Tasty Pasta Salad Sides

June kicks off BBQ season! Although this year feels a little different with the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing, the smell of food cooking over an open fire still heightens the tastebuds and fills our summer spirit. I used to think only hot dogs, burgers and baked beans (American style with onions and bacon) took centre stage at a BBQ. But with all my experience - and I mean I've been to a lot of BBQs - I realised there is more than the meat items, there are all the sides!

I love all the BBQ side dishes from potato salad and green salads to pasta salad and coleslaw. The best thing about cold salads is that you can make them ahead of time or save them as leftovers for the next day. At a BBQ, kids should be part of the food experience. So instead of making a completely different meal for them, I like to include a food option that both the kids and adults will eat. Put all the BBQ food on a table buffet style and allow them to choose from the options. Ask them to pick one new item to try - they may surprise you.

I've come up with three different pasta salads with a healthier twist including a "kids" version. All the pasta salads use cooked pasta, so start each of the recipes with pre-cooked pasta. You can substitute each recipe with a different type of pasta, but the ones I have chosen work well with the ingredients. Also, depending on your diet - you can use a whole-wheat, spelt or gluten-free version. The pesto pasta usually goes down well with the kids, without them even knowing there are vegetables in the sauce. All my recipes are meat-free and without cheese; however, if you can tolerate dairy feel free to sprinkle cheese on top.

Pasta salad - 3 ways

Macaroni salad

A classic version of Macaroni salad


  • 250g (2.5 cups) cooked macaroni pasta

  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper chopped

  • 1/2 red bell pepper chopped

  • 1 celery stalk chopped

  • 15-20 cherry tomatoes sliced in half

  • 90g (1/2 cup) sweetcorn

  • Small bunch of green onions chopped

  • a handful of coriander chopped

  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 150 - 180g (1/2 - 2/3 cup) plain Greek-style yoghurt

  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Mix together the vinaigrette ingredients reserving some of the yoghurt for later.

  2. Add together the pasta, all the vegetables, coriander and vinaigrette. If it needs more yoghurt, add the remaining amount. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste

Roasted vegetable pasta salad

Roasted vegetable pasta salad


  • 4 - 5 cups cooked spiral pasta

  • 300g (2 cups) chopped vegetables (mixed bell peppers, onion, courgette, carrots, etc.)

  • Olive oil or similar

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or similar

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

  • Squeeze of lemon

  • Pinch of salt


  1. Heat oven to 200°C (390°F) and spread chopped vegetables and garlic onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of salt on top. Roast vegetables for 30 - 40 minutes until tender, turning vegetables over half-way through the cooking time.

  2. Chopped roasted garlic and mix together with all the ingredients for the vinaigrette into a dressing jar.

  3. In a large bowl mix together the dressing, cooked pasta and roasted vegetables. Top with fresh herbs.

Pesto Pasta

Pesto pasta (kid-friendly)


  • 4 - 5 cups cooked penne or bowtie pasta

  • Chopped cashews

  • Optional parmesan cheese

  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 2 large handfuls of spinach leaves (stems removed)

  • 1 small handful of basil leaves (stems removed)

  • 40g (1/4 cup) cashews

  • 1 small garlic clove

  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) good quality olive oil

  • 15 g (1/4 cup) nutritional yeast

  • Squeeze of lemon

  • Pinch of salt


  1. Add all pesto ingredients to a food processor only using half the olive oil. Blend together and add remaining olive oil or as needed blending until smooth. Add extra lemon, salt or olive oil depending on desired consistency and flavour.

  2. Slowly add in the pesto together with the pasta until there is enough pesto covering the pasta. Add salt to taste. Add chopped cashews and optional parmesan cheese on top.

Now it's time to spark up that BBQ, get grilling and eat some delicious pasta sides! If you need support on finding the right diet that suits your body, contact me for an introductory consultation so that we can discuss how to create a customised programme for you. Do you have picky-eaters? No problem, book the family healthy meals & habits programme or download the Rainbow food chart to make healthy eating fun for your kids.

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© 2018 by Erin Dolan

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