5-Ingredient Side Dishes for Your Memorial Day Get Together

Whether celebrating Memorial Day to you means attending services and parades, kicking off the camping season, or simply welcoming summer, chances are you’re also planning some kind of event with friends and family over the holiday weekend. Whether you’re in charge of the meal or simply bringing a dish, no-fuss recipes are ideal when you want to focus on the gathering, not the food preparation. With that in mind, we’ve compiled several recipes that use five ingredients or less, and all promise to ring in the summer season with bright, fresh flavors.

1. Penne with Pesto, Tomatoes, and Fresh Mozzarella

Make penne with pesto, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella for your Memorial Day get together

Penne pasta salad | iStock.com

This simple pasta salad is light and refreshing, thanks to its incorporation of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. The pesto packs an extra punch of flavor, making for a simple dose of classic Italian flavor at any gathering. The recipe was created by Robin Miller and shared on the Food Network, and takes just minutes to prepare.


  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon prepared basil pesto
  • 10 ounces grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounces ciliegine (cherry-sized) mozzarella balls, or larger balls called bocconcini, quartered
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts

Directions: Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

2. Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon Salad with feta

Watermelon and feta salad | iStock.com

If you’d rather take your salad in a fruity and savory direction, try this combination of watermelon and feta cheese. The textures work well together, and adding basil, mint, or both to the mix boosts the flavor. This easy version comes from the blog Moderate Indulgence, and the name aptly fits this salad. Who doesn’t want bites of juicy, sweet watermelon balanced with the savory, slightly salty feta? It’s a perfect match for your backyard picnic.

The blog doesn’t give specific measurements, which means you can adjust the flavors to your palate. Start by cubing the watermelon, then slowly adding the cheese, herbs, and citrus juice until it tastes just right. A laid-back summer starts with a laid-back recipe. (If you’re more about following directions, however, this version from PBS incorporates a little red onion and gives specific measurements.)


  • Fresh cubed watermelon
  • Crumbled feta cheese
  • Chopped fresh mint or basil leaves
  • Lime or lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar
  • tiny pinch of salt

Directions: In a large bowl, add cubed watermelon, desired amount of feta cheese, and fresh mint or basil. Mix the salt with the citrus juice or vinegar (PBS suggests about ¼ cup of fresh citrus juice for every 6 cups of cubed watermelon), then pour over the watermelon and cheese. Toss to lightly coat.

3. 5-Ingredient Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa in a bowl

Mango salsa | iStock.com

Taking a jar of store-bought salsa and a bag of tortilla chips to a picnic is always a crowd favorite, but take it up a notch with this fresh mango version from Gimme Some Oven. It relies on fresh mangoes (and the blogger even offers a tutorial on how to easily dice them up yourself), along with red onion, cilantro, jalapeños, and lime juice to round out a zesty, bold salsa that’s perfect for summer. It’s almost as easy as buying a jar, and is way more fun for your tastebuds.


  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed
  • Juice of one lime

Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, then season with salt and pepper if desired.

The blogger notes that this can be served immediately, or stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

4. Hasselback potatoes

hasselback potatoes

Hasselback potatoes | iStock.com

If you’re looking for a side dish that’s a little more hearty but just as easy to prepare, try making these potatoes with Swedish origins. Slicing the spuds thinly and adding butter makes for a delicious side that combines crispy and tender textures. Their fancy look gives the impression of labor in the kitchen, when in reality these should only take you a few minutes to prep before baking them in the oven. If you’re looking to make them extra special, you can purchase a few extra ingredients like scallions or sour cream to serve on top, but in reality the simplest versions are sometimes the best.


Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the potatoes, and place in bowl of cold water to prevent browning. Place potatoes into a large wooden or metal spoon. Using a sharp knife, make slices across the potato the short way about ⅛ to ¼ inch apart, making sure to cut down to the lip of the spoon, not all the way through the potato. (The slices should stay connected at the bottom, and the spoon helps keep the depth even.)

Return sliced potatoes to the bowl of water until all of them are sliced. Then, place them cut side up in a shallow baking dish or small roasting pan. Drizzle with half of the butter, then season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the remaining butter. Sprinkle Romano cheese and bread crumbs onto the tops of the potatoes, and season with a little more salt and pepper. Return to the oven, and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until nicely browned.

5. Summer Berry Cheesecake Salad

Source: iStock

Berries | iStock.com

Eat this as salad or as dessert — either way, it’s going to be a crowd favorite. This recipe mixes cream cheese and coffee creamer, of all things, into a creamy base that’s blended with fresh berries for a light but delectable summer treat. It’s the perfect way to highlight summer produce while still providing a rich texture that’s wholly satisfying. The Slow Roasted Italian offers this dish that’s a perfect ending to your picnic or family reunion.


  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
  • 1 9-ounce container blueberries, washed and dried (remove stems)
  • 1 9-ounce container raspberries, rinsed and dried
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • ½ cup vanilla coffee creamer

Directions: Wash berries and allow to dry on paper towels. In a medium mixing bowl, whip cream cheese with an electric mixer until it becomes smooth.

With mixer running slowly, gradually add creamer to the cream cheese. Do not pour it all in at once, as this will make the mixture clumpy. (The blogger suggests adding the creamer about 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each addition until the cream cheese becomes smooth again.)

Combine berries in a large bowl. Fold in cream cheese mixture gently, until completely combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

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