When summer arrives, it seems only reasonable that the hearty meals of winter get replaced with light, colorful, and sometimes handheld-only options that complement the heat. And while we're big fans of salads, there's no reason to shy away from one particularly rich and filling dish this time of year: pasta.
With a few warm-weather adjustments — like heirloom tomatoes, Greek yogurt, and avocado pesto—pasta can easily make an appearance at any barbecue or alfresco gathering on the horizon. We rounded up 11 summer pasta recipes to try as soon as tonight.
Instant Pot Creamy Chicken Pasta
Summer Staples: While this recipe from the Butter Half has plenty of delicious ingredients, like steamed vegetables and minced garlic, the real reason it's a summer pasta is that it can be made in an Instant Pot when it's just too warm to turn on the oven.
Hot Tip: Abbey finished cooking whole chicken breasts in the Instant Pot, and then removed them once they were done to slice into pieces.
Heirloom Tomato Pomodoro Penne Pasta
Summer Staples: Tieghan from Half Baked Harvest works a summer favorite into this dish—heirloom tomatoes—to make a colorful pasta of simple yet indulgent flavors. Thanks to the addition of parmesan rinds to the sauce and ricotta cheese for topping, you'll probably whip this up more than once this summer.
Hot Tip: "Gotta have the parmesan rinds," she says. "It's a must and really adds the flavor needed to create such an amazing sauce."
Strawberry Avocado Pesto Pasta
Summer Staples: There's plenty to love about this recipe from Half Baked Harvest as well, which is a solid choice for parties or laid-back dinners. Tieghan mixed together this dish with ripe strawberries, avocado-infused pesto, and crumbled feta cheese in about a half hour too.
Hot Tip: "Instead of the traditional basil, pine nut, parmesan, and olive oil combo, I went with steamed broccoli (for a super-green color and added veggies), avocado (for creaminess, plus I love avocado and strawberries together), fresh basil, lemon juice, and feta cheese," she says about her pesto.
Bucatini With Walnut-Parsley Pesto
Summer Staples: Leave it to Bon Appétit to create a pesto pasta that simply looks like summer. Bucatini is layered with a whole cup of fresh parsley for color and flavor, while walnuts and chilis provide an unexpected—but still totally accessible—complexity.
Hot Tip: The pesto can be made two days ahead with a food processor, as long as it's chilled.
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Pasta
Summer Staples: We get it. Cacio e pepe is so good that it's a meal that should be served year-round. But the reason it's particularly satisfying in the summer is that it's so easy to cook. Opt for this recipe from Tasting Table, which coats the pasta in grated Pecorino Romano to perfection.
Hot Tip: "Though the dish is relatively uncomplicated to make, cooking the pasta is key," the Tasting Table team says. "You want the noodles to be just al dente but still firm. This way, when you toss in the cooking liquid and cheese, the pasta doesn't overcook."
One-Pot Mexican Shrimp With Orzo and Zucchini
Summer Staples: 'Tis the season for simple living, and that's why this Foodie Crush recipe is so alluring—it can be made in one pot. But dish duty aside, Heidi incorporates frozen shrimp, chicken broth, and even ground cinnamon into orzo and butter to create a meal that's ideal for an outdoor dinner.
Hot Tip: "Save even more time by using frozen shrimp that are already shelled and deveined," she says. "To thaw the shrimp, simply place in a bowl and run warm, room temperature water over them for a few minutes."
Zucchini With Greek Yogurt and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Summer Staple: It doesn't get any lighter than zucchini noodles for pasta, and Taylor from Food Faith Fitness uses them to bind together other fresh ingredients for a breezy meal. Greek yogurt is blended with red peppers for an inventive sauce, and there's feta cheese for topping too.
Hot Tip: "Toss the zucchini noodles with a pinch of salt and let them sit in a strainer over a bowl for 20 to 30 minutes," she says. "Stir them around a few times while they strain. This will bring a lot of the water out."
Crab Spaghetti With Lemon Gremolata
Summer Staple: Crab is a classic summer catch, and that's why we've returned to Foodie Crush to praise this simple but delicious recipe. Heidi mixes crab in with the likes of chardonnay and bread crumbs to make an unconventional pasta you'll want to eat with a chilled glass of the same wine.
Hot Tip: "You could cook yourself some crab legs like I did here, but what I like to do for the quickest and easiest dinner is to buy it already cooked, cleaned, and ready to go," she says.
Spicy Garlic Chicken Pasta
Summertime Staple: Jessica from How Sweet Eats jokes that this recipe for spicy garlic pasta is so fast that you'll spend the longest amount of time waiting for the water to boil. The ease of this dish makes it work for those summer nights when you have plans, but it also has tasty chickpeas, baby spinach, and pecorino romano to help you savor every bite.
Hot Tip: "You can totally cook your spinach and garlic while the water is coming to a boil so you're doing, well, something while waiting," she says.
Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad
Summertime Staple: Ali from Gimme Some Oven has made a pesto pasta salad that will seemingly go with every barbecue dish you plan to make this summer. Thanks to a versatile base of pistachio pesto sauce and mozzarella, it's easy to add whichever vegetables you want to finish things off. For this recipe, Ali opted for asparagus and arugula.
Hot Tip: "Really, just about any sautéed, roasted, or fresh (if they don't need to be cooked) veggies would work with this recipe," Ali says.
Linguine With Clams
Summertime Staple: As far as classic summer pasta dishes go, linguine with clams is about as good as it gets. This recipe from Williams Sonoma re-creates it perfectly since it asks to cook cleaned clams in dry white wine alongside garlic and red pepper flakes.
Hot Tip: "Serve plenty of crusty bread alongside the dish to sop up every drop of the flavorful sauce," the recipe says.