This healthy Summer Pasta Salad recipe may be the best I’ve tried to date! Packed with sauteed zucchini, loads of parmesan cheese, fresh dill and crunchy walnuts.
I need to preface this post by saying that this recipe is entirely inspired by my current cooking idol – Alison Roman, and her pasta salad recipe.
This isn’t the pasta salad that I grew up with.
Maybe you grew up with the same type?
Rotini pasta tossed in Italian dressing, maybe with a bit of cubed salami and cheddar cheese, some black olives and tomatoes? You know the one???
No, this is the grown up version of pasta salad.
This healthy summer pasta salad is laced with sauteed zucchini, capers, fresh parsley & dill, and loads of parmesan cheese. And to top it all off? Some buttery, crunchy walnuts…
You have got to try this you guys! I declare it to be the BEST summer pasta salad.
This salad actually reminds me a LOT of my recipe for Zucchini Noodles with Fresh Herbs & Fried Capers. It has so many of the same ingredients. However, that recipe is served warm, and half of the noodles are made with zucchini, the other half are real pasta. And the crunchy bits on top are actually fried capers (PS – they’re so good!).
In this recipe, you have the option to serve the pasta salad either hot, warm, or cold.
The first night, I served it warm. Because I just couldn’t wait for it to chill out in the fridge. I wanted to eat it right away.
But then, the next day I was able to indulge in the leftovers. And I just may say, this pasta salad tastes even better the next day – cold.
My version strays from Alison’s original recipe in a couple ways – I used shallots instead of scallions, since that’s what I had on hand and I love their flavor. I used a bit more zucchini since it soaks up all the yummy flavors. And, I cut back on the fresh herbs a bit, since I found them to be just a little bit overpowering for my taste.
Here’s a few tips I learned from Alison:
- Saute your walnuts in olive oil to release all their yummy flavor, and then use that oil to sautee your zucchini.
- Instead of grating your parmesan – take the time to cut it into pea-sized pieces. That way, you get loads more flavor and bite.
- Use less pasta than you’d think you’d need – This pasta salad is more veggies that noodles. And it’s delicious that way!
- Swap the shallots for onion or green onions.
- Swap out the parmesan for feta or goat cheese.
- Swap out the dill and/or parsley for other favorite herbs – mint, oregano, cilantro will all work here.
- Swap out the walnuts for another favorite like almonds, pecans or cashews.
- Swap in your favorite pasta shape. The first time I used bucatini, the next time I used orecchiette. Any shape will work!
As written, this summer pasta salad is vegetarian. But, you could also add in some cubed chicken, salami, or sausage.
Thanks again Alison Roman for this amazing pasta salad recipe!
If you loved this easy summer pasta salad recipe I would appreciate it so much if you would give this recipe a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.
More cold pasta salad recipes:
- Mexican Street Corn Salad with Pearl Couscous
- Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh Salad
- Vietnamese Noodle Salad (Bun Bo Xao)
More summer salad recipes:
- Farro Salad with Basil Lemon Tahini Dressing
- Cherry Tomato Salad with Roasted Lemons
- Grilled Potato Salad with Tangy Mustard Dressing
- Chicken Cobb Salad
- Southwest Salad with Chicken & Pico de Gallo
- Kale Caesar Salad Recipe
Summer Pasta Salad with Zucchini & Parmesan
- 8 ounces pasta (such as orecchiette, rigatoni or another tubular shape (half package))
- ¼ cup olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
- ½ cup walnuts (coarsely chopped)
- 2 shallots (minced)
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 medium zucchini (about 1 ½ pounds, thinly sliced)
- 2 Tablespoons capers
- 3 cloves garlic (finely grated)
- 3-4 Tablespoons lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
- 2 ounces parmesan (coarsely chopped (about 3/4 cup))
- 1/4 cup parsley (coarsely chopped)
- ¼ cup dill leaves (coarsely chopped)
- Kosher salt and pepper (to taste)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts and toast until fragrant and golden, 2-3 minutes. Remove nuts (leaving oil in pan) using a slotted spoon and season them with salt.
- Add the shallots to the skillet with oil and cook over medium-high heat until softened, 2-3 minutes.
- Add crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and half the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and cook until beginning to soften, 6-8 minutes. Add the remaining zucchini and capers and season again with salt and pepper. Cook 6-8 minutes longer, until the remaining zucchini begins to soften.
- Add the garlic and lemon juice and toss to combine.
- Add the pasta, walnuts, parmesan and herbs and gently toss again. Drizzle with additional olive oil and season again with salt and pepper, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Enjoy!