Slam-dunk pasta salads

Grilled Yellow Squash anda Zucchini Pasta Salad and more. Plus: 6 golden rules of perfect pasta salads

What could be simpler to make than pasta salad? Isn't it just about the most basic summertime dish there is? Well, no. I know this because on the way to making good pasta salads, I've made a few gloppy messes and others that were glop-free but dull. Of the three recipes here, the green bean, blue cheese, and bacon combo is my favorite, but I think you'll enjoy them all.

Green Bean and Whole-grain Penne Salad
This salad is all about contrasts in flavor and texture: chewy, nutty pasta mingled with crisp, sweet green beans and strewn with bits of crunchy bacon and creamy Roquefort.

Chicken, Corn, and Tomato Pasta Salad
A refreshing option for dinner on a hot summer night.

Grilled Yellow Squash and Zucchini Pasta Salad
Here's a great way to use summer's abundant squashes. Toasted pine nuts and briny kalamata olives make this salad a standout.

PERFECT PASTA SALAD: THE SIX GOLDEN RULES

1. Give it a rinse Starch released by cooking is good in a hot pasta dish, because it helps the sauce cling. In a pasta salad, though, the starch soaks up the dressing and makes the dish gummy. To avoid this, rinse hot pasta with plenty of cold water and then let it drain.

2. Toss with oil Even rinsed, drained pasta sticks together if it's chilled. Mixing in olive oil is part two of preventing clumping.

3. Keep it fresh You can prep ingredients and cook the pasta a day or two ahead, but wait until right before serving to toss everything together.

4. Match the pasta So that you get a nice balance in every bite, keep your main ingredients similar in shape and size to the pasta (cut green beans with penne, for instance, and shredded chicken with orzo).

5. Give it crunch Add red onion or crisp bacon for another layer of texture.

6. Add some color A bright ingredient or two will make your pasta salad stand out from all those beige store-bought salads. Choose from summer's bounty ― red bell peppers, tomatoes, yellow corn kernels, green zucchini, and string beans.

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