Chances are, you’ve been served a bland, boring pasta salad dish before.
It was probably on the buffet at some sort of family reunion, along with a weird green gelatin mold and lukewarm burgers. It’s a shame, because pasta is an incredibly versatile and easy ingredient, and it pairs well with vegetables and fresh summer flavors. Because I felt sorry for pasta salad and I wanted to use it at my own parties, I set out to create a version that has spark and charm, and won’t be the last lonely dish at the buffet table.
Since we’re all short on time, I started with the classic version of Suddenly Salad, a fabulous Betty Crocker product that comes with tricolored pasta and spices to get you off to a great start. Simply boil the pasta, mix the spices with water and vegetable oil and toss it all together. You can stop there for a 10-minute pasta salad dish that will wow a crowd, or you can add veggies to bump up the vitamin factor. I created a Greek Pasta Salad dish by adding red bell pepper, cucumbers, crumbled feta cheese and a touch of Greek vinaigrette. If you have time to let the flavors meld overnight, you’re way ahead of the game.
They (whoever “they” are) say that you eat with your eyes first, so instead of serving pasta salad in a big bowl (so predictable, so blah), serve it in individual portions by using clear glasses so guests can see all the goodies in the salad at once. One option would be a bite-size amount in a shot glass—stick in a flag on a toothpick for added color and a clue to what flavor combo the salad has.
Or, even cooler: Use a tall glass for a larger portion, and layer the ingredients for a parfait look. Alternate spoonfuls of the basic dressed pasta with the chunkier veggies. Extra points if you get artsy and break it out in even more layers. My Greek salad would go: pasta, red pepper, pasta, cukes, pasta, feta cheese, with a drizzle of extra dressing on top. Stick a fork in the glass and let your guests mix and match their bites.
And while a Greek salad has a lot to offer, there are many other crowd-pleasing flavors you can try. If you like Italian herbs and spices, they work great in an Italian Pasta Salad. Or if you’re looking for something creamier, you can’t go wrong with a Southwestern Ranch Pasta Salad.
Moral of the story? Stock up on Suddenly Salad and be prepared to be a hit at your summer barbecues with these super-easy, delicious and creative ways to serve pasta salad!