This summer pasta salad is a wonderfully light offering prepared with a creamy lemon dressing, fresh fragrant basil, a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and sliced sun-dried tomatoes. It's a deliciously pasta salad to twirl around your fork!
Summer Pasta Salad Is like Sunshine in a Bowl!
If summertime had a flavor, for me it would be that of a bright, fresh, zingy lemon.
Lemon reminds me of sunshine, of warm breezes, and of frolicking outdoors. It's one of my utmost favorite flavors when it comes to most everything, lending glorious tang and vibrancy to just about every kind of food from moist cakes, to curds, to soups, to drinks.
I've found that one of the very best uses for fresh lemon juice is in dressing, especially a dressing that is a touch creamy and meant to mingle with pasta and a savory mosaic of other ingredients in a delightful summer pasta salad.
Cool and slightly creamy, pasta salad is a favorite meal of mine in the warm months, and this scrumptious take is a simple and fragrant offering for this season's table.
Bursting with all of my favorite summery flavors—lemon, fresh green basil, pine nuts and sliced sun-dried tomato—it's just the perfect thing to twirl around my fork, and enjoy under a sunny sky! 😉
The Best Pasta Salad Dressing Makes for the Best Pasta Salad
Lemon juice is such a lovely and vibrant acid to use as a part of slightly creamy dressing, imparting some freshness and brightness to cut the richer flavors.
I use a generous amount of freshly squeezed juice and zest for my pasta salad dressing, and also add in a touch of mayo, some garlic, fresh basil leaves, parmesan, a pinch of dried herbs and black pepper. It's a deliciously savory and light pasta salad, and offers some refreshing zing!
For my summer pasta salad recipe, I like to toss my creamy lemon dressing with cooked and cooled spaghetti, and I chose this variety of pasta because it's a bit of an alternative to the typical penne, corkscrews or bowties. Plus I can twirl it around my fork! 😉
Here's a peek at the prep for my summer pasta salad: or just jump to the full recipe...)
- I begin by processing the ingredients for my pasta salad dressing in my food processor, and then stash it in the fridge to keep cold.
- Next, I cook my spaghetti pasta according to package instructions, then drain and rinse it in cold water.
- To prepare my pasta salad, I add my cooled pasta to a large bowl, drizzle in my dressing, add my other savory ingredients, and gently toss to combine. I spoon the salad into a large serving bowl or platter.
- Once I allow the pasta salad to chill for at least 30 minutes, I then garnish with extra basil leaves, some pine nuts and a few reserved slices of sun-dried tomatoes, and serve!
Summer Pasta Salad
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 8
Nutrition Info: 611 calories
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes (for pasta)
Total time: 25 minutes
Summer Pasta Salad Ingredients:
• 1 pound spaghetti pasta, cooked and cooled
• ¼ cup chopped/sliced sun-dried tomatoes, some reserved for garnish
• ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, some reserved for garnish
• ½ cup shaved parmesan cheese
• Basil leaves, for garnish
Creamy Lemon Dressing Ingredients:
• 2 cups mayo
• ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest
• 2 (⅔ ounce) packages of fresh basil
• 3 cloves of garlic
• ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
• 3 tablespoons agave (or sugar)
• 1 ½ teaspoons salt
• 1 ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• ¼ cup olive oil
- Begin by preparing the dressing: place all of the ingredients up to and including the Italian seasoning into the bowl of a food processor, and process until blended; with the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until well blended; keep in fridge to chill until ready to use.
- To prepare the summer pasta salad, add the cooked and cooled spaghetti pasta into a large bowl; drizzle in dressing, along with most the sun-dried tomatoes (reserve a little for garnish), and most of the pine nuts (reserve a little for garnish), and toss everything together until well coated; check the seasoning to see if additional salt and black pepper are needed.
- Place into the fridge to chill (at least 30 minutes), then garnished with a little of the reserved sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, plus a healthy sprinkle of the shaved parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of torn-up, fresh basil leaves.
Tips & Tidbits for my Summer Pasta Salad recipe:
- Spaghetti, or your favorite pasta: Since penne, bowties, elbows, or corkscrews are typically used for pasta salad recipes, I like to go a slightly unconventional route and opt for spaghetti here. It stands up to the slightly creamy dressing, and offers a nice little al dente “bite”. However, you can sub your personal favorite pasta here, or use whatever you happen to have on hand!
- Other tasty pasta salad add-ins: Besides the basil, pine nuts and sliced sun-dried tomatoes, you can also toss in a small amount of green peas and finely diced fresh mozzarella cubes. You could also add diced grilled chicken or even grilled shrimp over top!
- Prepare ahead for easy pasta salad: To prepare this summer pasta salad ahead of when you'd like to serve it, you can simply prepare the dressing and keep it cold in the fridge, and cook/cool the spaghetti, keeping that separate. The day you plan on serving the salad, toss everything together and keep chilled until ready to serve. Then, simply garnish and serve!
Craving more lemony recipes? Check out this Lemon Bundt Cake, this Lemon Curd, this Macaroni Salad, or this Simple Lemony Chicken Soup!
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2014, and has been updated with even more love!
Lisa @ The Meaning of Me
You know, I never think to use long pasta when I do cold salads. My family loves lemon and basil and sun-dried tomatoes, so I think they'll enjoy this one.
The Cozy Apron
I hope that they do, Lisa! Sometimes I find it fun to change things up a bit, like with the spaghetti noodles…why not, right? 🙂
This looks amazing. I was wondering if the sundried tomatoes that you used were packed in oil? Also do you think it would be okay to used half mayo and half greek yogurt? Thank you so much. I love all of your recipes and alot of them are staples in my house.
The Cozy Apron
Hi Christie, thanks so much for your kind words, and I'm so very honored to read that many of our recipes have become staples! 🙂
Typically, I use the sun-dried tomatoes not packed in oil (simply because I really like the ones that Trader Joe's carries, in a baggie), but oil-packed are fine too, just pat them dry of excess oil.
You certainly can use half mayo half Greek yogurt—the tanginess will be nice, so just keep that in mind when adding the lemon juice. (Maybe a touch less of that? See what your tastebuds say. 😉 )
Hope you enjoy it!
Can Greek yogurt be subbed for the mayo instead?
The Cozy Apron
Hi Juliah, absolutely! Just keep in mind it will slightly tangier with the yogurt, so perhaps go a little less with lemon juice? Just use your own taste as a guide! 🙂
3rd time making this. It is excellent and a family request!
The Cozy Apron
Hi Julie, that's music to my ears—so glad to read that! Hope you all enjoy this for a long time to come. 🙂