Cookout Classics for Labor Day Part 3: 7-Layer Pasta Salad

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A Labor Day cookout would not be complete without a 7-layer salad. A staple on both Southern and Midwestern picnic tables, this salad can be anything you want it to be.  Lettuce, chopped veggies, eggs, a pork product of some kind, cheese, and herbs, all come together with a creamy, tangy dressing.  It is the perfect accompaniment for anything grilled, such as the grilled summer kabobs I introduced to you in Part 2.

In this recipe from FoodNetwork, we take out the eggs and replace them with pasta and call it Part 3 of our Cookout Classics for Labor Day. Farfalle is the pasta that looks like butterflies (farfalle is Italian for ‘butterflies’), or bowties, and acts as a smooth, chewy layer that sits right in between everything else. If you don’t want to use farfalle pick another whimsical paste shape, such as fusilli (the corkscrew pasta), or radiatori, which look like mini radiators.

Presentation is key with the 7-layer salad, so use a glass serving bowl so you and your guests can see the colorful layers of the salad. If you don’t have a glass bowl then borrow one! Even a glass lasagna pan will do. I like my dressing on the peppery side so I had extra grinds of pepper.  If you like a little warm spice then feel free to add a few dashes of hot sauce to the dressing.  And if bacon is where your heart is, then substitute it for the ham.


  • 8 ounces farfalle (about 2 cups), or other fun-shaped pasta
  • 2 stalks broccoli, cut into florets, or just buy a bag of florets
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, or thinly sliced green parts of scallions (green onions)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • One 12-ounce piece deli ham, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces yellow Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the label directs), adding the broccoli during the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain the pasta and broccoli and rinse under cool water; shake off the excess. Remove the broccoli and pat dry.
  2. Whisk the mayonnaise, buttermilk, 1/4 cup chives, the parsley, half of the lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the pasta and a few tablespoons of the mayo/buttermilk dressing in a medium bowl.
  3. Now, the fun part! To assemble the salad first toss the avocados with the remaining lime juice in a large serving bowl (glass preferred so you can see the layers) and season with salt; arrange in an even layer.
  4. Top with layers of ham, broccoli, pasta, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. Drizzle some of the remaining dressing on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon chives. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the salad and dressing separately for up to 6 hours.
  5. If you are refrigerating the salad be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.

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