This fresh-flavored summer pasta salad combines zucchini, sweet bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and feta cheese with a tangy, creamy lemon dressing.

Bowl of pasta salad made with zucchini, tomatoes, bell pepper and feta cheese.

A colorful assortment of fresh seasonal produce is the highlight of this tasty summer pasta salad. Tossed with a dressing made with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, grated zest, garlic, and a splash of cream, it makes a great side dish or turns into an easy dinner by adding a protein (see variations below).

How to Make Creamy Lemon Pasta Salad

  1. Prepare the dressing: Combine the olive oil, mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, half-and-half, and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta: Put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  3. Season the pasta: Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain and transfer it to a large bowl. Toss with about 1/2 of the prepared dressing, season to taste with salt and pepper, then set it aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Add in the remaining ingredients: Add the diced zucchini, bell pepper, halved grape tomatoes, chopped onion, parsley, and crumbled feta cheese. Combine well.
  5. Let the flavors develop: Add the remaining dressing, combine well, then set the pasta salad aside for 10 to 15 minutes to give the flavors a chance to develop. You can also refrigerate it at this time to serve later.
  6. Finishing the dish: Before serving, taste one more time and adjust the seasoning if needed. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and garnish with a little freshly ground black pepper.

Pasta Salad Variations

  • Change the type of pasta: The pasta we chose for this dish is mini farfalle, but any cut that holds sauce, or in this case, dressing well will do. Other possibilities include penne, rigatoni, and medium shells.
  • Mix up the veggies: We favor this easy combination of zucchini, grape (or cherry tomatoes), and sweet bell pepper, but fresh green beans that have been trimmed and blanched, shaved Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or broccoli florets, and diced carrots are all great alternatives.
  • Dress up the dressing: A handful of fresh basil leaves cut chiffonade style is a great way to add extra flavor to this creamy lemon dressing. Or, if you love fresh herbs, try our recipe for Green Goddess Dressing which features tarragon, chives, and parsley.
  • Try a different cheese: We like feta because it pairs so well with the fresh lemon flavor in the dressing, but the grassy flavor of crumbled goat cheese is a great alternative. Fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes would also be delicious, especially if you opt to add some fresh basil to the dressing. If you decide to try Green Goddess in place of the lemon dressing, think about omitting the cheese completely and adding diced avocado instead.
  • Add protein and make it a meal: Turn this pasta salad into an easy dinner by adding grilled chicken or shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, or chickpeas for a vegetarian alternative.
Serving of summer pasta salad made with bowtie pasta, veggies, and crumbled feta cheese.

More Summer Salad Recipes:

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Summer Pasta Salad Recipe

Creamy Lemon Pasta Salad

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This fresh-flavored summer pasta salad combines zucchini, sweet bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and feta cheese with a tangy, creamy lemon dressing.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces pasta, farfalle, rotini, penne
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1 lemon
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest, from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half or cream
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped

Instructions

  • Prepare the dressing by combining the olive oil, mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, half-and-half and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended and set aside.
  • Put a pot of salted water on to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Once it's done to your liking, drain and transfer it to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add about half of the dressing, combine well, and season the pasta taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  • Add the zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, parsley, and feta cheese and toss to combine. Taste adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Stir in the remaining dressing and set the pasta salad aside for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate it to serve later (see notes).
  • Just before serving, taste for seasoning one last time and make any needed adjustments. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and top with some freshly ground black pepper.

Tips for Making This Recipe

Make-ahead tips: This pasta salad can easily be completed ahead of time and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 24 hours. For best flavor, remove from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before you want to serve and follow the finishing instructions in step #6 above.

Recipe Variations:

  • Change the type of pasta: The pasta we chose for this dish is mini farfalle, but any cut that holds sauce, or in this case, dressing well will do. Other possibilities include penne, rigatoni, and medium shells.
  • Mix up the veggies: We favor this easy combination of zucchini, grape (or cherry tomatoes), and sweet bell pepper, but fresh green beans that have been trimmed and blanched, shaved Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or broccoli florets, and diced carrots are all great alternatives.
  • Dress up the dressing: A handful of fresh basil leaves cut chiffonade style is a great way to add extra flavor to this creamy lemon dressing. Or, if you love fresh herbs, try our recipe for Green Goddess Dressing which features tarragon, chives, and parsley.
  • Try a different cheese: We like feta because it pairs so well with the fresh lemon flavor in the dressing, but the grassy flavor of crumbled goat cheese is a great alternative. Fresh mozzarella cut into small cubes would also be delicious, especially if you opt to add some fresh basil to the dressing. If you decide to try Green Goddess in place of the lemon dressing, think about omitting the cheese completely and adding diced avocado instead.
  • Add protein and make it a meal: Turn this pasta salad into an easy dinner by adding grilled chicken or shrimp, hard-boiled eggs, or chickpeas for a vegetarian alternative.
Calories: 282kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 21mg, Sodium: 656mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 12g, Calcium: 57mg, Iron: 2mg
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