One of the best parts about summer has got to be the produce. From fresh corn to juicy tomatoes, the warmer months make for some of the most exciting cooking. One of our favorite vehicles for the season's ripest picks? Pasta, especially the ones listed here.
These are pastas to serve still steaming—whether you're fresh off a full day of beach lounging or at an elegant outdoor summer soirée, the kind where you're wearing seersucker, and the napkins are linen, and the lights are twinkling.
But these are also the pastas to eat in the realer moments of July and August: when the A.C. is broken; when your face is hot with sunburn; when it's midnight and you're standing in front of the fridge, not wearing pants, eating your way through the plastic storage container, noodle by noodle, using your fingers.
So without further ado, we present: the best pasta recipes of summer, aka the pastas we've waited all year to make.
This wonderfully green pasta uses fresh herbs (like rosemary, thyme, parsley, and basil) two ways: first, sautéed with crushed garlic; second, added fresh into the pasta with a big pat of butter. We'll call that a win-win.
If you think pesto is best made with basil and pine nuts, this flavorful version made with blanched Swiss chard stalks and pepitas will probably make you reconsider.
Simple and oh-so-satisfying, this few-ingredient pasta dishes relies on your herbs of choice, penne rigate, butter, and freshly shelled English peas.
Summer is, above all else, tomato season. And this light and creamy (and did we mention vegan?) spaghetti makes the most of bright, flavor-packed bursts of heirloom tomatoes.
The best way to make spaghetti alle vongole: Bathe your clams in a sauce of olive oil, parsley, garlic, and red pepper flakes before tossing them in a hearty portion of spaghetti. Oh, and don't forget a big squeeze of fresh lemon.
This pasta borrows from cacio e pepe, in that cheese, starchy cooking water, and spices (black pepper! star anise!) form the base of the velvety, noodle-coating sauce. But then there's also tender roasted broccoli and plump pieces of chicken breast and a whole tangle of herbs thrown in there for good measure.
Yes, this pasta's got crunchy corn, delicate pea tendrils, and salty prosciutto, but feel free to toss in anything else you find at the farmer's market—that's what we call "summer savory."
We'll never say no to noodles swimming in butter, but this version—with corn and smoky bacon—takes the concept to the next level.
What do you get when you cross creamy, cheesy, spiced-up Mexican street corn with perfectly al dente pasta? The summer dinner to end all summer dinners. Make sure your corn is way ripe and sweet for this—it'll pay off big-time.
An Italian favorite, this seemingly humble dish is full of clean summer flavors thanks to garlic fried until golden brown and zucchini that's cooked until just tender.
Squash is a summer staple, and this recipe—which calls on kitchen staples like butter, onion, garlic, and nutmeg—is the best way to use it up.
Mild summer squash, licorice-y tarragon, and tangy sheep's milk ricotta are balanced with just a touch of sweetness from honey and nutmeg. Don't be shy with a dusting of Pecorino on top.
Like a caprese salad, but make it pasta. This dish has got all of the hits—ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and balsamic—and throws in a bit of red onion and a swirly pasta shape to tie everything together.
Parmesan and mozzarella might be the first cheeses that come to mind for a summer pasta, but creamy brie makes an excellent and interesting addition to what would otherwise be a straightforward recipe.
Tomato water—diced tomatoes seasoned with salt, then strained directly over the pan—plus butter are the secret ingredients to this Genius summer pasta.
Martha Stewart's famous one-pan pasta is famous for a reason. The pasta is boiled in a single pan, makes its own sauce in that same pan, and takes just about nine minutes.
17. Cold Sauce
Cold sauce might not sound appealing, but give this recipe—which uses a food processor to make a sauce of uncooked tomatoes—a chance, and we bet you'll change your mind.
Inspired by Marcella Hazan’s buttery tomato sauce, this two-ingredient, no-cook take (though you will need to boil some pasta) comes together in a flash.
A nod to Sicilian flavors, this pasta dish calls on gently cooked swordfish (low and slow is the name of the game), fresh oregano, and anchovies for its addictive savoriness.
Barely cooked, highly sweet and juicy Beefsteak tomatoes are combined with butter, garlic, and basil to form the "pure embodiment of summer," according to recipe developer Josh Cohen.
This vegetarian-friendly pasta dish gets its kick from a healthy sprinkle of red chili flakes and marvelous mix of flavors from roasted eggplant, plum tomatoes, oregano, and basil.
One of Sicily's most famous dishes, this creamy, almost melt-in-your-mouth pasta wouldn't be complete without a dusting of ricotta salata cheese.
It's no surprise that this Sunday dinner-worthy spaghetti—dressed in a rich, simmered tomato and eggplant sauce—took home a Wildcard Contest win.
When you need to feed a big, hungry crowd, this low-maintenance baked eggplant pasta is definitely your best bet.
Tender Japanese eggplant, miso, and a touch of mirin and dark brown sugar help make this humble spaghetti dish something really exceptional. It comes together in a flash, too—just 20 minutes or so.
This clever take on pesto, which uses peeled tomatoes, almonds, celery and parsley leaves, and basil of course, is great not only tossed with pasta, but also spread on sandwiches and the like.
There's no better time to make this pasta dish—a mix of bacon, garlic, and whatever vegetables are in season—than on a Saturday or Sunday evening after a long day at the beach.
A few dollops of creamy ricotta cheese takes this summery pasta, typical of Puglia in Italy, well over the top.
Speaking of ricotta, one community member made this pasta twice: once with store-bought ricotta and tomatoes; the second time with homemade ricotta and garden tomatoes. The result: A win on both fronts, but extra-tasty with the fresh-made ingredients. (Hint: If you need a killer homemade ricotta recipe, look no further.)
Vegan lasagna doesn't need to be any less rich or creamy than its dairy-filled counterpart, and this version—made with extra-firm tofu and nutritional yeast—proves just that.
With sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, and roasted zucchini, this pasta recipe is basically summer in a bowl. It gets bonus points for a buttery crunch with the pine nuts.
Feel free to make the garlic confit and the slow-cooked tomatoes in this recipe up to a few days in advance; they'll keep well in the fridge for up to a week without losing any of their flavor.
This hearty pasta sauce inspired by Alice Waters' ratatouille was a contest finalist for "Your Best Grilling Recipe"—and for very good reason. Smoky grilled vegetables are chopped coarsely and cooked into a thick, silky sauce before clinging to your very favorite pasta shape (we like campanelle, but penne or rigatoni would work a treat, too). One summer, a very smart community member simmered this in her Instant Pot because her kitchen was too hot for the stove. Be like that community member.
This super speedy pasta recipe celebrates tomatoes in all their glory—a trio of tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, and canned cherry tomatoes build the base for this summery sauce.
There is so much zucchini to take advantage of in the summer. So we did just that, by sautéing grated zucchini until it’s just barely caramelized, then whirring it with pistachios, lemon zest, olive oil, and basil.
We love the crispy, crumbly excitement of stuffed zucchini, but we don’t necessarily love all of the work that it requires, especially for a quick weeknight dinner. This version has all the elements you love, including panko, pancetta, and sautéed zucchini, just in a simpler, more casual format.
This recipe specifically calls for a “boatload of cherry tomatoes,” which are sautéed until they begin to char, split at the skins, and release their juices. “The secret to it being creamy but not too creamy? Half-and-half,” adds food editor Emma Laperruque.
This three-ingredient pasta sauce recipe is iconic for a reason. It transforms ripe tomatoes, butter, and raw onion into a quick, rich sauce that becomes the star of the show.
Silky isn’t necessarily a word I’d use to describe eggplant…until now. The purple summer vegetable is diced and sautéed in a lot of olive oil until it softens and starts to break down; once that happens, it’s steamed just until it transforms into something resembling a smooth sauce. You get all of the lovely eggplant flavor and silken texture, with none of the stress.
This eye-popping, vibrant pasta dish looks and tastes like the epitome of summer cooking.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now