13 Light Summer Pasta Recipes That Prove You Can Have It All

Endless pastabilities.

By Annie Thompson

Let’s be real. Sometimes “routine” and “summer” don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. For me, at least, I can spend one day tackling an entire to-do list and the next doing pretty much nothing—meaning dinner on day two is not at the top of my priority list. One of my favorite ways to enjoy a carefree day is with summer pasta recipes that satisfy every warm-weather craving. These picks are such an easy solution for lunch or dinner at home or on the go, and everyone in your family is sure to love them. It’d be hard not to.

Pasta is a year-round staple in my kitchen. While I’ve never said no to a cheesy lasagna in the summer months, I tend to opt for summer pasta recipes with bright and light flavors, like citrus and olive oil. Pair with a protein to create a more filling bowl, or simply enjoy it as a complement to your entree. Whichever you choose, these summer pasta recipes are ones you’ll never say no to.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

13 Summer Pasta Recipes to Brighten Up Your Summer

In my moments of relaxation this summer, I’ve realized that with the passage of time (which seems to keep getting faster—it can’t just be me), when we’re not attuned to the things that make us happy, they start to pass us by. Which is definitely not the mantra of the summer. Instead, it’s much more enjoyable when we can recognize the things that make us tick and find ways to make them more present in our lives.

When we’re not attuned to the things that make us happy, they start to pass us by

But what does this have to do with pasta, you might ask? Something else that brings me joy is cooking simple foods, celebrating the flavors of the season, and savoring moments of relaxation, which are best served alongside a meal. These summer pasta recipes are perfect for enjoying the season’s sweet spontaneity and elevating the everyday. It’s time to let loose and enjoy. That’s what summer is really about.

Lemony Spring Pasta Salad with Olives, Artichokes, and Bacon

Lemony Spring Pasta Salad with Olives, Artichokes, and Bacon

Why We Love It: When I want to incorporate lemon into my pasta recipe, this is the dish I turn to. There is so much to love about the crunchy arugula and bacon combo that highlights the sweet citrus flavor of the lemon.

Hero Ingredient: Artichoke is a highly underrated and versatile ingredient.

green goddess pasta salad

Green Goddess Pasta Salad

Why We Love It: This lean, green, fighting machine pasta is vegan, full of veggies, and totally delicious. It’s the easiest way to get your daily dose of greens while enjoying a flavorful lunch or dinner that you’ll walk away from feeling refreshed. Sign me up.

Hero Ingredient: I’d be lying if I told you the green goddess dressing wasn’t the star of the show here, but I have to give props to the avocado. Creamy and undeniably swoon-worthy.

creamy lemon pasta

Creamy Lemon Pasta

Why We Love It: Creamy may not be at the top of your summer food vocabulary, but this pasta defies the rules and brings a fresh approach to indulgence. Yes, butter and cream are the foundation of its sauce (that’s seriously good enough to drink), but the addition of lemon lightens things up and makes it suitable for summer.

Hero Ingredient: A heavy hand is key when it comes to herbs and red pepper flakes.

creamy vegan pasta with tomatoes and basil

Creamy Vegan Pasta With Tomatoes and Basil

Why We Love It: This recipe continues to find its way into my rotation, and I’m amazed by its flavor each time I make it. The walnut sauce is to die for, the just-burst tomatoes are unparalleled, and the whole dish comes together in about 15 minutes. Too good to be true? Make it for yourself and find out.

Hero Ingredient: Again, pile on those garnishes. It’s the lemon zest, basil, and red chili flakes that help make this pasta shine.

rigatoni with brussels sprouts & kale pesto

Rigatoni With Brussels Sprouts & Kale Pesto

Why We Love It: Packing in the greens, this kale pesto, Brussels sprout-studded pasta is loaded with flavor and good-for-you ingredients. Think walnuts, olives, and lots of veggies. All coming together to deliver one heavenly-tasting pasta.

Hero Ingredient: Warning: You’ll want to drizzle that silky kale pesto over everything.

spaghetti alla nerano

Spaghetti alla Nerano

Why We Love It: Thinly sliced, golden brown zucchini is the feature element in this dish that’s inspired by traditional Spaghetti alla Nerano. You’d never know that it only takes 15 minutes to throw together, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner or dinner party. And, with the abundance of zucchini this time of year, there’s no time like the present to whip up this simple but impressive dish.

Hero Ingredient: Basil, basil, and more basil.

spaghetti with garlicky shrimp, asparagus, and tomatoes

Spaghetti With Garlicky Shrimp, Asparagus, & Tomatoes

Why We Love It: For a more substantial, protein-oriented pasta, look no further than this garlic shrimp spaghetti. It’s inspired by the Mediterranean diet and introduces several healthy veggies into the mix. Perfect for a satisfying summer lunch or dinner that will fill you up without weighing you down.

Hero Ingredient: Those tomatoes cook down beautifully and adopt an almost jammy consistency. Yum.

One-Pot Pasta Primavera With Summer Veggies & Ricotta

One-Pot Pasta Primavera With Summer Veggies & Ricotta

Why We Love It: More veggies! Seriously, I can’t get enough of these summer pasta recipes that celebrate the season’s produce. In this case, it’s all about asparagus, broccolini (a personal favorite), peas, and cherry tomatoes. All coming together to produce a positively palatable pasta primavera.

Hero Ingredient: Ricotta brings all kinds of creaminess to the table. (Or the noodle, rather.) It’s like a cheesy blanket that’s light enough to constitute a stunner of a summer pasta recipe.

Lemony Pasta Carbonara With Peas & Zucchini

Lemony Pasta Carbonara With Peas & Zucchini

Why We Love It: This carbonara is a little lighter than your traditional pancetta-laden dish, which we’re all about this time of year. Replacing salty meats with peas and zucchini, this creamy vegetarian version is best enjoyed al fresco.

Hero Ingredient: Peas, of course. It’s time these small-but-mighty superstars get the recognition they deserve.

summer pasta salad

Summer Pasta Salad

Why We Love It: Caramelized grilled veggies meet swirly pasta. This is the type of pasta salad you’ll want to have on hand all summer, and it’s a universal crowd-pleaser at barbecues. It’s also packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats. A win on all fronts.

Hero Ingredient: Kalamata olives bring a briny, salty flavor that makes everything else pop.

summer spaghetti with tomatoes, burrata, and basil

Summer Spaghetti With Tomatoes, Burrata, & Basil

Why We Love It: Mega-creamy burrata lovingly coats each noodle to polish off a dish you’ll want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Seriously. And if you think it sounds a little heavy for a summer evening, think again! The “sauce” is built from burst tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic. The largest bowl you have, please.

Hero Ingredient: With pasta as simple as this, make sure you’re using fresh tomatoes, fragrant basil, and good-quality olive oil. The proof is in the pudding—er, pasta.

One Pot Garlicky Mushroom Pasta With Sausage & Arugula

One Pot Garlicky Mushroom Pasta With Sausage & Arugula

Why We Love It: I know what you’re thinking. Sausage doesn’t exactly scream “light” summer pasta. But I beg to differ—here’s why. This recipe only uses a small amount of Italian sausage to basically mimic a sausage and mushroom pizza (yum), and the sauce is only lemon zest and juice, arugula, parmesan, and a little butter. I’m declaring it “light” because you can eat it for lunch without dragging through the rest of your day or enjoy it at dinner without feeling overly full. No further questions, please.

Hero Ingredient: I’m always pro-mushroom. They’re so nutritious and endlessly delicious.

summer veggie pasta salad with feta and lemon-tahini dressing

Summer Veggie Pasta Salad With Feta & Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Why We Love It: Too hot to properly enjoy a warm bowl of noodles? Not a problem. This summery pasta salad is laced with all kinds of veggies and herbs that are made even better by the miso tahini dressing that tops them. It’s healthy, balanced, and so easy to savor on even the hottest of summer days.

Hero Ingredient: A dose of salty feta in each bite really seals the deal. Feel free to pick out some cubes with your fingers. I know I will.

This post was originally published on May 28th, 2022, and has since been updated.