It’s the season of grilled showstoppers and big, easy desserts, but summery pastas may just be the unsung heroes of seasonal cookouts and busy weeknights. These DailyExpertNews Cooking recipes are potentially portable, often vegetarian, and reliably comforting. They can shine at a potluck or thrown together as a simple dinner for two, with leftovers you’re sure to look forward to.
This Melissa Clark recipe skips the mayonnaise-based dressing. Instead, she soaks chopped shallots in balsamic vinegar and lemon juice just long enough to dampen their edge, then toss it all with warm pasta. Think of this simple recipe as a blank canvas and adjust to taste. Add a handful of capers or olives for extra flavor, blanched string beans for crunch or tuna or chunks of salami for protein.
The kitchen’s worst crime may be overcooked, mushy asparagus. Luckily, Eric Kim’s pasta recipe makes sure those stalks get the right treatment. Here they are thrown in at the end so that the residual heat from the cooked pasta coddles them without overcooking them. It’s a perfect textural contrast to the luscious cream and bites of salty roasted gim.
Recipe: Creamy Asparagus Pasta
Zucchini stars in this straightforward recipe from David Tanis, who calls his summer pastas “simple and fresh, ideally made with vegetables straight from the garden or market.” Summer squash of any kind could work here. It’s cooked until soft and slightly supple, enhanced at the end with fresh lemon zest, crushed red pepper, and creamy ricotta.
Every summer presents a paradox: Eggplants are in great shape, but heat makes it so unappealing to turn on the oven. To that end, Kay Chun offers this stovetop recipe, ready in a fraction of the time. Eggplant softens, almost melting in a pantry-friendly tomato sauce, before topped with Parmesan cheese, toasted panko breadcrumbs, and a healthy slice of mozzarella. You’ll wonder why there is another way to make eggplant Parmesan.
Ali Slagle’s Tomato Butter Pasta takes a sample of pan con tomate for an easy recipe that doesn’t require any knife work (yes, zero). Instead, she looks to the grater to break down the tomato and garlic — and even to crumble frozen butter. Starch from warm pasta water turns the ingredients into a thick, glossy sauce, which glazes the pasta from within. But if possible, choose ripe tomatoes in season. As Ali says, “If your tomatoes are bland, so is your pasta.”
Recipe: Tomato-Butter Pasta
Nothing compares to corn at the height of summer. Melissa Clark makes the most of those peak grains and uses them in two ways: first as the base of a luxurious sauce, then whole and gently cooked for texture. While the recipe says in-season corn or even frozen corn can work here, take advantage of those fresh ears in season.
Recipe: Creamy Corn Pasta With Basil
Punchy jerk seasoning and a mighty Scotch bonnet pepper bring out the best in this Rasta pasta recipe from Millie Peartree. She recommends a combination of colors for the recipe’s bell peppers—just right for the rainbow of summer peppers, each offering a different kind of sweetness.
Tomato lovers will love this Ali Slagle recipe, which uses fresh and sun-dried tomatoes. Full of saturated, sun-dried tomatoes are tossed with toasted chopped nuts for a very welcome texture. A bunch of veggies — arugula, herbs, or a combination of both — joins in at the end, adding even more brightness to this summery pasta salad.
Recipe: Pasta salad with double tomato
What’s the point of a pasta salad if it’s not portable and ready for a potluck? Kay Chun’s version will have everyone asking for the recipe. It’s easy to make ahead and better at room temperature, as bites of sweet, stewed peppers and tomatoes are beautifully balanced with crumbled feta.
Recipe: Orzo Salad With Paprika And Feta
No food processor? No problem. Ali Slagle’s pesto does not require any special equipment. Instead, herbs, garlic, nuts and salt are purposefully chopped and beaten into a paste until seamlessly transformed into a clear pesto and mixed with pasta and peas.
Recipe: Pasta With Chopped Pesto And Peas
Don’t forget the abundance of cherry tomatoes available in the summer. While larger varieties are often the backbone of pasta sauces, they can lack the concentrated sweetness of their smaller siblings. In this easy weeknight recipe, Naz Deravian marries frozen shrimp, a freezer staple for most, with colorful cherry tomatoes that develop an even deeper flavor thanks to an oil infused with fennel and garlic.
Cooked until it’s jammy, the shredded zucchini shows off its sweet, satisfying qualities in this pasta from Ali Slagle. If you’re not in a rush, keep cooking: Those flavors only get better the longer the zucchini stews are. The reward for your patience is a properly caramelized zucchini that can be easily frozen for the next time you make this recipe (and there will definitely be a next time).
Recipe: Caramelized Zucchini Pasta