Fresh Tomato Pasta Salad Is the Side Dish of the Summer

I’m growing tomatoes for the second summer in a row, four huge plants that began with leaves, then flowers, and that are now adorned with green fruit that’s getting larger every day.

Top-down shot of a light blue glass bowl of pasta salad with a wooden spoon, on a folded gray cloth with a small sprig of basil and three red tomatoes.

I keep checking on them, every time I’m outside – with the dog, to get the paper, about to go for a walk – impatiently waiting for them to ripen, to be ready to eat.

Two rounded square white ceramic plates and a light blue glass bowl of pasta salad with fresh mozzarella and basil.

Most times, I pull away a few dead leaves – there are bunches of them – even though I have no idea if this is a good thing to do. I just want to help them along, to do whatever I can to encourage them to redden.

Oblique shot of two white plates and a pale blue glass bowl of pasta salad, with two red tomatoes on a green vine, and a folded gray cloth.

And I’ll be honest. Last year, I took the majority of my Roma tomatoes inside too soon. This was mainly because I’d planted them near a sprinkler head, which the plant grew over and then felt the effects of every day, making a whole side of it die thanks to oversaturation.

Vertical image of a blue glass bowl of pasta salad with basil and mozzarella, with a brown wooden spoon, in front of three red tomatoes with red stems, on a tan surface.

Bringing them inside seemed like the right thing to do then, the best way to protect what remained from being ruined. But this was a mistake, and they just weren’t ready.

Top-down shot of a blue glass bowl and two white plates of pasta salad, with a cluster of three red tomatoes on the vine, on a gray cloth.

With this year’s group, every time I pull away shriveled leaves, feel the branches of the vines between my fingers, I walk away with the most delicious smell that lingers on my hands. It’s a mix of dirt and green growth and fresh, newly-formed fruit all in one, the smell of tomatoes, the smell of summer.

Top-down shot of two white rounded square plates and a light blue glass bowl of pasta salad, with three tomatoes on the vine on a folded gray cloth.

It will probably be a few weeks – maybe a month? – before my tomatoes are ready. And this is just a guess, this since I have no legitimate knowledge of how long tomatoes take to ripen. One thing’s for sure: I’ll be the first to notice when they’re ready.

A forkful of pasta, mozzarella cheese, and fresh tomato is held up to the camera, with the rest of the fresh vegetable and macaroni salad in a blue bowl and on white plates in the background, with whole tomatoes on the vine and a folded cloth.

Meanwhile, a girl’s got to get her summer tomato fix when she wants it. So, I made the following pasta dish. It’s really as simple as a homemade weeknight dinner can be.

It’s quick and easy, comprised of fresh, healthy ingredients that are as natural as they are packed with flavor. And I can’t wait to make it again, as soon as the fresh produce from my own garden is ready to harvest and enjoy.

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Tomato pasta salad in a blue bowl with a brown wooden spoon.

The Best Tomato Pasta Salad


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Category: Pasta Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Side Dish

Description

Summertime picnics call for the best sides, and this tomato pasta salad is a winner. You won’t believe how light and bright it is.


Ingredients

For the Dressing:

For the Salad:

  • 8 oz penne pasta
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced (approximately 2 ½-3 cups)
  • 2/3 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Cook penne pasta according to the instructions on the box. Drain in a colander, and add to the large bowl with the dressing. Toss to combine.
  3. When the pasta stops steaming, cool completely in the refrigerator, approximately 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from the refrigerator and add the mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese. Stir to make sure everything is incorporated well.
  5. Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Notes

You can make this recipe up to a day in advance. Simply complete steps 1 and 2, then chill. When you’re ready to serve, stir in the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and parmesan.

Keywords: tomato, pasta, basil, mozzarella, summer

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop, Grate, and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Chop the tomatoes and mozzarella into bite-sized chunks. Set aside, or keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Chop the basil and set aside or refrigerate.

Grate the parmesan cheese.

Bowls of uncooked penne, fresh mozzarella, and minced garlic, with a yellow lemon, a bunch of green basil, and a cluster of six red tomatoes on the vine, on a beige countertop.

Zest and juice the lemon, and mince the garlic.

Measure all remaining ingredients, and keep them out on your counter or workspace in the order listed in the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Make Dressing

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Black pepper, salt, lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, and olive oil in a blue glass bowl bowl on a beige surface.

Whisk until well combined.

A wire whisk rests in a light blue glass bowl, with a yellow vinaigrette mixture at the bottom, on a beige countertop.

Adjust seasoning to taste, and set aside.

Step 3 – Cook Pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Cooked pasta in water in a copper colored saucepan, with a wooden spoon, on a beige countertop.

Add the penne pasta, and cook until al dente, according to the instructions on the box.

Step 4 – Dress and Cool Pasta

Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the dressing you made. A quick rinse with cool water can help to bring down the temperature of the macaroni more quickly.

A blue glass bowl of cooked penne pasta dressed with a lemon vinaigrette flecked with black pepper, on a beige countertop.

Toss to coat the pasta. Set aside until it finished steaming, then set the bowl in the refrigerator to cool completely, for approximately 30 minutes.

Step 5 – Finish Salad

Once the pasta is cooled, add the mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and parmesan.

Chunks of mozzarella, chopped basil, chopped tomato, and penne pasta in a light blue glass bowl on a beige countertop.

Stir well to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated and equally distributed.

Serve immediately, or chill until you are ready to serve.

Garden Fresh Is Always Best

The key to a really amazing pasta salad is fresh ingredients. While you can always use fresh tomatoes and basil from the supermarket, if you want to take this salad to a whole new level, use ingredients from the garden.

If you happen to be a gardener, you most likely already have tomatoes and basil growing out back. Looking for some tips to get started? Check out these expert guides on our sister site, Gardener’s Path.

Tomato pasta salad in a blue bowl with a brown wooden spoon.

The beauty of this simple salad is, no matter what type of tomatoes you are growing in your garden, you can use them to make this salad.

From vine-ripe farmhouse tomatoes to plum, cherry, or grape, and heirloom to beefsteak, each brings a unique flavor to the party. With the simple ingredients in this pasta salad, you are guaranteed to have a delicious tasting end result no matter which variety you have on hand.

Don’t have a garden? Head to your local farmers market instead for the freshest ingredients available.

The only question is, when’s the next gathering, so you can bust out this recipe? Tell us in the comments below what you like best about this dish, and be sure to give it a five-star rating if you loved it!


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing different views of a tomato pasta salad recipe.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 8th, 2008. Last updated: August 28, 2018 at 15:30 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

5 thoughts on “Fresh Tomato Pasta Salad Is the Side Dish of the Summer

  1. I LOVE home-grown tomatoes! I always go to this farm stand in Tinley Park to get these jumbo home-grown pieces of heaven. Kudos to you for doing it yourself! I don’t have the time, nor the patience. When they are ready, you will be in paradise!

  2. Hey Shannalee, I always knew you can’t beat the taste of fresh tomatoes. This recipe was simple to put together and gave lots of flavor. Keep your inspirations coming.

  3. Hey Shannalee,
    Have you tried this same recipe using halved grape tomatoes? I actually prefer the taste of grape tomatoes; you get all the flavor of a tomato but with a bit of sweetness from the grape variance. Incredible explosions in the pallet, I also like to drizzle a little Balsamic Vinegar in the paste as I often like to experiment with my food. You should try it, who knows, you might like it.

  4. Kiet: You know, I haven’t had a grape tomato in SO LONG! I can’t even remember what it tastes like. I’ll have to give your idea a shot soon—sounds great!

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