The days are ending earlier, the leaves have changed color, and the air has a raw, crisp quality. All of this can only mean one thing — summer has ended. Although autumn is a fantastic season, we can’t help but feel sad about the colder weather and lack of sunny beach days. So, what better way to reminisce about summertime than eating one of our favorite picnic foods — pasta salads.
It’s not only summery, but simple to prepare and mostly requires ingredients you already have at home. For example, no matter what kind of pasta lives in your cupboards, you can probably make it work. The Italian cuisine connoisseurs at Pasta Evangelists note that short pasta shapes work well in pasta salads, explaining that “farfalle, penne, rotini, calamarata or even orecchiette work wonderfully as their shape and size mimic that of the other ingredients in the dish.”
If you need some inspiration, though, we’ve collected three delicious pasta salad recipes that will help you forget that summer is over.
1. Aubergine pasta salad
Smokey yet summery fresh, aubergines are one of the most underrated types of vegetable out there. Not only are they incredibly nutritious, their distinct flavor immediately becomes the centerpiece of any dish they’re in, and this pasta salad is no different. Although they don’t need much to shine, the aubergines in the recipe are complemented with tangy lemon and yogurt, fragrant mint leaves, and piquant chili flakes.
Another vital part of this salad is garlic — an essential ingredient in most Italian dishes. You can either crush it over your aubergines before they go into the oven or, if you’re looking for a less pungent garlic flavor, simply place it whole on the tray and gently mash it after roasting.
- 350g penne
- 1 aubergine, diced into small cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 200ml Greek yogurt
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- Fresh mint
- Salt and pepper
- Arrange your aubergine on a baking tray. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili flakes, then toss to evenly coat. Add the garlic to the mixture.
- Roast for 30 minutes in a preheated oven (220°C), turning the aubergines halfway through. Allow cooling afterward.
- While the aubergine roasts, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling, salted water (as per packet instructions). Drain and rinse under cold running water.
- In a large bowl, combine the yogurt and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the cool pasta and aubergines to the bowl and mix well, ensuring everything is covered with the yogurt sauce.
- Garnish with mint and serve chilled.
2. Caprese pasta salad
One of the most versatile recipes, the Caprese pasta salad is a fun twist on the traditional Italian appetizer. Make sure you’re using fresh, high-quality ingredients for this, especially when it comes to tomatoes and basil, as their flavor needs to stand out. We recommend getting your hands on a range of cherry and baby plum tomatoes in a variety of colors to add more layers to the meal.
While the main ingredients — tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil — consistently appear in this dish, you can really let your imagination fly with the recipe. Adding pesto, for example, will amplify the basil further, whereas chopping up some grilled chicken can be a protein-heavy bonus to an already flavor-packed meal.
- 170g fusilli or rotini
- 300g baby plum tomatoes, quartered
- 250g mozzarella pearls
- 1 handful roasted pine nuts
- 1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, drain and run under cold water. Set aside.
- Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, pine nuts, and basil to a large mixing bowl. When the pasta is chilled, combine it with the salad.
- Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, stirring until evenly distributed. Season to taste.
- Serve with fresh basil as garnish.
3. Beetroot and salmon pasta salad
This Scandinavian-inspired take on pasta salad is perhaps not as traditional as the other recipes on this list, but it is just as delicious. What’s more, the ingredients are easy to find even in the dead of winter, and still provide the light and airy feel a pasta salad should induce. Note that this dish uses far less pasta than others, as it is meant to highlight the fresh ingredients, however, you can always add an extra 50g if you wish.
This balanced, crisp dish can be made healthier by using wholemeal pasta (or any other alternative) and fat-free yogurt instead of their counterparts. You could also serve it with a hard-boiled egg for an extra kick — a perfect midweek lunch.
- 50g fusilli
- 50g poached salmon, flaked
- 1 cooked beetroot, cut into wedges
- ½ small avocado, cubed
- 2 baby cucumbers, sliced
- 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp creamed horseradish
- 2 tbsp chopped dill
- 30g rocket
- Salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Drain and run under cold water to cool, then set aside.
- Once chilled, add the pasta to a mixing bowl along with the beets, avocado, cucumber, dill, yogurt, and horseradish. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss together well.
- Gently mix in the salmon and rocket, and serve chilled.