What to Serve with Pasta Salad: Turn This Classic Picnic Side Into a Full-Fledged Meal
Whether you’re dining outdoors in good weather or enjoying a special lunch anywhere, nothing can help the occasion be more refreshing than your favorite pasta salad recipe.
Brimming with tender pasta pieces, vegetables, herbs, and perhaps some bacon for good measure, you’ve got a dish that will keep your friends and family coming back for heaping seconds.
But wait…you can’t just serve pasta salad on its own. Whether it’s at your dining table, a picnic in the park, or out in your own backyard, pasta salad needs some side dishes to make it a meal.
Or depending on how you look at it, it’s a side dish that needs a main to fully round it out. Not to worry though as we’ve got the stuff that goes best with your pasta salad so you can have a memorable meal and plenty of time to enjoy the company you keep!
Sides to Go with Pasta Salad
Whether you need more sides to go with your pasta salad side or you want to find a main dish to make it pop, these 12 ideas will help you rock this meal with style!
1. Build Your Own Burger Bar
Starchy pasta salad needs something with protein to make the perfect pair. What better way than making a build your own burger bar? Lay out bun, topping, and sauce options and let everyone devise their own creation.
Make it even more fun by having a contest to see who can build the best burger. No matter what everyone creates, it will complement that pasta salad with perfection!
2. Sweet and Tangy BBQ Chicken
Not into beef? Fire up the grill with BBQ chicken smothered in a sweet and tangy sauce. That’s sure to get your crew all fired up. The cooling and refreshing taste of pasta salad works wonderfully with this barbecue classic.
Smoky flavors with sticky, finger-licking sauce are indeed proof that opposites attract.
3. Party Perfect Italian Paninis
Rich, salty, cured meats and cheeses with pickled veggies baked together in a classic Italian sandwich…now THAT is perfection!
When you have lots of people to feed but don’t want to wind up trapped behind the grill or stuck in the kitchen, the best thing you can do is let your oven do that heavy lifting.
To go with your pasta salad, an Italian panini bursting with salami, ham, turkey, and provolone is an incredible idea. Prepped in the oven, you can make them for a crowd fast and won’t miss out on the fun.
Jodie and Blaine at Two Lucky Spoons have a phenomenal recipe.
4. Sublime Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
Keep things cool and easy with a sublime jumbo shrimp cocktail to enjoy alongside that pasta salad. You can buy shrimp already cooked and chilled, though the best way is to buy them raw.
They take only a few minutes to cook on the stovetop, and then you can chill them. Make your own cocktail sauce using ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh squeezed lemon.
Don’t forget a little hot sauce to taste to add a little bit of heat!
5. Crispy Baked Avocado Fries
It’s difficult to tire of traditional fries made from potatoes. However, if you want to do something different, turn your avocados into fries.
You’ll coat them with flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, add seasoning, and then bake until they turn into crispy avocado fries.
Their crisp exterior gives way to a soft, almost melty center that is pure bliss when dunked in homemade ranch dressing.
6. Better-Than-Takeout Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Not in the mood to grill? You can make fried chicken, a classic combination with pasta salad. Don’t skip the buttermilk brining session though.
It renders the chicken super-tender and juicy on the inside. That crunchy exterior will come naturally with the coating of the batter.
It’s a recipe you’ll need to plan ahead to make, one that can actually make your gathering run more smoothly if you get it set up just right.
See what Lacey from A Sweet Pea Chef does with her recipe!
7. Pretty Pinwheel Rollups
Does your party consist of picky kids? They’ll go wild for pretty pinwheel rollups which you can make with just about anything. Choose roast beef, cheddar, and arugula.
Or make a BLT in pinwheel style. Even an Italian version with capicola and mortadella will work.
The possibilities are endless and it all starts with using a rolling pin to flatten bread slices, layer on the fillings, and finish by rolling it up.
Helpful hint: chill your rolls first before slicing. This way, they won’t fall apart.
8. Sweet and Sensational Baked Corn on the Cob
One of the best handheld food items to grow out of this earth is none other than corn right on the cob. So many people go to the trouble of removing the husk and boiling it.
A better way, especially for a crowd, is to leave the husk on and bake it.
Not only does it retain more nutrients and flavor, but it also peels away more easily.
The husk will also keep the corn hot for a while so guests can get that melted butter sensation long after you place it on the buffet table.
9. Spicy Blackened Shrimp Skewers
If you feel like pasta salad is a bit heavy and filling, lighten up what you serve with spicy blackened shrimp skewers. Shrimp are a great choice simply because they cook very quickly.
Unlike beef, pork, or chicken, you can put these together and grill them all within 20 minutes. The blackened spiciness is tamed by the pasta salad’s refreshing and cooling flavors.
10. Tender Barbecue Pulled Pork
When you have time to prep, a great addition to your serving table with pasta salad is pulled pork.
The secret can be found in just a few easy ingredients. One of them is barbecue sauce and the other is more unexpected…a can of Dr. Pepper.
Trust us, it works, turning out tender, juicy, and flavorful meat that can feed a crowd.
Holly from Spend With Pennies has the ultimate recipe for this dish.
11. Smoky Baked Beans
Can you even call it a party without baked beans? We’ll have to check but it certainly can’t hurt to have smoky baked beans on the table. The creaminess of your pasta salad contrasts with the sweet and savory flavors of the beans.
You can make them with bacon or pork in it, or you can keep them completely vegetarian, a fine option if you have any meatless guests coming to your table.
12. Classic Devilled Eggs
Having some finger foods on hand is a smart way to keep guests satisfied. They will love loading up on these classic devilled eggs with that pasta salad.
The creaminess is a match without conflicting. Top it with smoked paprika to give it an extra dimension of flavor.
Your pasta salad partners are waiting for you to choose!
Of course, with 12 great options of what to serve with pasta salad, you might just want to make them all and see which one you like the most.
Check out my list of sides to go with tuna salad. There may even be something there that works for this meal too!