caesar salad dressing

Photo: monkeybusinessimages/iStock

If Your Casserole Has a Lot Going On
There's a lot of joy in a jumble of Tater Tots, mushrooms, ground beef and cheese; a tangle of leeks, chicken, Gouda and Ritz crackers; or, a deeply flavored combo of shrimp, white beans, wine and bread crumbs. Instead of trying to compete with these masterpieces, keep it simple with a salad, such as a basic Caesar. Its fresh crunch will complement rather than overpower the main event.

Get the recipe: Caesar Salad
honeydew salad

Photo: Paulette Phlipot © 2012

If Your Casserole Has a Spicy Kick
Whether you're going Tex-Mex, with a jalapeño- and chili powder-spiked chicken dish, or Middle Eastern, with a cumin and cayenne-scented pilaf, your best bet is to serve something cooling on the side. A dish of melon slices, or a bowl of orange or clementine segments, is lovely, as is this refreshing salad of honeydew, cucumber and green grapes.

Get the recipe: Honeydew Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
zucchini fries

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

If Your Casserole Is One of 2 Italian-American Classics
Crowd-pleasing baked ziti and lasagna often share the table with salad and bread, but we love serving these pasta-based casseroles with zucchini. The easygoing squash goes so well with Parmesan cheese, which you'll probably already have out because of its affinity for the ingredients in your main course.

Get the recipe: Parmesan Zucchini Fries
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Two Vinegars

Photo: Erin Kunkel

If Your Casserole Has a Crust
The creamy goodness known as a potpie is indeed a meal in and of itself, offering bread (via the dough), vegetables and meat. Yet the richness can be a bit cloying, which is why an accompaniment featuring the sharp acidity of vinegar makes a lot of sense. A tomato salad splashed with a double dose of balsamic and either sherry or white-wine vinegar will be a welcome antidote for an overloaded palate.

Get the recipe: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Two Vinegars
potluck green beans

Photo: Lucy Gibney, M.D.

If Your Casserole Prominently Features a Popular Pairing
Federal law may not actually state that you must serve mac 'n' cheese with green beans—but why would you really put anything else alongside the quintessential pasta and cheese bake? The gooey sauce and indulgent carbs practically scream "eat us with something green!" yet a salad can feel a little too healthy. This simple recipe is quick and easy, and the beans remain crisp tender, offering a pleasant contrast to the soft macaroni.

Get the recipe: Best Green Beans