5 Versatile Summer Pasta Dishes


A perennial favorite, pasta lends itself especially well to summertime cooking. Here’s a look at some fresh takes on pasta night, guaranteed to be crowd pleasers. These summer pasta dishes are quick and easy to make, and they are incredibly delicious!

1. Penne with Grilled Summer Vegetables

The bright colors and fresh flavors in this pasta make it a great weeknight go-to. Serve with grilled chicken or fish for a light meal that satisfies.


  • 1 box penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 package mushrooms (any kind) sliced
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can Italian seasoned diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot full of salted boiling water. Drain, but do not rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add peppers and onions and sauté over medium heat until they begin to soften. Add remaining fresh vegetables and garlic and sauté an additional 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add canned tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir well until tomatoes are heated through, and then remove from heat. Spoon sauce over warm pasta and top with shredded Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, if desired.

Mix it up: Make this simple pasta a one-pot meal by browning a pound of spicy Italian sausage in the pan before adding peppers. Top with shredded cheese and chopped spinach.

2. Spaghetti with Basil, Tomatoes and Cheese

Inspired by the classic combinations of a caprese salad, this pasta dish comes together in a flash.


  • 1 box thin spaghetti pasta
  • 2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups buffalo mozzarella pearls (If you can’t find the small rounds, just look for fresh buffalo mozzarella and dice into small pieces)
  • ½ cup grated Asiago or Pecorino cheese

In a glass bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, olive oil and vinegar. Allow to sit for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until cooked through, but still firm to the bite. Drain pasta, but do not rinse. Return pasta to pot.

Drain ½ cup of the liquid from the tomato mixture and pour over warm pasta. Toss to coat well. Add cheeses, turning heat back on to lowest setting, and stir until cheeses just begin to soften and melt. Turn off heat, transfer pasta to large serving bowl, and toss well with tomato mixture.

Mix it up: Try a fresh new twist on spaghetti night. Mix equal parts ground pork and veal, add shredded Asiago cheese, fresh chopped flat leaf parsley, Italian seasoned bread crumbs and an egg. Roll into balls, fry or bake until golden browned and add to the pasta just before serving.

More: 10 Summer Family Dinner Ideas

3. Antipasto Pasta Salad

A crowd-pleasing treat, this salad travels well for picnics and barbecues. Make plenty, this is one recipe that always goes fast.


  • 1 box medium seashell pasta, cooked and drained
  • ¼ pound Genoa salami, cubed
  • 2 cups mini pepperonis
  • ¼ pound Asiago cheese, cubed
  • ¼ pound Fontina cheese, cubed
  • 1 jar pitted Kalamata olives, drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 envelope dry Italian dressing mix
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine pasta, salami, pepperoni, cheeses, peppers and tomatoes. Sprinkle with the dressing mix and toss well to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. You don’t have to marinate this long, an hour will do. But the longer you let it sit, the better the flavors will meld.

In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad, mix well and serve.

Mix it up: Give this delicious salad a Mediterranean twist by replacing the Fontina cheese with crumbled feta and adding a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped.

More: 10 Fresh Summer Salads

4. Creamy Pesto Shrimp and Angel Hair

An Italian favorite, rich pesto sauce is a delicious change from marinara sauces. Look for jarred pesto sauce in the refrigerated pasta section of your grocery store.


  • 1 box angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups half and half or heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup pesto sauce
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. And half and half (or cream) and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the Parmesan and pesto, stirring to combine well. Continue to stir and cook for 5 more minutes, until thick and creamy. Stir in the shrimp and continue cooking for another 6 minutes, or until the shrimp turns pink and opaque. Serve over warm pasta.

Mix it up: This bright and creamy sauce tastes just as good with any seafood. Try using crab meat, halibut filets or even swordfish steaks instead of the shrimp.

More: 10 Healthy, Low-Calorie Summer Snacks

5. Summer Zucchini Orzo

Zucchini and squash taste their best in the summer. Pair this light side dish with chicken, fish, or lamb, and serve with a crisp white wine.


  • 1 box orzo pasta, cooked to al dente and drained
  • Juice from one large lemon
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow crookneck squash, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, sauté white and green onions in olive oil until soft and translucent, but not browned. Add garlic, zucchini and squash and cook another 10-15 minutes, until softened. Add orzo, lemon juice, lime juice and lime zest and toss to mix well. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Mix it up: Turn this simple pasta dish into a hearty vegetarian main course with the addition of chopped eggplant, mushrooms, snap peas and tomatoes.

Summer is the perfect time to make light pasta dishes. There’s no time to cook the whole day or evening, when there are so many interesting things to do outside. Enjoy this summer season with these versatile summer pasta dishes and feel free to share your recipes with us in the comments section.