HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Pasta Salad for Barbecue

I need an idea for a pasta salad to go along with some pulled pork barbecue. Needs to be kid friendly for my three year old son. Preferably something with penne or rigatoni so that little ones can easily get it on their fork.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'm personally not a fan of mayonnaise based pasta salads . . .

    I've never really used a recipe for pasta salad though. I usually just grill any vegetables I have around (or keep the raw depending on the vegetable) and toss with a vinaigrette - top with some shaved parmesan cheese and call it a day.

    My other option is always pasta tossed with pesto and halved cherry tomatoes. You can always add some mozzarella if you want as well.

    You can use any pasta shape you want with either and both are good slightly chilled or at room temp too.

    1. ATK Macaroni Salad
      (I love this recipe)

      1 cup elbow macaroni (can use whole-wheat; I use ring pasta too)
      Salt and pepper
      1/3 cup mayonnaise
      2 T bbq sauce
      2 scallions, sliced thin
      1 tsp. chili powder

      Bring 2 quarts water to boil in pot. Add macaroni and 1/2 tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook until tender. Drain macaroni in colander and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain briefly, so that macaroni is still moist, then transfer to large bowl. Add mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, scallions, and chili powder to bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

      1 Reply
      1. re: laliz

        This sounds great..I do something similar with Frank's hot sauce in place of the BBQ, but I never would have thought of this..

      2. Roasted sweet peppers, roasted sweet corn cut from the cob. Use coleslaw dressing. And find a pasta shape that will get your chow pup excited. Mickey Mouse pasta was a big hit, but I live next door to the mouse so procurement was never an issue.

        Call your local sources for their options, as well as what they can order for you. Dear Daughter also enjoyed the radiator shape in a variety of colors at that age.

        2 Replies
        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          I absolutely agree with this. I was at a BBQ for a graduation this weekend, and the stuff I would have loved in a pasta salad back in the olden days (crunchy celery, little chunks of cheese/pepperoni, scallions) weren't touched with a nine and a half foot pole by the under-eight set.

          IndianRiverFl's ideas of a mild dressing, cute pasta shapes and mild vegs seems spot on. Maybe bring a zipped up version for the grownups since it's a (relatively) cheap to make dish?

          1. re: pinehurst

            Good point Pinehurst.

            A bowl of mango habanero salsa so the guests can spice it up to their liking.

            June in Florida means mangos are central to everything.

        2. Always a big hit at summer BBQ's:

          Italian Pasta Salad
          I use corkscrew pasta, but others would work fine.
          small cubes of cheddar and mozzarella
          quartered salami and pepperoni
          halved cherry tomatoes
          diced red onion
          can of black olives
          pepperoncini pepper rings
          homemade italian dressing (or bottled is fine) The recipe really soaks up the dressing. I usually use the whole recipe (2 cups of dressing)

          I get requests from hosts of BBQ's to make this pasta salad. Obviously, there are many other additions or subtractions that you can make to the recipe depending on your preferences. Add grilled asparagus or other veggies. Just imagine what you like on an anitpasti platter and turn it into a pasta salad!

          1 Reply
          1. re: pagesinthesun

            This is similar to what I do too, Pages. To make it more kid-friendly, OP may want to substitute cucumber chunks in place of the pepper rings.

          2. This is my go to pasta salad.

            Sorry, measurements, I really just throw it together to taste

            Pasta (I like Farfalle best)
            Fresh Baby Spinach (equal to pasta in volume)
            Pine Nuts
            Shredded Parm and or Pecorino Romano
            Grape Tomatoes (halve if too large)
            Girards Light Champage Dressing
            (I've made my own vinagrette, but I like this one best)

            1. What does "kid friendly" mean? Do you just mean something easy to eat? Or is it taste, ingredients? I like thinner pastas than rigatoni or penne for pasta salad because they're clunky as a big bite of cold salad. There are some fun pasta shapes for kids, like pin wheels. Would tortellini work? That makes a good salad.

              1. Skip the pasta salad and go for coleslaw. It's better and traditional pairing with pulled pork.

                3 Replies
                1. re: rasputina

                  But IMO more kids will like pasta salad than slaw.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    but do kids like olives and pepperoncini and such?

                    just askin' -- i don't own any pups and rarely have them around.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      My granddaughter is a total omnivore at a year and a half. Her five week younger cousin not. I think a pasta salad, which honestly is not an all-time fave of mine, offers a lot of latitude as to ingredients whereas slaw less so and is always going to have that tart component.

                2. My go to pasta salad is something with plenty of surface like fusilli or radiattore, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, minced actually more of a brunoise) onion and bell pepper, EVOO and balsamic, and grated Romano.

                  1. I like to use Marzetti's Sweet Italian dressing, along with a generous handful of grated romano in the pasta. Then some sliced black olives, a well drained jar of pimento, shredded or cubed provolone, and some finely chopped broccoli florets (or some chopped canned artichokes).

                    FYI, if you decide not to go with the pasta salad, Walmart carries a southwestern chop salad kit that goes great with BBQ. It comes with all the topings, including some chili seasoned fried wonton strips, shredded cheese and a southwestern dressing. I think there is cabbage, romaine, cilantro and green onions in the mix. It's kind of like a cross between a salad and a slaw.

                    1. I, too, am wondering what "kid friendly" means for a pasta salad. Other than my daughter (who is now 8 and eats everything), I don't know too many 3 year olds that even eat pasta salad. My son (age 6) wouldn't eat pasta salad of any sort to save his life (yet he loves hot cooked pasta!).

                      That being said, these 2 recipes are always big hits (but obviously any pasta would work)

                      Orzo with Roasted Vegetables


                      Orzo with Tomatoes, Feta, Green Onions


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: valerie

                        i'm with those kids and think pasta salad is both an oxymoron and a crime against nature. the name just got gussied up from "macaroni salad", which is what it was called when i was a kid. growing up italian-american, we never made it, but when we saw it at other people's homes we always called it "protestant food." after very little time, the pasta just gets gloppy and soft. blech.

                        orzo or cous cous take better to this sort of thing, with lots of fresh herbs and citrus zest.

                      2. Orzo isn't fork friendly but it is spoon friendly :) A CH friend gave them this epicurious Orzo with Everything salad. We loved it and with leftovers I ever heated in the MW.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: c oliver

                          Yes, orzo makes a big mess (as does most foods when served to 3 year olds!), but as I mentioned, any pasta would work.

                          I like that Orzo with Everything as well.

                        2. I think I am going to go with something like this:


                          I do appreciate all of the ideas.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: jpc8015

                            I don't want to offend but, to me only, that doesn't sound very good at all. A POUND of bacon? The mayo? The ingredients sound like they'd not blend well physically. YMMV always.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              How on Earth could it not be good? A POUND of bacon? The mayo?

                              1. re: jpc8015

                                Definition of BBQ. Mine at least. Fatty poultry, pork or beef cooked over a carcinogenic heat source. Majority of sauces consisting of copious amounts of salt and sugar. Served in huge portions with bacon mixed into all of the sides, especially the beans. Pulled pork to be served on Wonder Bread equivalent topped with mayo slaw that has been in the sun at least 2 hours. Accompanied by sweetened ice tea that is so thick it will support a spoon or cheapest lite beer from a cooler of dirty ice.

                                Somehow, I have never equated Southern BBQ as a healthy, refreshing experience. More as over the top indulgence.

                                1. re: jpc8015

                                  raw to cooked shrinks considerably -- you lose probably at least 50%.

                                  have worked events where we served blts's on japanese spoons and they were big hits. just the lettuce, tomato, bacon and mayo. if i were the op, i'd do this in a bowl and skip the pasta entirely. if the op wants to be fiddly, you can also fill cherry tomatoes with bacon, mayo and top with lettuce chiffonade.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    Now that's an idea I really like. I guess the BLT pasta salad sounds like one of those "protestant salads" you referenced above :) (I really like that!)

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      the only thing we ever put mayo on was tuna from a can. :) i swear, a jar would last for years.

                                      1st time i ever forced myself to try "pasta salad", add insult to injury -- it was made with miracle whip. so many off-putting things in one mouthful!

                                      quite a different childhood food repertoire than that of my german/lutheran b/f!

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        Oh shiver :( I use it on sandwiches but not all the time and in egg salad but that's about it.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          I don't make deviled eggs often but when I do, it needs mayo for me. I also like it on my sandwiches but also rarely have them. I don't make banh mi but they often come w/ mayo and I'm fine with it. And, I love aioli which is essentially the same thing.

                                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                                      If the OP wants a blt direction w/out the pasta, I've also added bread squares pan fried in bacon fat, added to bacon, lettuce and tomato, along the lines of a panzanella.

                              2. I don't like creamy / mayo based pasta salad either.

                                Here's mine:

                                Pasta Salad with Feta, Sundried Tomatoes, and Arugula.

                                Dressing - One head of roasted Garlic, Dejon, Red Wine Vinegar, 1/4 cup Evoo, Salt & Pepper. 1 tblspoon of Sugar or Honey, Lemon juice to taste. Fresh Parsely.

                                Any Combo of Veg's I love roasted Peppers (you can actually chop them very fine to be part of the dressing).


                                1 lb of of your choice of pasta (I like Rottini )

                                4 0z's of feta or more depending on Taste

                                - Small handful of of Kalamata Olives Pitted and chopped

                                4-5 Sundried Tomatoes chopped (or more according to your taste.

                                - 4 0z's or so of fresh Argula

                                You might sub the kalamata's for regular canned, store bought olives - kids prefer them.

                                Method, boil the pasta while at the same time make the dressing (you want to add hot pasta to the dressing - it wiill combine the flavors).

                                I throw in the argula just before servng.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sparky403

                                  Yes, this is my type of pasta salad. Sometimes I sub diced zucchini for the arugula when that's what is available. And perhaps fresh oregano.

                                2. My usual pasta salad has large shells or cavatappi, halved grape tomatoes, cubed feta, and a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper. When the tomatoes and feta leak a little delicious juice to combine with those ingredients in the salad bowl, it makes a very pleasant and fresh salad dressing. I usually also add copious amounts of fresh herbs (cilantro or basil), halved olives, and some green vegetable like peas, asparagus, celery, or edamame.

                                  I don't have kids, but if you leave out the herbs and olives and select the green vegetable that your kid likes best, I bet it will be a hit :) Generally, kids like food that they can identify easily and possibly pick out each ingredient to eat one at a time. That's easier with a non-creamy pasta salad.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jennymoon

                                    Yah... I forgot the Grape Tomatoes and the fresh basil - those are certainly needed

                                    for Pasta I prefer Farfalle, the Cork Screw, al Ceppo (one I had to look up) Love this shape for Mac & Cheese too.


                                    Also, I normally crumble a bit of feta into the dressing before I add the pasta..... so it's part of the dressing. I love pasta salad here and there... if it's done right of course.

                                    >>pasta al ceppo Pronunciation: PAH-stah al CHAY-poh Notes: This means "pasta on a stick" in Italian, and this tubular pasta was originally made by wrapping dough around knitting needles.

                                  2. My favorite is tortellini pasta salad.
                                    Cheese tortellini/tortelloni
                                    cubes of cheese
                                    hearts of palm
                                    sliced pepperoni/summer sausage
                                    blanched broccoli
                                    Italian salad dressing of your choice with Salad Supreme

                                    1. My kids (4 and 5 years old) favorite pasta salad:

                                      1 box tri-color rotini cooked, drained, rinsed and cooled
                                      1 tin boneless skinless sardines in oil, drained and mashed
                                      3/4 cup mayo
                                      3 ribs celery, chopped
                                      2 dill pickles, chopped

                                      Combine everything, and let it rest for a few hours in the fridge. They'll never know the fishies are in there, but they add so much flavor. Seriously, my kids will eat an entire batch just the two of them.

                                      1. I make a version of Confetti Pasta Salad.


                                        I like to use red/green/yellow/orange diced peppers for color. I also added some dill relish (I love dill). You can change up the type of pasta you use. Sometimes I use the ditalini, other times I use tri-colored rotini, small shells, elbow macaroni or whatever you like that would make it kid friendly.

                                        I also do one like pagesinthesun's post, which is very good. I add a jar of pimentos as well. As you can tell, I love colorful salads.

                                        1. I have made Tom Douglas' Macaroni Salad recipe for the past few years. It's got a creamy buttermilk dressing. It never fails to elicit multiple requests for the recipe. I usually add halved cherry tomatoes and sub arugula for the mache/spinach.
                                          Here's a link

                                          1. My Mom's go-to recipe for macaroni salad: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/barbeque...
                                            The kind of pasta doesn't really matter: I've made this with rigatoni, penne, elbow macaroni, and shells. (Just don't use spinach pasta: the color of the salad is really gross.)