they hold the dressing and ingredients, and they are easy to eat at a picnic or potluck.
Pasta salads almost always taste better the next day, so make them ahead and refrigerate them until serving time. Immediately before serving, toss the salad to redistribute the dressing. Occasionally, the pasta may absorb a lot of the dressing. Just add more and stir to mix evenly.
Kid-Friendly Pasta Salads
Adults may enjoy strongly flavored pasta salads, but kids usually favor simpler fare. Try a simple macaroni salad with a ranch dressing, peas and green onions or a sweet pasta salad with creamy coleslaw dressing, mandarin oranges, chicken and grapes.
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