BBQ Ranch Pasta Salad

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barbecue pasta salad

Hey there, hungry people! Barbecue season is in full swing, and that means we have the perfect excuse to slather our favorite sweet BBQ sauce on just about everything.

But have you ever thought about incorporating that smoky and tangy flavor into a pasta dish? Well, I hadn’t either, until recently.

I was pondering all the delicious BBQ-flavored treats I typically indulge in, and it struck me that pasta hadn’t made it onto that list. So, with a friend’s cookout just around the corner, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to experiment and create something truly mouthwatering.

mixed bbq pasta salad in a bowl

Oh, by the way, meet Theo!

theodore burrito

He’s a furry friend who joined us at the cookout. Here’s a delightful picture of him, just to bring a smile to your face.

ingredients for a bbq pasta salad

Shall we get started? Great!

Now, here’s the exciting part: this BBQ Ranch Pasta Salad recipe won’t break the bank! Whether you’re serving a hungry crowd or simply treating yourself, you’re sure to satisfy some taste buds without emptying your wallet.

  • Cavatappi noodles (spiral noodles): The base of the pasta salad, providing a sturdy and satisfying texture.
  • Diced tomatoes: Adds a burst of freshness and juiciness to the dish.
  • Honey barbecue sauce: Gives a sweet and tangy flavor, adding a BBQ twist to the pasta salad.
  • Milk: Helps create a creamy and smooth sauce when combined with the other ingredients.
  • Chicken broth: Enhances the savory flavor of the dish and provides moisture.
  • White onion: Adds a subtle onion flavor and a bit of crunch.
  • Garlic: Infuses the dish with aromatic and savory notes.
  • Dried ranch: Provides a flavorful and creamy seasoning to the pasta salad.
  • Olive oil: Used for cooking the onions and garlic, adding richness and depth of flavor.
  • Basil (or purple basil or spicy globe basil): Adds a fresh and herbaceous element to the pasta salad.
  • Red pepper flakes: Offers a spicy kick and adds a touch of heat.

Now Let’s Jump On In

bacon frying in pan

Now, let me share an optional step with you. It’s not a must-do, but if you’re already frying up some bacon for my loaded baked potato salad (recipe coming soon!), you can recycle that bacon grease for extra flavor.

Waste not, want not, right?

onions frying in pan

First, toss your onions into the pan with the bacon grease or oil, and let them cook until they turn translucent and start to brown, releasing those irresistible aromas.

tomatoes in pan

Now, here comes a little secret: I have a complicated relationship with tomatoes. Frankly, I’m not a fan. But in the interest of accommodating other palates and adding a touch of freshness, I’ve included whole tomatoes in this recipe.

You see, while my sophisticated taste buds might not have developed a liking for tomatoes, I acknowledge that there are brave souls out there who can endure their tomatoey-ness.

Next up, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the box. But here’s a nifty trick: if you don’t plan on using the entire box at once, you can cook the noodles right in the sauce and skip this step altogether! Just add 1 cup of uncooked noodles to the skillet with the tomatoes, along with half the amount of milk and broth, and let them cook until tender. It’s a time-saving hack, my friends.

noodles with seasoning

Once the noodles are ready, pour in the milk and chicken broth, followed by the powdered ranch seasoning. Give it a good stir to combine all those delightful flavors and bring the mixture to a bubbling boil.

noodles simmering

Now, reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. This allows the flavors to meld together beautifully and for most of the moisture to cook off.

noodles on the stove

Once the pasta has absorbed all that saucy goodness and there’s just the right amount of moisture left, it’s time to transfer the noodles into a large bowl. Picture it—a glorious heap of tender pasta, just waiting to be devoured.

dressed noodles

Now, brace yourselves—it’s barbecue time! Slather that tantalizing barbecue sauce generously over the pasta. And when I say slather, I mean it.

After all, we’re talking about barbecue here—no skimping allowed.

barbecue sauce on noodles

Finally, gently mix everything together until the sauce coats the noodles evenly. Then, pop the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours to let all those flavors mingle and intensify.

chilled pasta noodles

Trust me, this dish is fantastic when served warm, but it’s absolutely incredible when chilled.

Tips & Tricks

  • Customize the Heat: Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes according to your spice preference. Add more for an extra kick or reduce it if you prefer a milder flavor.
  • Fresh Herbs: If possible, use fresh basil instead of dried for a more vibrant and aromatic flavor. You can also experiment with different herb combinations to suit your taste.
  • Let it Chill: While the pasta salad can be enjoyed immediately after mixing, chilling it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours allows the flavors to meld together and intensify. The cooled salad is perfect for picnics or outdoor gatherings.
  • Add Texture: Consider adding some additional ingredients to give the salad a satisfying crunch. Chopped bell peppers, diced celery, or even roasted corn kernels can add layers of texture to the dish.
  • Toppings and Garnishes: Just like any other pasta salad, you can get creative with toppings. Consider sprinkling some grated Parmesan cheese, chopped green onions, or toasted breadcrumbs on top for added flavor and visual appeal.
  • Make it Ahead: This pasta salad can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep well for a few days, allowing you to enjoy it as a quick and delicious meal or snack throughout the week.
barbecue pasta with purple basil

And there you have it, hungry people! Your very own BBQ Ranch Pasta Salad, ready to impress. Whether you’re bringing it to a potluck, enjoying it at a picnic, or savoring it at home, the tangy barbecue sauce combined with the creamy ranch dressing will make your taste buds dance with delight.

bbq ranch pasta

BBQ Ranch Pasta Salad

The Starving Chef
Spiral noodles tossed in a tangy honey barbecue sauce with diced tomatoes, onions, and a creamy ranch seasoning, perfect for summer cookouts.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Backyard Cooking



  • Begin by cooking the entire box of cavatappi noodles according to the instructions on the box. Drain and rinse.
  • Slice the onions and mince the garlic. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, juices and all, to the skillet. Place the noodles in the skillet, then pour in the milk and chicken broth. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 5-6 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the ranch powder, basil (either basil, purple basil, or spicy globe basil), and red pepper flakes over the mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are mixed in. Season with a touch of salt and pepper. Remove from heat and transfer the noodles into a large bowl. Let chill in the fridge, covered, for 1-2 hours.
  • Pour the honey barbecue sauce over the chilled noodles and gently stir to combine. Chill the pasta salad until ready to serve. The sauce will thicken as it cools, making it perfect for a picnic or cookout!
Keyword BBQ, noodles, pasta salad, ranch
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