It’s the season of grilled showstoppers and big, easy desserts, but summer pastas may just be the unsung heroes of seasonal cookouts and busy weeknights. Potentially portable, frequently vegetarian and reliably comforting, these recipes from New York Times Cooking can shine at a potluck or be thrown together as an easy dinner for two, with leftovers you’ll definitely look forward to.
The kitchen’s greatest crime might be overcooked, mushy asparagus. Thankfully, Eric Kim’s pasta recipe ensures that those stalks receive the proper treatment. Here, they’re tossed in at the end, so the residual heat of the cooked pasta coddles them without overcooking them. It’s a perfect textural contrast to the sumptuous cream and bites of salty roasted gim.
Zucchini shines in this straightforward recipe from David Tanis, who calls for his summer pastas to be “simple and fresh, ideally made with vegetables straight from the garden or market.” Summer squash of any kind could work here. It’s cooked until soft and slightly supple, bolstered at the end with fresh lemon zest, crushed red pepper and creamy ricotta.
This weeknight-fast pasta from Melissa Clark, easily served at room temperature, is also a great addition to any weekend potluck or picnic. Asparagus is quickly sautéed, providing welcome snap and bite, alongside creamy tangy feta and yogurt. A shower of freshly torn mint and chopped scallions adds extra brightness.
Cooked down until it’s jammy, grated zucchini lets its sweet, satisfying traits show in this pasta from Ali Slagle. If you’re not in a rush, keep cooking: Those flavors only improve the longer the zucchini stews. The reward for your patience is properly caramelized zucchini that can be easily frozen for the next time you make this recipe (and there will absolutely be a next time).
Every summer presents a paradox: Eggplants are in peak form, but heat makes turning on the oven so unappealing. To that end, Kay Chun offers this stovetop recipe, ready in a fraction of the time. Eggplant turns tender, almost melting into a pantry-friendly tomato sauce, before being topped with Parmesan, toasted panko bread crumbs and a healthy slice of mozzarella. You’ll wonder why there’s any other way to make eggplant Parmesan.
Ali Slagle’s tomato-butter pasta takes a cue from pan con tomate for an easy recipe that requires zero knife work (yes, zero). Instead, she looks to the box grater to break down the tomato and garlic — and even crumble frozen butter. Starch from warm pasta water turns the ingredients into a thick, glossy sauce, glazing the pasta from the inside-out. But choose ripe, in-season tomatoes, if you can. As Ali says, “If your tomatoes are tasteless, your pasta will be, too.”
Nothing compares with corn at the height of summer. Melissa Clark makes the most of those peak kernels, using them two ways: first, as the base of a luxurious sauce, then whole and tenderly cooked for texture. While the recipe says out-of-season or even frozen corn can work here, take advantage of those fresh, in-season ears.
While Eric Kim’s recipe can be made year-round, this vibrant pasta really sings with late summer tomatoes, when they’re at peak flavor and retain less water. For best results, use smaller, more intense varieties, like plum, grape, cherry and Campari. Comforting but light enough when the days are hot, this recipe will become your seasonal stalwart.
When a heat wave comes through, consider this recipe. It makes use of a no-cook sauce of fresh tomatoes and their juices. When combined with warm pasta, fresh goat cheese melts naturally, for a creamy, comforting sauce that hugs each bite of pasta.
Punchy jerk seasoning and one mighty Scotch bonnet pepper bring out the best in this Rasta pasta recipe from Millie Peartree. She recommends a combination of colors for the recipe’s bell peppers — just right for the rainbow of summer peppers, each offering a different kind of sweetness.
Tomato enthusiasts will rejoice at this Ali Slagle recipe, which uses fresh and sun-dried tomatoes. Full of saturated oomph, sun-dried tomatoes are tossed with toasted chopped nuts for much-welcome texture. A gang of greens — arugula, herbs or a combination of both — join at the end, adding even more brightness to this summery pasta salad.
What’s the point of a pasta salad if it’s not portable and potluck-ready? Kay Chun’s version will have everyone asking for the recipe. It’s easily made ahead and better at room temperature as bites of sweet, stewed-down peppers and tomatoes beautifully complement crumbled feta.
No food processor? No problem. Ali Slagle’s pesto requires no special equipment. Instead, herbs, garlic, nuts and salt are purposefully chopped and smashed into a paste until they’re seamlessly transformed into a bright pesto and tossed with pasta and peas.
Don’t overlook the abundance of cherry tomatoes available during the summer. While larger varieties are often the backbone of pasta sauces, they can lack the concentrated sweetness of their smaller siblings. In this easy weeknight recipe, Naz Deravian marries frozen shrimp, a freezer staple for most, with colorful cherry tomatoes that develop even deeper flavor thanks to a fennel- and garlic-infused oil.