Side Dish Ideas For Summertime Cookouts

caprese and avocado

Every cookout needs a fabulous spread of side dishes to go with it, it’s not just about the main course.  Here are a few of my favorite go-to sides.

For the most part, I’ll just briefly explain how I put them together, you don’t need an exact recipe it’s all about tossing the components together using as much as you want of each, and hopefully the photos will give you a good visual to make it your own.

You can’t go wrong with a caprese salad which I’m sure many of you have made, I layered the tomato and mozzarella on top of a bed of arugula, added some chopped avocado around the center then drizzled it all with olive oil, balsamic glaze and plenty of chopped basil.

tomato cucumber and mozzarella balls

This is another version of a caprese salad using sliced colorful cherry tomatoes and small bocconcini balls, chopped cucumber, plenty of basil and a generous amount of olive oil with salt and pepper to taste.

italian pasta salad

A pasta salad is always welcome at a cookout and because it doesn’t have a mayonnaise base it’s safe to keep out for a while.

I also like changing up different pasta shapes, so feel free to use your favorite, just cook it ahead of time.

pasta salad ingredients

My pasta salads consist of chopped cucumbers, red onion, some type of colored peppers, sliced cherry tomatoes, olives and  arugula.

Sometimes I add chopped Genoa salami and sometimes not. I also like to add a sharp cheese like provolone, fontinella or asiago which I cube up.

Toss everything together with your pre-cooked pasta and use a homemade Italian dressing to bring it all together.

I like to whisk together 3 parts olive oil to 1 part white balsamic vinegar add in some granulated garlic, a splash of lemon, oregano, salt and pepper. If you want to thicken it a bit add a dollop of Dijon.

pasta salad

Same pasta salad as above with the dressing and all, minus the salami which I replaced with fresh corn kernels.

fish salad

If you like doing seafood on the grill this is a nice salad to put together. Here I used pre-cooked octopus that I cut up along with calamari and shrimp, everything was tossed in olive oil, lemon rind, oregano, salt and pepper beforehand, I would also add chopped parsley, which I didn’t have that day. Stick it on a grill pan and grill altogether.

Layer the seafood on a platter with an arugula base, some tomato wedges, kalamata olives and oregano with a fresh lemon and olive oil dressing.

 

italian potato salad

Here’s a potato salad minus the mayo that can be prepped ahead of time, cut the potatoes in half and roast them til golden and blanch up your green beans.

Then toss them all together with red onion, fresh parsley, oregano, slices of those tiny colored peppers, a sprinkling of grated pecorino with a dressing of fresh lemon and olive oil.

italian romaine salad

A tossed Italian salad with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, radishes, olives, red onion, cucumber, provolone cheese and pepperoncini tossed together with an Italian vinaigrette of your choice, always a great side.

grilled artichokes

We’re big on artichokes in my family and grilled artichokes are a delicious side and labor of love,  here’s the link.

grilled vegetables

Any combination of grilled veggies is always a welcome so colorful healthy and delicious!

Cantaloupe

Adding some fruit into the mix with balls of cantaloupe and bocconcini drizzled with a light touch of olive oil whisked with a little fresh orange juice.

Watermelon and feta

Wedges of watermelon with feta, blueberries and pistachios drizzled with a balsamic glaze is always fun, and who doesn’t like watermelon.

grape salad

And last but not least the famous grape salad that was all the rage a couple of years ago. A combination of green and red grapes tossed into a creamy mix of half softened cream cheese and half sour cream but I like to lighten mine up a bit with some Greek yogurt.

Sprinkle the top with some brown sugar and walnuts or pecans, always a hit at a party

Just like Thanksgiving the sides are where it’s at, enjoy!

 

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Summer Party Fruit Ideas

melon mozzarella skewers Fruit is always welcome at any occasion especially in the summer when it’s nice and ripe and in abundance. Summertime is the time for parties and picnics, get-togethers, cookouts and fun in the sun.

These simple fruit ideas would be welcome at any party or gathering, not only are they a healthy option, they’re refreshing, crowd pleasing and eye-appealing.

These cantaloupe with fresh mozzarella skewers can be made with or without prosciutto, although I do love the contrast of the sweet with the salty.

melon mozzarella skewers All you have to do is find yourself a nice ripe cantaloupe and scoop it into melon balls, purchase some mini bocconcini which are fresh mozzarella balls and thinly sliced prosciutto, if you so desire.

melon mozzarella skewers Skewer them together adding a whole basil leaf between, then sprinkle with fresh mint.

I like to lightly drizzle a dressing of one part white balsamic vinegar to three parts olive oil with a touch of honey for sweetness whisked together.

melon mozzarella skewers Just place them on a pretty platter and watch them disappear, you can’t imagine how good they are!

watermelon pizza Another fun idea with fruit is to make a watermelon “pizza”.  Cut a large piece of watermelon, which will be the base of your “pizza”. Place it on a pizza wheel for fun and decorate it with different fruits and berries, again I did the sweet and salty combo by adding some crumbled feta cheese.

Top it off with fresh mint and sliced strawberries then cut it into triangles with an actual pizza cutter.

watermelon pizza A fun side dish to anything you might be grilling.

cubed watermelon Another thing I like to do is to cut a watermelon into cubes, all you have to do is Google it if you’re not quite sure how to cut it into perfect little squares, but once you get the knack it’s really very easy.

watermelon salad Then you can make this delicious salad of arugula and blackberries tossed with feta and watermelon cubes, the flavor combination is so amazing and it looks gorgeous on a platter with all the pretty colors.

A light drizzle of the dressing above works really well with this lovely salad.

watermelon skewer Here’s another version of the watermelon salad turned into individual skewers, perhaps served as a special starter to your meal.

Skewer one cube of watermelon with one cube of feta then top it off with a fresh blackberry and a nice drizzle of balsamic glaze, I promise you will WOW your guests and the best thing is, there’s no cooking required!

watermelon skewer

You can follow Proud Italian Cook on Instagram, come see what I’m cooking up during the week.

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