Liven Up A Classic Pasta Salad With Barbecue Sauce At Your Next Cookout

Person serving pasta salad
Person serving pasta salad - Solstock/Getty Images

As the weather starts to warm up, cookouts and barbecues become a fun way to get together with family and friends. And, while burgers and hot dogs are typically the star of the show, you don't want to forget about the sides, either. With that said, one easy side that is always a crowd-pleaser is a quick summer pasta salad.

Typically, the sauce of choice for this side is Italian dressing. But you can actually give your side salad a unique twist and use an altogether different sauce instead — barbecue sauce. This addition might sound strange at first, but it adds a pleasant tanginess and hint of sweetness that creates a unique-tasting side. Plus, it adds a touch of smokiness that pairs perfectly with your grilled proteins.

The best part about this addition is that it's an easy swap to make. You can whip up your own homemade barbecue sauce if you really want, but a storebought variety works just as well for packing in the flavor.

Read more: The 15 Best Store-Bought Barbecue Sauces, Ranked

Putting Together Barbecue Sauce Pasta Salad

Barbecue sauce on the grill
Barbecue sauce on the grill - Nwphotoguy/Getty Images

Just like a regular pasta salad, you'll want to go with a short pasta. Macaroni, rigatoni, or penne can all be good choices here. These smaller-sized noodles make it easier for you to get a forkful of pasta and also make dishing and serving the side more convenient.

With your pasta chosen, it's time to add the vegetables and mix-ins. Now, while a standard simple pasta salad comes with things like olives and diced mozzarella, you might want to rethink these additions if you're using barbecue sauce. In this case, kernels of sweet corn might be a better pairing, helping to bring out the sweet notes in the sauce. You could also add other neutral veggies like cucumber or celery that add crunch but won't clash with the sauce. Another choice might be to toss in some black beans or avocado to give a bit of heartiness to the meal.

Finally, don't forget about herbs and spices. Although the BBQ sauce certainly adds flavor, you can enhance this further by mixing in other additions. Onion or garlic powder can work well to give a bit of a pungent kick to the dish, while a dash of paprika could bring out the smokiness. Crushed red chili peppers could also work if you want to add a bit of a kick. Or, you could stir in ranch dressing or mayo to add some creaminess to the meal and give it a bit more tang.

Make Your Pasta Salad Even Heartier

Pulled pork on a cutting board
Pulled pork on a cutting board - Fotoatelie/Getty Images

While many pasta salad recipes focus on veggies and cheese, one way to bulk up a barbecue-style recipe is to add some protein. This can also be a great way to turn the dish into a standalone meal!

Pulled pork, for instance, can be a great, saucy addition to your pasta salad. The rich, fatty notes of the meat are balanced out by the tanginess of the barbecue sauce. Or, you could go with shredded chicken. Pick your protein based on what leftovers you have in your fridge that day and feel good about not being wasteful.

For the vegetarians, you can also swap these ingredients out for cubes of tofu. Just toss the chunks in barbecue sauce before piling it atop your pasta salad. Whether you make this dish as a standalone meal or pair it with your favorite cookout main courses, adding barbecue sauce to a classic pasta salad is an easy swap that's bound to elevate a simple recipe.

Read the original article on Daily Meal