One of my favorite go-to recipes on a busy day when I really don’t feel like cooking is a good pasta salad. I can easily whip up one of these easy pasta salad dressing recipes to suit for whatever we’re serving, from Mexican to Asian flavors, and then add in whatever I have on hand in our pantry and fridge to finish it off.

Here’s how we do it!

At top: Asian pasta salad dressing at Posh Journal; Creamy chipotle sauce at Bianca Zapatka

Related: 8 fresh summer pasta salads to help you get creative when you’re tired of pasta salad

 

How to make Italian pasta salad

How to DIY an amazing pasta salad this summer: A delicious Italian pasta salad dressing at Bellyfull, plus tons of topping ideas.

A great summer BBQ side dish is this Simple Italian Pasta Salad recipe from Belly Full. The Italian pasta dressing is made with ingredients you’re likely to have at home all the time anyway — and she has very strong opinions about parmesan, which I love! We prefer short pasta, like fusilli, bowtie, penne or even tortellini for our Italian pasta salad.  Then, go through your refrigerator and add any of these ingredients to dress it up:

Veggies & Herbs

  • cucumber
  • olives
  • grape tomatoes, halved
  • asparagus, cut short
  • red or yellow peppers, chopped
  • fresh spinach
  • fresh basil
  • sliced red onion
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • pepperoncinis
  • walnuts
  • leeks
  • pimentos
  • broccoli or broccolini
  • chopped baby carrots
  • cauliflower
  • artichoke
  • sliced green onions
  • tapenade
  • grilled Brussels sprouts
  • sliced zucchini or squash
  • sliced eggplant

Proteins

  • chopped pepperoni, salami, mortadella, etc.
  • chicken
  • grilled tofu
  • sliced summer sausage
  • clams
  • pine nuts
  • chickpeas

Cheeses

  • parmesan or romano (grated or shavings)
  • mozzarella balls
  • feta
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • cubed cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Related: Grain Swap: 5 simple ways to use farro as a healthy alternative to pasta and rice

 

How to make Mexican pasta salad

Easy DIY pasta salad recipes and tips: Mexican Pasta salad sauce at Bianca Zapatzka, plus loads of toppings you can add.

My favorite dressing for a Mexican pasta salad is this creamy chipotle sauce — which works just as well with vegan mayo, BTW, as I’ve learned when I make it for my vegan husband. This recipe from Bianca Zapatka is so good, we make it every other week or so, and I always double it because the leftovers make a terrific lunch later.

Once you have the noodles and sauce figured out, here are some additional toppings you can add:

Veggies & Herbs

  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • pinto beans
  • cherry tomatoes
  • bell peppers, chopped
  • red onions, diced
  • green onions
  • roasted corn
  • rotel, drained or pico de gallo
  • cilantro
  • avocado, diced
  • jalapeno
  • canned green chilis
  • fresh leaf spinach
  • black olives
  • cucumbers, diced
  • white onions, diced

Proteins

  • fajita chicken or beef
  • tuna
  • grilled shrimp
  • ground beef

Cheeses

  • cotija
  • shredded cheddar or Monterey jack
  • goat cheese, crumbled

Related: The best grilling recipes to kick off summer cookout season

How to make Greek pasta salad

DIY Pasta salad recipes for summer: Greek pasta salad dressing and topping ideas

Every person in our house loves this simple Greek pasta recipe that a friend passed on to me, and we’ve adapted it to work for all our diets. The dressing couldn’t be simpler:
-1/3 cup of olive oil
-1/3 cup of lemon juice
-1/3 cup of mayo (vegan works great, too)
-3 Tablespoons of Greek spice.

Pour it over two packages of cooked pasta and serve. That’s it!

I generally serve this recipe warm, right after it’s cooked, but it’s also fabulous cold as leftovers the next day, especially on warm summer days.

Note: We swear by Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek Seasoning blend which is readily available in supermarkets and big chains. Nothing else comes close.

Veggies & Herbs

  • asparagus
  • kalamata olives
  • frozen peas (throw in, and the pasta will warm it up)
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • artichoke hearts
  • pimentos
  • cucumber
  • red onion
  • red or green peppers, sliced
  • zucchini, sliced and cut in half
  • pepperonis
  • fresh basil
  • fresh dill
  • white beans
  • sliced, grilled eggplant

Proteins

  • shrimp
  • tofu, sautéed with greek spices
  • rotisserie chicken
  • salami, mortadella, pepperoni
  • chickpeas
  • chicken meatballs

Cheeses

  • feta, crumbled
  • goat cheese

Related: A delicious 5-ingredient Greek meatball recipe

 

How to make an Asian pasta salad

DIY pasta salad recipes: Start an Asian noodle salad with this easy Asian pasta salad dressing at Posh Journal

A cold Asian pasta salad, with all those bright flavors and fresh veggies, is one of my favorite ways to change things up for a summer cookout— even if it’s just my own family on the back porch this year. I’d start with this simple Asian pasta salad dressing from Posh Journal (above), which can be served hot or cold and whips up in just 15 minutes or less.

Of course not all Asian flavors are alike. At all. If you prefer a more Thai-inspired peanut flavor, this tangy peanut sauce from Meals with Maggie is a winner.

While you could really use any noodle you have on hand, using a pad Thai noodle, soba noodles, udon noodles, or even ramen noodles is a great option here. And yes, spaghetti works in a pinch.

Veggies & Herbs

  • shredded or julienned carrots
  • sliced radishes
  • thinly sliced or julienned zucchini
  • shallots
  • edamame
  • kale or spinach, sautéed with soy sauce and rice vinegar
  • cabbage
  • pickled ginger
  • mint leaves
  • broccoli
  • bell peppers
  • snow peas
  • sugar snap peas
  • water chestnuts
  • bean sprouts

Proteins

  • rotisserie chicken
  • shrimp
  • grilled tofu
  • smoked or grilled salmon
  • beef strips, cut thin and sautéed with soy sauce

Other

  • broken up pieces of uncooked ramen noodles
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • slivered almonds
  • sunflower seeds

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