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Summer Picnic Pasta Salad Recipe

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This Easy Summer Picnic Pasta Salad Recipe is going to become your go-to summer potluck dish and favorite easy pasta salad recipe! There are so many variations that you’ll never get tired of it!

Summer Picnic Pasta Salad Recipe

Summer Picnic Pasta Salad

It’s officially (finally!) summer cookout and potluck season. That’s actually one of my favorite parts of the summer months, having friends and family over to enjoy time together and eat.

It’s especially nice when we get together with friends who also have kids so that our kids can play and run around while the adults get some time to relax and chat.

We get invited to a fair amount of “bring a dish to pass” events in the summer and this Easy Summer Picnic Pasta Salad is quickly becoming my go-to summer pasta salad dish.

Easy Pasta Salad Recipe

It’s a pasta salad with ham and cheese, which my kids love, and a handful of other ingredients, like frozen peas and finely chopped onion. Adding in ingredients like that is my favorite way to get the kids to eat a few more veggies. 😉

This summer pasta salad recipe is also extremely customizable.

If you don’t like an ingredient, just leave it out and add another. Mushrooms are an ingredient I sometimes leave out, if I know I’ll be around a large group of people, since so many people don’t like them.

pasta salad with ham and cheese


That are so many ways to change up this pasta salad!

The original pasta salad with ham and cheese can easily be turned into a summer pasta salad full of extra veggies. A few ideas are:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Corn

You can also switch the ham for another protein:

  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Salami
  • Shrimp

You can change the type of cheese as well. (Or, you know, just add several types of cheese because more cheese is always better.)

In my house, we always make pasta salad with ham and cheese because, as I mentioned, the kids love it but if I’m making this for a potluck the kids won’t be attending, I do sometimes switch the ham for chicken and add in a bunch of extra veggies.

The dressing in this summer pasta salad recipe does include mayo and buttermilk, so if you’re bringing it to an outside gathering, be sure to keep it cool.

Easy Summer Pasta Salad Recipe

Also, while this Easy Summer Picnic Pasta Salad is easy to put together, note that it will need to chill for a few hours before eating for the best flavor.

What goes into a pasta salad?

Pasta salad is usually made with pasta (obviously), meat, cheese, and a few veggies, as well as a dressing.

Dressings can be either mayo-based, like this summer pasta salad, or something similar to Italian dressing.

The great part about pasta salad recipes is that they are all very customizable and you can add whatever meats and veggies you want!

How long can you keep a pasta salad in the fridge?

Pasta salad can be kept in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.

Pasta salad without a mayonnaise base may last up to a week but with a pasta salad recipe using mayonnaise, 5 days is the recommended maximum.

Macaroni Salad with ham and cheese

Other Summer Potluck Salad dishes you might enjoy:


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Summer Picnic Pasta Salad ( Pasta salad with ham and cheese )

Easy Summer Picnic Pasta Salad (with peas, ham and fresh dill)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Jamie Sanders
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 10 cups 1x
  • Category: side dish
  • Cuisine: americam




  • 4 cups cooked elbow pasta
  • 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 ¾ cup thawed, frozen peas
  • ¼ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • ½ cup diced cheddar cheese


  1. ½ cup buttermilk (if needed, sub with 2 tbsp of milk and enough plain yogurt to equal ½ cup)
  2. ¼ cup mayo
  3. 1 tbsp white vinegar
  4. 1 garlic clove
  5. ¼ tsp salt
  6. 3 to 4 tbsp of chopped fresh dill



  1. Combine buttermilk and mayo
  2. Stir in salt and garlic and fresh dill
  3. Whisk in 1 tbsp of vinegar until smooth
  4. Set aside in fridge till needed.


  1. Thoroughly combine all ingredients, including the dressing.  
  2. For best flavor, chill for 2 to 4 hours before serving.



  • This pasta salad needs to chill for a few hours before eating for the best flavor.
  • Pasta salad can be kept in the fridge, tightly covered for 3 to 5 days.


  • Serving Size: 3/4 cup
  • Calories: 203
  • Sugar: 3
  • Fat: 5
  • Carbohydrates: 31
  • Fiber: 2
  • Protein: 8

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  1. Just made for the first time. So, good. Needed something light to eat for dinner. Perfect.

  2. At home we called it pea and cheese salad. We can sometimes find it at the deli too, in Minnesota. It truly is a children’s favorite! I like lemon juice and dijon mustard in the dressing. Sometimes locals here use miracle whip Intead of mayo but too sweet for this savory salad imo

    1. That does sound good! My mother also makes a similar pea salad without the pasta, with miracle whip. It’s her favorite, so she always makes it for us at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.