It’s the season of grilled must-haves and big, easy dessertsbut summer pasta maybe just the unsung heroes of seasonal and busy barbecues weeknights. Potentially portable, often vegetarian, and reliably comforting, these New York Times Cooking recipes can shine at a potluck or be combined as an easy dinner for two, with leftovers you’ve been looking forward to.
This recipe from Melissa Clark skips the mayonnaise-based dressing. Instead, she soaks chopped shallots in balsamic vinegar and lemon juice just long enough to dull their sharpness, then mixes it all up with hot pasta. Treat this simple recipe as a blank canvas and adapt it to your liking. Add a handful of capers or olives for extra flavor, blanched green beans for crunch, or tuna or chunks of salami for protein.
The biggest kitchen crime could be overcooked and mushy asparagus. Luckily, Eric Kim’s pasta recipe ensures those stalks get the proper treatment. Here they are tossed in at the end, so that the residual heat from the cooked pasta pampers them without overcooking them. It’s a perfect textural contrast to the sumptuous cream and savory roast gim bites.
Recipe: Creamy asparagus pasta
Zucchini shines in this simple recipe from David Tanis, who calls for his summer pasta to be “simple and fresh, ideally made with vegetables straight from the garden or the market.” Summer squash of any kind could work here. It is cooked until tender and slightly supple, enhanced at the end with fresh lemon zest, crushed red pepper and creamy ricotta.
Every summer presents a paradox: the eggplants are in great shape, but the heat makes lighting the oven so unattractive. To that end, Kay Chun offers this stovetop recipe, ready in a fraction of the time. The eggplant becomes tender, almost melting into a pantry-friendly tomato sauce, before being topped with Parmesan cheese, toasted panko breadcrumbs and a good slice of mozzarella. You’ll wonder why there’s another way to make eggplant parmesan.
Ali Slagle’s Buttery Tomato Pasta is inspired by pan con tomate for an easy recipe that requires no knife work (yes, zero). Instead, she turns to the box grater to break down tomato and garlic — and even crumble frozen butter. The starch from the hot pasta water turns the ingredients into a thick, shiny sauce, glazing the pasta from the inside out. But choose ripe tomatoes that are in season, if you can. As Ali says, “If your tomatoes are tasteless, your pasta will be too.”
Recipe: Tomato and Butter Pasta
Nothing compares to corn in the height of summer. Melissa Clark makes the most of these cutting-edge grains, using them two ways: first, as the base for a luxurious sauce, then whole and tenderly cooked for texture. Although the recipe says out-of-season or even frozen corn can work here, enjoy those fresh, in-season cobs.
Recipe: Creamy Basil Corn Pasta
Punchy jerk seasoning and a potent Scotch bonnet chili bring out the best in this Rasta pasta recipe from Millie Peartree. She recommends a color combination for the peppers in the recipe — just the right amount for the rainbow of summer peppers, each offering a different kind of sweetness.
Tomato lovers will rejoice in this recipe from Ali Slagle, which uses fresh, sun-dried tomatoes. Packed with saturated punch, sun-dried tomatoes are tossed with toasted chopped walnuts for a much-loved texture. A strip of greens — arugula, herbs, or a combination of the two — joins at the end, adding even more brightness to this summery pasta salad.
Recipe: Two tomato pasta salad
What’s the point of a pasta salad if it’s not portable and ready to share? Kay Chun’s version will have everyone asking for the recipe. It’s easy to make ahead and best at room temperature, as bites of simmered sweet peppers and tomatoes balance out the crumbled feta beautifully.
Recipe: Orzo salad with peppers and feta
No food processor? No problem. Ali Slagle’s pesto requires no special equipment. Instead, herbs, garlic, nuts and salt are deliberately chopped and mashed into a paste until they’re turned into a shiny pesto and tossed with pasta and peas.
Don’t overlook the abundance of cherry tomatoes available during the summer. While the 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 pairs 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 jammy, shredded zucchini let their sweet, satisfying traits shine through in this pasta from Ali Slagle. If you’re not in a hurry, keep cooking: those flavors only get better the longer the zucchini stews go. The reward for your patience is a nicely 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