7 Pasta Salads That Eat Like a Full Meal

Consider this my meal prep plan for the summer.

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ITALIAN CHICKEN PASTA SALAD Geoffrey Zakarian The Kitchen/Welcome to The Kitchen Food Network Elbow Macaroni, Olive Oil, Rotisserie Chicken, English Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Nicoise Olives, Red peppers, Hard Salami, Red Onion, Flatleaf Parsley, Ricotta Salata, Red Wine Vinegar,ITALIAN CHICKEN PASTA SALAD Geoffrey Zakarian The Kitchen/Welcome to The Kitchen Food Network Elbow Macaroni, Olive Oil, Rotisserie Chicken, English Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Nicoise Olives, Red peppers, Hard Salami, Red Onion, Flatleaf Parsley, Ricotta Salata, Red Wine Vinegar

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

I'm calling it: This is the summer of the pasta salad. I know, I know – isn't every summer a pasta salad summer? Maybe you're thinking of the standard bowl of something that's got an uncomfortable amount of mayo with a crust starting to form from being left out on the cookout table in the sun for too long. Gross, sorry, hope you weren't hungry.

I'm feeling pasta salad as a full meal this summer not only because I love a good fridge cleanout and it's the perfect vessel for (almost) any veggie and meat that you've got hanging around, but also because it's the easiest way to prep a full meal in big batches with NO. WEEKNIGHT. COOKING. AT. ALL. The thought of being able to pop open a bottle of wine and sit out on my patio to enjoy the evening sun and a no-cook meal after a long day of work is seriously the best (and yes, I'm quite aware that my standards here seem pretty low, but I'm over 30 and this is how I roll).

Quick pro tip that'll make all the difference in your pasta salad game: After you drop your cooked pasta into the colander, rinse it off with cold water, then shake it dry and coat with olive oil. This will not only cool down the pasta and stop the cooking process, but it'll also remove some of the starchiness and will help prevent the pieces of pasta from sticking to each other while you're prepping the rest of the salad fixings.

Italian Chicken Pasta Salad (pictured above)

GZ stretches leftovers – think rotisserie chicken, salami and olives –for a kitchen sink recipe that totally works. Ricotta salata is a salty, semi-hard cheese that brighten up the salad, but feta has a similar flavor profile and works equally well here. He calls for tomatoes and cucumber, but you could easily swap in fresh diced bell pepper or zucchini, depending what's in your fridge (or garden!) at the moment.

BLT Pasta_012.tif

BLT Pasta_012.tif

Your favorite sandwich in a totally dinner-approved form. You're going to want to hold on to the bacon drippings after you're done cooking. We like to toss the tomatoes in the same pan to warm them up and infuse with bacony goodness.

FNM_7LayerPastaSalad_048.tif

FNM_7LayerPastaSalad_048.tif

Food Stylist: Maggie Ruggeiro Prop Stylist: Marcus Hay

Photo by: Yunhee Kim

Yunhee Kim

Classic bowtie pasta, broccoli, avocado, ham, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce make up this stunning layered salad. Tossing the avocado with lime juice (or any acid) makes this a make-ahead friendly meal, but if you're not going to eat this salad within 6 hours, you should hold off on cutting open the avocado until just before you're about to eat.

Panini and pasta, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Strategic meal preppers, take note: This double-duty pasta salad starts out with a chicken, spinach and artichoke base, which you can use one night for sandwiches and another night in this hearty pasta salad.

FNM_Biden_DC 153916.tif

FNM_Biden_DC 153916.tif

Whenever there are tomatoes in his garden, which is pretty much all summer long, my dad makes a huge batch of this pasta salad with cavatappi noodles, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella for the week that we snack on, use as a side, and sometimes just eat for dinner. We love this recipe because it calls for the chopped-up tomatoes to marinate in the dressing while you're cooking the pasta, which means big flavor.

Photo by: Marshall Troy ©2012,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Marshall Troy, 2012,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Fresh dill brightens up this simple summery salad two ways: the fronds end up in the lemony dressing and the thicker stems (along with some fresh lemons) are used to flavor the poaching liquid for the shrimp.

giada-antipasto-salad-recipe

giada-antipasto-salad-recipe

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Everything you love about Italian antipasto – salami, provolone, Asiago, olives and roasted red peppers – make an appearance in this appetizer-turned-full meal. Giada uses a blender for shortcut chopped fresh herbs and to emulsify the dressing, but you can easily skip that part and chop the herbs by hand, then pour the dressing ingredients into a mason jar (close tightly!) and shake.

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