Whenever I host picnics or backyard parties, I always serve pasta salad. The beautiful combination of cold colorful pasta, bright veggies, and flavorful dressing always hits the spot.
It’s perfect for summer and it’s always one of the first things to disappear at parties, so I make it a point to serve it with lots of other sides.
Since you’re most likely serving pasta salad at a picnic, your other dishes should be picnic-friendly as well. This means easy-to-pack and easy-to-eat dishes.
You’ll also want dishes that you can make ahead the day before so that you won’t have to do a lot on the day of. Think burgers, sandwiches, and other finger foods.
Want some suggestions? Perfect, because that’s what I’m here to do. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite dishes to serve with pasta salad.
Pasta salad is primarily starch, so you’ll want some protein to break the monotony. And what better protein is there than hamburgers?! It’s delicious, easy to eat, and complements the flavors of pasta salad beautifully.
And honestly… what’s a cookout or picnic without burgers?
2. BBQ Chicken
Or, if you don’t want to serve beef, chicken works fantastic too. Barbeque chicken is especially perfect when you’re serving pasta salad at a backyard party!
You’re most likely heating the grill anyway, so you might as well make some of this scrumptious dish. Not only does it complement pasta, but the smokiness of the barbecue also goes well with the richness of the dish. It’s an excellent way to round out your meal.
3. Sandwiches / Paninis
Finger sandwiches are easy to eat and prepare, so it only makes sense to serve them at a picnic. And they taste exceptional too!
There’s something special about the combination of soft bread with a meat, cheese, or veggie filling. Just downright amazing.
Whether it’s a meatball sub, a corned beef sandwich, or a tomato-cucumber panini, it will surely be a hit.
4. Fried Chicken
What more classic combo is there than pasta and fried chicken? Imagine this: umami-rich chicken with crispy skin and tender meat served with al dente pasta coated in a creamy dressing. Now that’s what I call a perfect combination.
5. Grilled Hotdogs
Fire up the grill and heat up some hotdogs! Yup, grilled hotdogs are another protein that works fantastic with pasta salad.
6. Italian Pinwheels
Pasta is Italian after all, so why not serve it with another Italian dish? Italian Pinwheels are flattened bread slices rolled with different meats and cheeses. Not only do they taste incredible, but they also look stunning.
And, since they’re easy to make ahead and pack, they make a great picnic food item.
7. Corn on the Cob
Pasta salad has a predominantly tender consistency, so you’ll want something crunchy to make things a little more exciting. When it comes to crunchy and delicious sides, you can’t go wrong with simple corn on the cob.
What I love about corn is how fool-proof it is. No matter how you cook it – whether you grill, boil, microwave, or roast – it will always taste phenomenal. And it’s also a lot of fun to eat!
8. Fried Okra
Again, you want something crunchy to complement the tenderness of the pasta salad. So how about the classic Southern staple that is fried okra? Not only will it give your meal a nice crunch, it also offers a refreshing twist to the traditional picnic items.
Fried okra might be a little tedious to prepare, but the result is worth it. To make: coat the okra in cornmeal batter. Then deep fry them until they’re golden.
Seriously, these guys taste so good even the kids will love them.
9. Baked Beans
If you have a lot of people coming over to your backyard party, you want to load up on classic side dishes. Apart from pasta salad, baked beans will help fill your guests’ tummies quickly. And it’s easy to make in large batches too!
Baked beans are loaded with sweet, savory, and smoky flavors, which all go well with the richness of the pasta salad.
If you want to make this for your next party, just flavor your beans with barbeque sauce, onions, peppers, and bacon!
Oh, and here’s a reminder: soak the beans the night before you bake them. This will make it easier for you to control the consistency and the beans will cook faster.
10. Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs are another one of my go-to dishes when hosting a picnic. These flavorful little hors d’oeuvres are rich and creamy, just like pasta salad. That’s why they make a brilliant team.
And did you know that you can make deviled eggs using hummus? It’s a pleasant change if you’re bored of the original. Plus it’s just as creamy and delicious, but a lot healthier.
Cornbread is another must-have party food item. It’s delicious, filling, and tastes great with pasta salad. Because it’s so filling, it’s a substantial addition, especially if you need to feed a hungry crowd.
You can make it either sweet or savory, but I prefer the latter. I also add a bit of jalapeno to give it a little kick.
12. Cheese and Crackers
And, last but not least, say hello to the humble duo that is cheese and crackers. This tasty appetizer gives your pasta salad a much-needed crunch, and you know you can never go wrong with pairing cheese and pasta.
Don’t go with just one type of cheese though, give your guests some variety! Neatly arrange some Gruyere, Gouda, Cheddar, and Bleu cheese along with a bunch of different crackers on a tray and you’ve got yourself a fun party appetizer.