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Fresh and flavorful Summer Pasta Salad makes a refreshing main dish when served hot, or the perfect summer side dish served cold! Bursting with flavor from pan-browned cherry tomatoes and zucchini, plus olives, Parmesan cheese and basil, your family is sure to love this easy pasta salad recipe with their favorite warm weather meals!
Pasta Salads for Summer
Summer here in Florida usually means we’re in for unbearably hot weather. If you live here or have ever been here to visit, you know exactly what I mean when I say sometimes all you want out of a meal when the weather heats up is a nice, refreshing pasta salad!
When my kids were in school, packing lunch and having them return with an empty lunchbox was a feat I found so much pride in. Most of my kids weren’t picky eaters growing up (but a certain someone still is!), so I liked to experiment with what I’d pack them, and some variation of summer pasta salad was always a winner.
It’s an easy choice, too! You can make a big batch and chill it ahead of time, then enjoy it for the next few days for lunch or as a side dish for dinner. You can even reheat it, if you prefer a warm pasta salad.
All in all, there’s something about this summer pasta salad recipe everyone is bound to love. For kids, you can leave out the chili flakes and olives and even add in more cheese. It’s great for potlucks, picnics, and BBQ parties, too!
Summer Pasta Ingredients
- Orecchiette pasta
- Cherry tomatoes
- Black olives
- Parmesan cheese
- Chili flakes
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh basil leaves
See the recipe tips below the instructions for tips on substituting ingredients. Scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the page for full ingredient measurements.
Recipe for Summer Pasta Salad Instructions
- Cut zucchini into small, bite-sized pieces.
- Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Set the tomatoes and the zucchini aside.
- Cook orecchiette pasta according to package directions until al dente (still slightly firm, but not underdone). Once cooked, drain pasta in a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Then, set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add zucchini and cook 5-7 minutes.
- Add halved cherry tomatoes. Season zucchini and tomatoes with salt and pepper, and cook another 2-3 minutes.
- Add drained pasta to the skillet and stir to combine completely.
- Toss in the olives and gently combine.
- Plate and garnish with chili flakes, Parmesan, and basil leaves. Or, chill for 30 minutes before serving for a cold pasta salad.
Summer Pasta Salads Tips
- Black olives or pitted olives can be used. Pitted olives are easier to slice and eat while black olives add a salty, briny flavor to the pasta salad.
- Feta cheese or even goat cheese can be used in place of Parmesan if you prefer.
- If you’re serving kids, picky eaters, or anyone with a sensitive stomach, you can leave out the chili flakes and olives according to your preference
- If you like spice, you can use finely diced fresh red chilies instead of dried chili flakes.
- Seasonal ingredients are perfect for summer pasta salads. I like zucchini because it’s always available in abundance and tastes wonderful sauteed in a pan with tomatoes. You can use other summer squashes, too, or even add corn or broccoli if you like.
- You can make this a gluten-free pasta salad by using gluten-free orecchiette pasta, or any gluten-free pasta shape you prefer for pasta salad. The gluten-free variety adds a nice nutty flavor.
- You can make this pasta salad recipe vegan by leaving out the parmesan or using a vegan parmesan.
- Finally, make sure to cook the zucchini and tomatoes until they’re golden-brown. This adds a ton of flavor to the dish and is worth the time.
Summer Salad Pasta FAQ
Pasta salad tends to taste better after a day of letting the flavors meld together in the refrigerator. Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight, then stir it together before serving. For this summer pasta salad, you can reheat it before serving, if you prefer.
Normally, you would avoid rinsing pasta after cooking it. However, in the case of pasta salad recipes, rinsing it under cold water in a colander after cooking stops the cooking process and also helps cool it down.
Leftover summer pasta salad lasts 3-4 days in the refrigerator when kept in an airtight container. If you’d like to reheat it, do so in 30-second intervals in the microwave in a microwave-safe container. This pasta salad can also be frozen in airtight freezer bags for 2-3 months, and thawed overnight in the refrigerator.
Summer Salad Recipes
- Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
- Tomato Cucumber Feta Salad
- Greek Cauliflower Rice Salad
- German Potato Salad
- Grilled Chicken Salad
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Summer Pasta Salad
- Large pot
- Cutting board
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 1 medium zucchini diced
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 12 oz. Orecchiette pasta
- ½ cup olives pitted or black olives
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes or finely diced fresh red chilies, according to desired spice level (omit for no spice)
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves chopped
See our Cooking Conversions Chart for help converting measurements!
- Cut 1 medium zucchini into bite-size pieces.1 medium zucchini
- Slice 2 cups cherry tomatoes in half. Set the tomatoes and the zucchini aside.2 cups cherry tomatoes
- Cook 12 oz. Orecchiette pasta according to package directions until al dente (still slightly firm, but not underdone). Once cooked, drain pasta in a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Then, set aside.12 oz. Orecchiette pasta
- While the pasta cooks, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add zucchini and cook 5-7 minutes.¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 medium zucchini
- Add halved cherry tomatoes. Season zucchini and tomatoes with salt and black pepper to taste, and cook another 2-3 minutes.2 cups cherry tomatoes, salt and black pepper
- Add drained pasta to the skillet and stir to combine completely.12 oz. Orecchiette pasta
- Toss in the ½ cup olives and gently combine. Stir and combine with the remaining olive oil.½ cup olives, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Plate and garnish with ¼ teaspoon chili flakes, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, and ¼ cup fresh basil leaves. Or, chill for 30 minutes before serving for a cold pasta salad.¼ teaspoon chili flakes, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- Black olives or pitted olives can be used, or olives can be omitted.
- Swap Parmesan for feta or goat cheese if you prefer.
- Use less chili flakes, or omit them, according to spice preference.
- You can use gluten-free pasta to make this dish gluten-free.
- Make this dish vegan by using a vegan cheese alternative or vegan Parmesan cheese.
Let us know what you think or ask a question about the recipe!