There are certain dishes at a BBQ or picnic I tend to avoid, and the rotini pasta salad drowning in Italian dressing is number one on the list (even though you can count on it always having a spot on the table). The way I see it, if I'm investing in this level of calorie consumption, I'm going with the heavy hitters: sweet barbecue sauce-smothered pork, potato salad, banana pudding, and good beer.

But there's a disconnect here—I love pasta. Give me any type of noodle, any sauce, any variation of veggies or meat and I'm all in. Somehow pasta salad has turned into the ugly stepsister. So, with Labor Day looming it's time for this to change. The goal is to maximize flavor and still leave room for dessert.


Black Pepper Pasta Salad with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and RomanoYou had me at hello. Between the nutty asparagus and salty prosciutto, this cavatappi-based pasta salad is sure to make a believer out of me.


Tortellini Pepperoncini SaladWhen using cheese-filled tortellini pasta, there's no need to add extra cheese to the finished product, but I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't going to. Flavorful greens and assorted veggies round out a surprisingly low-cal plate.


Gemelli Salad with Green Beans, Pistachios, and Lemon-Thyme VinaigretteThe title is a mouthful, but I wouldn't mind piling my plate with this winning lineup of ingredients. Haricots verts work perfectly for pasta salads, because they are small, quick-cooking green beans with a super satisfying crunch.


Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta SaladIs it broccoli salad? Is it pasta salad? I don't even care! But I have a challenge for you. Watch this and tell me you aren't itching to make it. Labor Day is on Monday after all.