Summer Pasta Salad

Photo: The Jewels of New York

The Salad Where Every Forkful Is Perfect
Pasta shape may be one of the most important aspects of the dish in question, but it's one we often gloss right over when we're just grabbing whatever's in the pantry. This rendition, though, is a terrific example of how pasta shape can make or break a salad. It has you use orecchiette, a pasta the size of a thumbprint that's shaped like a cupped hand and perfect for catching the dish's other components—lemon zest, garlic, tomatoes, cannellini beans, chopped hazelnuts and torn mint leaves—so every bite delivers maximum flavor and texture.

Get the recipe: Summer Pasta Salad
Spicy Peanut Shirataki Noodles

Photo: Paul Sirisalee

A Healthy Salad with a New Kind of "Pasta"
No-cook noodles that pack fewer than 20 calories per serving may sound impossible—until you meet shirataki noodles. These are springy when served al dente and made from Japanese white yams (look for the noodles near the tofu in your grocery store). The strands are very mild tasting, so this recipe has you toss them with a creamy, Southeast Asian-inspired sauce that packs a fiery punch; as well as a verdant mixture of fresh herbs, including basil and cilantro.

Get the recipe: Spicy Peanut Shirataki Noodles
Grilled Squash and Orzo Salad

Photo: Erin Kunkel

The Goes-with-Anything Grilled Side
If you're cooking dinner outside over the coals, odds are this orzo salad will complement your main course nicely. It includes yellow squash and zucchini (and, if you'd like, cherry tomatoes) that you grill for about eight minutes, until tender. Their subtle smoky taste is a nice pairing for any meat or fish cooked using the same method.

Get the recipe: Grilled Squash and Orzo Salad with Pine Nuts and Mint
tahini pasta salad

Photo: Alison Gootee

A Rich and Creamy Dish Without Mayo
Tahini, a Middle Eastern paste made from ground sesame seeds, isn't just for hummus. Having the consistency of smooth peanut butter, tahini blends well with olive oil, soy sauce, honey and garlic; it also makes a savory dressing that can stand up to whole grain pasta, which has a more robust flavor. The other ingredients in this healthy, vibrant salad: cucumber, red bell pepper, yogurt and a squirt of lemon juice.

Get the recipe: Creamy Tahini Pasta Salad
Edamame, Red Pepper and Tofu Sesame Noodles

Photo: Alison Gootee

An Asian Classic with a Trick Up Its Sleeve
A tangle of angel-hair pasta; thin strips of sweet red bell pepper; half-moons of refreshing cucumber; and, bright green, crisp-tender edamame are reasons enough to love this main-course noodle salad. But what makes it sing is its dressing, which, in addition to the usual soy sauce, sesame oil and Dijon mustard, includes rich, syrupy molasses, an ingredient that adds fantastic flavor and also helps the sauce stick to every ingredient. Finally, a smattering of sliced scallions and sesame seeds on top gives the dish even more color and texture.

Get the recipe: Edamame, Red Pepper and Tofu Sesame Noodles