This easy to make pasta salad showcases the sweet flavor of roasted zucchini, complemented with fresh mozzarella, red onion and parsley. A tangy lemon and red wine vinegar dressing brings it all together. A great side for a summer barbecue!
At the start of each summer, I look forward to the arrival of deliciously sweet, in-season zucchini, and I try to find ways to put it in everything. Zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, grilled zucchini...it's good any way you make it! And, what could be better than combining zucchini with another quintessential summer dish - pasta salad!
This zucchini pasta salad keeps it simple to highlight the sweetness that comes out from roasting zucchini. The salad is tossed with a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon that adds a nice zippy flavor.
The dressing is plentiful, which helps the pasta salad stay nice and moist and flavorful, even the next day. In fact, this is one of those recipes that tastes even BETTER the next day! So, if you're looking for an easy, make-ahead side for a summer barbecue, this zucchini pasta salad's got you covered!
Here's what you'll need to make this summery zucchini pasta salad:
- Dried pasta: any medium-sized shape will work. I used shells, but rotini, farfalle, and penne would all work well.
- Fresh mozzarella balls: I used the small "pearl" size, but you can choose a larger size if you want. Below is a comparison of the "pearl" size on the top left and the larger ciliegine "cherry size" mozzarella on the bottom right. You could also cut the ciliegine into halves or quarters if you want smaller pieces but can't find the pearl size.
- Red onion: sweet onion would be a good substitute if you don't have or don't like red onion
- Fresh parsley
- Extra-virgin olive oil: I really prefer using the extra-virgin variety for the dressing because it adds such a nice peppery flavor
- Red wine vinegar
- Fresh lemon juice
- Kosher salt and black pepper
How to cut zucchini for pasta salad
So, I experimented with a couple different shapes for the zucchini. First, I tried half-moons. While it still tasted delicious, the pieces were too thin and broke apart in the salad.
So, next I tried more of a cube shape, and that worked much better! The zucchini chunks still got nice and soft after roasting. But, they held their shape much better in the salad. So, the cube shape (or chunk? large dice?) is the winner!
Cutting the zucchini into the large chunks is easy. Just quarter the zucchini lengthwise, then cut cross-wise into roughly 1 inch pieces. Here's what it looks like before and after roasting:
If you have a large zucchini, you may need to cut some of the larger chunks from the bottom part of the zucchini in half again. If you have small zucchini, you may be able to just cut it in half lengthwise once before cutting crosswise into 1 inch pieces. Most importantly, try to get your zucchini pieces all roughly the same size so they roast evenly.
I hope this pasta salad brings some summer cheer to your next barbecue! If you need a few other summer cookout sides, I've got some ideas for you. Try this recipe for Creamy Tomato Cucumber Salad, or this recipe for Cheese Pudding (it's like a savory bread pudding with lots of sharp cheddar cheese!)
If you’ve tried this recipe for Zucchini Pasta Salad, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments down below. I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see more Nibble and Dine recipes!Print
Zucchini Pasta Salad
A summery pasta salad that features roasted zucchini with a zippy lemon and red wine dressing.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 6 - 8 servings 1x
- Category: side dish
- Method: oven, stove top
- Cuisine: American
For pasta salad:
- ½ small (or ¼ large) red onion, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1.5 pounds zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)
- olive oil, for roasting
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 12 ounces medium-sized dried pasta (shells, rotini, farfalle, etc.)
- 8 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls ("pearls") (can substitute larger-sized balls, either cut in half or quarters)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Set a large stock pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta.
- Meanwhile, begin prepping the vegetables: Thinly slice the onion. If desired, place in cold water to reduce the sharp flavor. Chop the parsley, set aside.
- Prep the zucchini: Cut the zucchini into quarters lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces (see note 1). Place the zucchini on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil and toss to coat. Spread the zucchini out evenly on the baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Roast the zucchini: Once the oven is preheated, bake the zucchini for 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and flip the zucchini pieces. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the zucchini is deep golden brown. Let the zucchini cool down on the tray for a few minutes.
- Make the dressing: while the zucchini is in the oven, combine all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk with a fork, set aside.
- Cook the pasta: Once the pasta water is boiling, add a few large pinches of salt to the water (see note 2). Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. When cooked, drain and rinse under cold water for a few seconds to cool down the pasta, and drain again very well.
- Assemble the salad: Add the pasta to a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat. Add the onion, parsley, zucchini and mozzarella balls and toss again gently to evenly coat the ingredients in the dressing. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, covered, and serve the next day (tastes even better!).
If the zucchini is large, you may need to cut some of the bigger chunks in half again to end up with evenly sized pieces.
Make sure to add a generous amount of salt to the pasta water, this is the only way to season the pasta itself and will really enhance the flavor of the overall salad.
Keywords: zucchini pasta salad, pasta salad, roasted zucchini, side dish, summer side dish, summer sides