Pasta Salad Bar – Easy, Inexpensive, Nutritious, and Cool

pasta salad bar 3

Here you will find one of the coolest (literally) meal ideas for summer. Here you will see a great way to feed your whole family – even the picky ones. Here you will experience deliciousness that isn’t expensive, offers lots of nourishment, and is super easy to put together. Yes, here is a great idea given to me by several readers last summer that I finally tried last week. Again, I must ask:  Why did I wait so long to try this?

Welcome to our lives, oh lovely Pasta Salad Bar. We’re sorry we never met before now. You’ll be a regular visitor at our house this summer. We will load our bowls full of your goodness, based on what sounds good to each of us at that moment.  You are deliciously fun.

Pasta Salad Bar

How do you put together a Pasta Salad Bar? Simple. Just set out everything you have on hand that might taste good in a pasta salad. This is a great way to eat up leftovers or odds and ends from your fridge. Here are some Pasta Salad Bar food suggestions:

  • Cooked and cooled whole wheat or brown rice pasta – any shape
  • Chopped sweet peppers
  • Chopped carrots
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Cooked chicken, tuna, steak, roast beef, or other meat that sounds good
  • Chickpeas or other cooked beans
  • Corn
  • Olives
  • Shredded cheese
  • Favorite salad dressings – we prefer homemade Italian Salad Dressing and Ranch Salad Dressing

Once your food items are set out, simply let everyone fill their bowls with whatever they like. Stir in favorite salad dressings to make a creamy pasta salad, a tangy pasta salad – or a mixture of both! (Yep, I like both Italian and Ranch in my pasta salad.)

This meal is extremely filling and hearty. Oh, and a side of fresh pineapple or chilled watermelon goes great with this.

Ever done something like this before? What other ingredients do you think you would add to this Pasta Salad Bar?


  1. says

    Oh, now that is an idea I had not yet thought of for a salad bar! I’d add roasted bell peppers; I always can a bunch every summer for pasta salad and such. And sliced almonds. And sautéed mushrooms. Yumm.


  2. Melissa says

    I used to make a baked potato bar for dinner. It was basically the same thing, except hot potatoes instead of cold pasta and the toppings were more baked potato-ish.

    Sadly, two of my children can’t eat potatoes anymore. So this is no longer in my rotation.


  3. Rachel says

    I know this might sound weird, but one of my favorite salads is similar to the pasta salad bar, only we use grapes! Yes, grapes with chicken, onions and celery. It is amazing!! Even my pickiest eaters like it. :)


  4. alicia says

    My 3 year old saw this picture, and says, “oooo, i like pasta salad!” Obviously, it is a regular around here. (: Sometimes, if I have a few extra minutes, we’ll have roasted veggies mixed in too…carrots, onions, squashes, etc. No matter what I set out, it does make everyone happy! (:


  5. Bethany W says

    LOVE IT! We just discovered the beauties of pasta salad-bar in our home. On Sunday night I cook a chicken in the crockpot over night. Then we use the broth to boil the noodles in (a good way to up-the-ante with nutrition!) and set aside chicken meat for the week with our pasta lunches. Then I sauté up a whole bunch of veggies — I recently discovered roasted beets — and we just enjoy whatever floats our boat that day!

    Adding fresh basil was a nice touch. And I saw some mozzarella balls at Trader Joes, so I splurged on those for this week.

    We used to eat soups every day for lunch, but … well … this Mama is just burned out on soup. I felt guilty about throwing away all that delicious broth. Until boiling the noodles in it came to mind. :-D Score!


  6. CeCe says

    Thanks for this– especially the part about the homemade Italian dressing. My family of 4 JUST ate lunch (salad greens, cucumbers, carrots and a dollap of chicken salad on the top). Just before I made the salad dressing (from a popular mix), I read the label and saw it had “wheat” in it. I’m on a gluten free diet so I was bummed I couldn’t have it while everyone else in the family could. So glad I now have an alternative for tomorrow’s lunch!!!!


  7. Anne says

    I would add a little vinegar and a bit of garlic to the water to cook the pasta. This will give it the flavor it has when made ahead and allowed to absorb the dressing. I like cold pasta with a little “spunk” !


  8. says

    I have been craving pasta salad for awhile now but didn’t think I could get everyone in the family one board. I think this way it would work!!

    I’m also thinking this will work for my baby’s 1st birthday party coming up! I think it would be awesome for a summer party!


  9. jenn says

    Nope.. not work in my house.. None of my kids would eat anything but the pasta and the cheese.. and they do not like dressing.. Hubby would not go for it either..
    UGH.. yea I have really fussy eaters in my house..



  10. kentuckylady717 says

    The salad bar is a great idea, you could also add onions & hot peppers…..mushrooms would be nice too……


  11. Marvella says

    Planning a ladies event for about 50 women. We would like to do a pasta bar. How do you figure amounts? We plan on doing diced chicken and diced ham as the meats but don’t know how to figure amounts. Any advice? Thanks



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