Summertime is finally upon us after what feels like forever. That means long nights with cocktails and loved ones, lazy days on beach towels, and lashings of sunscreen (or, alternatively, sunburn and trips to the dermatologist.)
But it also means eating outside under the sun, be it picnics, barbecues, or simply a packed lunch on day trips. And whether you’re looking for just a single simple dish that everyone can enjoy or a scrumptious side to complement a sizzling steak, grilled halloumi, or whatever else you’re serving up, there’s a good chance that, at some point, you’ll need to turn to that reliable stalwart of outdoor dining: the pasta salad.
Of course, pasta salad is a favourite because it’s just so damn easy to make. But that’s also the problem. It certainly is a simple dish in theory, but get complacent with it and, just as with applying sunscreen, it can ruin your day out. It helps to at least learn a few solid principles of pasta salad to build upon, if not a reliable recipe or two you can always turn to.
So here are six of the best pasta salad recipes around. We’ve tried to include a little something for everyone, from the vegan to the carnivorous to the saucy to the gourmet. But whichever one you choose – and however closely you choose to stick to the recipes – trust us on the sunscreen.
6 Easy Summer Pasta Salad Recipes
This simple pasta salad with tuna recipe is a cheap and cheerful way to brighten any summer picnic. It’s quick and easy to make, which makes it a great option when you just need to throw something together for an ad hoc pot-luck. Plus it’s sure to be a favourite among any age group.
If you like strong Mediterranean flavours, then this pasta salad with olives, tomatoes and walnuts is perfect for days out at the beach or the lake. (Or even out by your garden pond, if that’s more your style.) It’s easy to make but also gorgeously colourful, so consider preparing this one if you want to trade minimal effort for maximal visual impact.
Or if you really want to impress, Edwin Soumang (from Michelin-starred Restaurant One) offers up this recipe for calle dei campi Italian pasta salad with fresh market vegetables. It looks and tastes incredible (plus it’s completely vegan), although if you’re going to the trouble then you probably want to serve it up at home – whether in the garden or on the balcony – rather than shaking up a mess transporting it to a picnic.
On the other hand, if you (or the people you're cooking for) insist on meat, then go for this pasta salad with chicken, peas, and parmesan. It’s packed with decadent flavours, but remains light and healthy enough to not weigh you down as the temperatures rise.
But what if you just find pasta salads in general a bit lacking? Well, if it’s the absence of a mouth-watering tomato sauce that leaves your tastebuds feeling uninspired, then try this recipe for caprese pasta salad with tomatoes and mozzarella. It’s a saucy pasta dish that’s all the better once its cooled down, which makes it perfect for hot summer days.
Of course, some people like their summer dining to be nice and spicy. If you’re one of them, then this spicy pasta with tomatoes is another saucy dish, but this one packs a lot more punch into every mouthful. Sure, it’s intended as a hot dish, but it doesn’t suffer for being served cold – certainly not in the summertime.