Summer Pasta Salad

Photo: The Jewels of New York

A Pasta Salad Where Every Bite Is Perfect
Almost all versions of the potluck staple get better as they sit, taste great at room temperature and pleases vegetarians. Here's why this rendition of the classic, from the new book A Simple Feast: A Year of Stories and Recipes to Savor and Share, is such a keeper: It has you use orecchiette, a pasta the size of a thumbprint that's shaped like a cupped hand and perfect for catching the other components of the dish—lemon zest, garlic, tomatoes, cannellini beans, chopped hazelnuts and torn mint leaves—so that every bite delivers maximum flavor and texture.

Get the recipe: Summer Pasta Salad
Stuffed tomatoes

Photo: Lucy Schaeffer

Tomatoes That Only Look Complicated
This unfussy recipe shows how easy it is to turn a handful of ingredients into a bright and tangy stuffed-tomato dish that screams summer. You stuff beefsteak tomatoes with sautéed onions and garlic, ground beef, rice and dill. Follow the lead of cooks in Greek tavernas: They make the stuffed tomatoes in the morning and keep them in a heated display case that's just slightly above room temperature, so if you order one in the afternoon or evening, it's perfectly plump and juicy. Prepare yours ahead of time, refrigerate and just warm them gently in the oven before serving.

Get the recipe: Stuffed Tomatoes
Chicken, Black Bean and Arugula Salad

Photo: Johnny Valiant

A Waaay-Above-Average Chicken Salad
O magazine contributor Sunny Anderson's Mexican-accented chicken and black bean salad is a texture bonanza, with creamy black beans and juicy cherry tomatoes—plus tender rotisserie chicken. (And it's totally fine to buy precooked to save on time.) It's also potluck-ready, as you make the entire dish in just one bowl.

Get the recipe: Chicken, Black Bean and Arugula Salad
Slow-Cooked Barbecue Pork Shoulder and the Ultimate Barbecue Sauce

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The Barbecue Dish That Will Definitely Warrant a Night-Before Taste Test
This outrageously tasty barbecued pork dish from chef Tyler Florence tastes better the longer it sits, since there are so many flavors involved. There's the chili-paprika spice rub, an apple juice-chicken stock braising liquid and then a bacon-thyme barbecue sauce. Make the pork in a slow cooker the day before the party, refrigerate overnight and rewarm before serving. Guests can build their own sandwiches, adding whatever fixings are on the buffet table, from coleslaw to potato chips.

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooked Barbecue Pork Shoulder and the Ultimate Barbecue Sauce
Seven-Layer Russian Salad

Photo: Jennifer May

A Colorful Creation That Just May Outshine Everything Else
This stacked salad has a good shot at being the most interesting-looking and widely appealing dish on the buffet table. Even though it consists of everyday ingredients—beets, potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas and canned tuna—seeing them arranged in layers in a glass bowl gives them an appeal that's much greater than the sum of its parts.

Get the recipe: Seven-Layer Russian Salad
Baked Polenta Layered with Mushroom Ragu

Photo: Marcus Nilsson

The Layered Italian Dish That's Not Lasagna
With its slippery noodles, lasagna can be difficult to serve neatly—which is why this twist on the classic is perfect for potlucks. Instead of pasta, you use warm, fresh polenta for the layers; it's easy to slice through and still works wonderfully with whatever filling you choose. This recipe calls for a mushroom ragu, but a meat sauce or any variation would also work well.

Get the recipe: Baked Polenta Layered with Mushroom Ragu