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 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. Keep scrolling for 15 easy summer pasta recipes you can 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 Rodriguez 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 Gerard from Half Baked Harvest works a summer favorite into this penne pasta 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 over the 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. Gerard mixed together this dish with ripe strawberries, avocado-infused pesto, and crumbled feta cheese in about a half-hour.
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.
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 Larsen 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 Staples: It doesn't get any lighter than zucchini noodles for pasta, and Taylor Kiser 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."
Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon
Summer Staples: For this classic Italian dish, Half Baked Harvest adds arugula and lemon to cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper.) All you'll need is bucatini pasta, fresh black pepper, parmesan and pecorino cheese.
Hot Tip: Don't skip the pasta water, as that is what "creates that creamy and luscious sauce," writes Half Baked Harvest.
Crab Spaghetti with Lemon Gremolata
Summer Staples: Crab is a classic summer catch, and that's why we've returned to Foodie Crush to praise this simple but delicious recipe. Larsen 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 them already cooked, cleaned, and ready to go," she says.
Spicy Garlic Chicken Pasta
Summertime Staples: Jessica Merchant from How Sweet Eats jokes that this recipe for spicy garlic pasta is so quick 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 something while waiting," she says.
Pistachio Pesto Pasta Salad with Burrata
Summertime Staples: How Sweet Eats 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, it's easy to add whichever vegetables you want to finish things off.
Hot Tip: Extra pesto sauce can last up to a week in the fridge.
Red Pepper Ricotta Zucchini Lasagna
Summertime Staples: This no-bake red pepper ricotta zucchini lasagna recipe from Salt & Wind means you won't spend hours in the kitchen. Most of your time will be spent steaming (spinach), mixing roasted bell peppers, tomato, and garlic for the sauce, and assembling the different components of the lasagna, using zucchini to give shape to the dish.
Hot Tip: "To finish the lasagna, top with the last 1/5 of the zucchini slices and gently press to make sure the lasagna adheres," writes Salt & Wind. Serve with toasted pine nuts for texture.
Easy Summer Pasta Salad
Summertime Staples: All that's required in Two Peas and Their Pod's easy summer pasta salad is to chop colorful bell peppers, cucumber, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes; add feta and basil, and dress with olive oil and the balsamic dressing of your choice. And since this recipe travels well, Two Peas and Their Pod writes, it's ideal for group outings, like a neighborhood BBQ.
Hot Tip: Don't forget to season with salt and pepper to taste, and keep refrigerated until you're ready to serve.
No-Cook Heirloom Pasta Sauce with Burrata
Summertime Staples: This pasta alla checca (no-cook heirloom pasta sauce with burrata) recipe from Salt & Wind is a cinch to prepare, so it's perfect for serving outdoors with the mid-season sun as a backdrop, or whenever you want to get in and out of the kitchen, stat. Marinate diced tomatoes in its own juices with garlic, olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes; then add torn basil, combine with pasta (and a bit of pasta water), top with burrata and more olive oil, and it's ready!
Hot Tip: If you're using mozzarella as your cheese option, stir it in when you toss the pasta and tomato mixture.
Summer Pasta Salad with Grilled Zucchini, Corn, and Cilantro Pesto
Summertime Staples: Feasting at Home uses rice noodles to create this vegetable-forward summer pasta salad dish. Featuring grilled zucchini, corn, and bell peppers, as well as a cilantro lime pesto with pumpkin seeds, this recipe is easily adapted with any grilled vegetables.
Hot Tip: For a little extra, top with grilled shrimp.
Casarecce with Griddled Asparagus, Sugar Snap Peas and Ricotta
Summertime Staples: Twirled pasta (casarecce, a Sicilian shape) meddles with seasonal produce like grilled asparagus and snap peas in Top With Cinnamon's pasta recipe. Toss with a super simple dressing of olive oil, basil, and lemon. Serve with ricotta cheese.
Hot Tip: This recipe is best served warm or at room temperature.
Maltagliati Pasta with Summer Vegetables and Ricotta Salata
Summertime Staples: Seasonal produce like zucchini, leeks, corn, and squash blossom are paired with maltagliati (or mismatched, "poorly cut") pasta in Salt & Wind's version of maltagliati pasta with summer vegetables and ricotta salata. Top with ricotta salata, olive oil, and serve.
Hot Tip: Salt & Wind writes squash blossoms (found at the farmers market or most Latin markets) should be "firm, fresh-looking, and free from any bruises or tears."