If pasta salad didn’t already exist, the first person invited to a potluck picnic would pretty much have to invent it. A cold salad of penne or macaroni, tossed with summer vegetables, meats, cheeses, herbs, and a bold dressing is the perfect thing to transport out to the coast, to drop on a picnic table, harmonizing beautifully with anything coming off the grill. Here, as inspiration for what to haul to your next party, are 9 of our recent favorites.
1. Classic Pesto Pasta Salad
Simplicity and vividness of flavor are the appeal with this time-honored potluck charmer: fresh basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, freshly grated Parmesan, freshly cooked penne rigate—are you catching the thread? Get our Classic Pesto Pasta Salad recipe.
2. Grilled Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad
Conchiglie (conch-shell pasta) shares bowl space with the freshest, sweetest veggies from the summer farmers’ market: corn, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. Crumbled feta and cilantro make it feel extra easy-going. Get our Grilled Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad recipe.
3. Muffaletta Pasta Salad
The Big Easy’s favorite hoagie-like sandwich—the muffaletta—gets the salad treatment here: salami and provolone cheese find the perfect home, surrounded by a zesty celery-and-olive relish. Get our Muffaletta Pasta Salad recipe.
4. Mom’s Classic Macaroni Salad
Even if you grew up hating macaroni salad, consider giving this one a try. A dose of red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard give this old church picnic standby a devilish personality. Get our Mom’s Classic Macaroni Salad recipe.
5. Italian Pasta Salad
The flavors get better and better as it sits, so this Italian-American classic (inspired by the antipasti plate, with its salty, briny, and rich elements) is perfect for a potluck. Get our Italian Pasta Salad recipe.
6. Sardinian Pasta Salad
Ricotta salata, artichokes, cherry tomatoes, basil, and parsley—this cold penne salad, adapted from Efisio Farris, sets the mood for a Mediterranean summer idyll. Get our Sardinian Pasta Salad recipe.
7. Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Feta, and Dill
Twisty, dense gemelli pasta is the perfect vehicle to match with canned chickpeas, capers, diced cucumber, crumbled feta, and a mix of fresh parsley and dill. It’s breezy, light, and summery. Get our Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Feta, and Dill recipe.
8. Orzo Salad with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts
Orzo makes for a light, loose, and almost fluffy-textured pasta salad. This one combines cherry tomatoes with cucumber, scallions, toasted pine nuts, and lots of fresh herbs. Get our Orzo Salad with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts recipe.
9. Celery and Olive Orzo Salad
Another orzo salad, this time with canned chickpeas, fragrant herbs, picholine olives, and crisp-soft celery. It’s simultaneously sophisticated and casual. Get our Celery and Olive Orzo Salad recipe.