Let's be honest — we never stopped eating pasta. It plays well with creamy, comforting flavors in colder months, then graciously welcomes warmer temperatures with bright, fresh zest. But while pasta is seasonless, the pasta salad screams summer.
From soba noodles dressed in citrus ginger to tender bow ties sprinkled with red pepper flakes and tomatoes, a cool, big bowl of pasta salad is endlessly versatile. You can plop in whatever farmer's market bounty you find: cucumbers, carrots, corn, or radishes. Plus, they hold up (even improve!) over time as dressings and ingredients marinate — no wilting or getting soggy. So, now as we're entering long summer days, we're piling our plates with these eight beauties.
"Want to know how to change hearts and minds about pasta salad? Make this one for your next backyard BBQ or picnic with friends," writes Emily. "Peperonata — the classic Southern Italian side dish of sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes melted in olive oil — is a swell companion to pasta. It's packed full of vegetables and serves as the dressing (a win for pasta salad, a big win for you). Better yet, the peperonata can be made several days in advance and tossed with freshly-cooked pasta whenever you're ready."
"The jars on your refrigerator door have joined forces in a pasta salad that tastes like the best parts of an antipasto platter (or an Italian hero)," claims recipe author Sarah Jampel. "To bulk it up, top it with folded prosciutto, or mix in cubes of salami or Parmesan. If you have everything on hand, this salad will be ready as soon as the orzo is boiled (10 minutes!). If you're not quite so stocked, you can caramelize the onions in the oven for a hands-free, low-commitment alternative and buy pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and roasted red peppers from the store. (We won't tell.)"
This is a great way to get acquainted with tart and salty ponzu sauce: tossed with silky udon and a medley of crunchy, fresh vegetables and herbs.
"I remember many a warm summer night when, motivated by a strong aversion to turning on the oven, my mother would whip up a quick pasta with a no-cook sauce," Merrill Stubbs writes. "One of my favorite iterations was a variation on a popular theme: pasta with raw tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and sometimes basil." If you love caprese salads but also want to be full an hour after dinner, just add all those tasty components to pasta."
A make-ahead masterpiece if we've ever seen one! You can mix the dressing, plump the raisins, and toast the hazelnuts the night before.
Macaroni salad gets a new personality. Instead of creamy cheese, coat noodles in peanut butter and miso, then add some spice with vinegar and chile-garlic sauce.
Celebrate tomato season with Michel Guérard's sauce vierge, a gorgeous no-cook tomato sauce. The combination of fresh tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs shines in this simply-dressed pasta salad.
Here's an almost no-cook, five-ingredient pasta salad that will actually help you cool down. "A note on noodle choice: any long, thin pasta will do," recipe author Kendra Vaculin advises. "Vermicelli or thin rice noodles (like those pictured here) are great gluten-free options, and hold up much better than brown rice noodles when cooked and then chilled. If it's what you have in your pantry or all you can find, plain ol' spaghetti works just as well."
Meanwhile, some people like to eat hot foods in the summer. If you're looking for a spicy kick, gochujang takes this pasta salad to the next level.
"The flavors in this pasta salad are mild and subtle — perfect for complementing grilled salmon or a roasted chicken with pan juices," writes Food52er viblanco. "At first, the grated shallot and Dijon in the vinaigrette may seem like they would overwhelm the dish, but both settle in without a hint of bite. The use of feta and olives also brings a bit of salty flavor with each taste."
Summer's a time for free spirits. Riff on your favorite pasta shapes and flavors to create your own masterpiece. Here's a simple formula to follow: 3/4 to 1 cup of dressing for each pound of dried pasta. Add in all of your favorites (vegetables, nuts, herbs, and cheeses) and mix gently.
This story was originally published on Food52.com: The 10 best pasta salad recipes you need this summer.