As the weather warms up, mayo-laden picnic salads become an all too common sight. This summer salad, though, is a horse of an entirely different color. It’s a bright and cheery pasta salad, tossed in a vibrant lemon-based dressing and studded with thin summer zucchini, sweet peas, and fresh basil. A far cry from the standard macaroni salad, this Lemon Basil Summer Pasta Salad feels sunshiney in and of itself. It’s a pasta salad that’ll never weigh you down.
While we’ve used bowtie pasta here, there are so many varieties that would work well in this. Shells, penne, fusilli… you can use any bite-sized shape that you have on hand. It’s a simple salad to throw together; the only thing that needs cooking is the pasta. The zucchini go in uncooked, and if your garden is overflowing you can even throw in a bit more of them. Just slice them nice and thin so they intermingle with the rest of the ingredients nicely.
The other key players are peas (fresh or frozen work fine), ribbons of fresh basil, pine nuts, lemon zest, and parmesan. We like using shaved parmesan here; it helps the flavor stand out instead of fading into the background entirely. The lemon zest and basil keep things bright and sunny, while the pine nuts and parmesan add an earthy nuttiness to the mix.
The dressing is an easy vinaigrette – olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a little minced garlic – and just takes a couple quick turns with a whisk. It’s light and lemony, and it ties together all the summer flavors that are going on here. It’s such an easy and delicious summer salad, and it works well when made ahead a bit, so it’s as perfect for weekly lunches as it is for potlucks.
Lemon Basil Pasta Salad
15 minutes to prepare serves 6-8
- 1 lb bowtie pasta
- 1 cup peas
- 1 cup zucchini, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup parmesan, shaved
- Zest from one lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Place pasta in a large bowl, and add peas, zucchini, pine nuts, parmesan, lemon zest, and basil.
- Pour dressing over and toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy!
Adapted from Foodness Gracious.