This vegetarian summer pasta salad is a fresh, healthy and comes together in 25 minutes. Tender rigatoni noodles are tossed with sautéed veggies, toasted walnuts, parmesan cheese, capers, lemon juice, and fresh herbs.
2tablespoonsfresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)or 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1cupfresh herbsany combination of parsley, mint, dill, cilantro or basil
Cook pasta in the Instant Pot by adding 4 cups water, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon olive oil and pasta to the pot. Give it a stir and close the lid. Cook for 5 minutes at high pressure. (Check pasta cooking time chart for other shapes). Wait 5 minutes, then release pressure manually. Drain pasta and set aside. Alternatively, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water with 1 teaspoon olive oil, as per package directions, or until it is cooked all the way. Drain and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add walnuts and saute them till light golden brown (about 45 seconds). Remove the nuts and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Set aside for later.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish, add the thinly sliced green onions, bell pepper along with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried basil. Stir and saute for 2 minutes.
Add zucchini along with tomatoes, capers, minced garlic and saute another 3-4 minutes, until the zucchini softens a bit. Turn off the heat.
Add cooked pasta to the pan. Add lemon juice, reserved green onions and toss everything until well combined. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Add the grated or shaved parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts and chopped herbs. Toss until well combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with extra grated or shaved parmesan cheese on the side.
Cook the pasta al dente. If it's overcooked, then the noodles will become mushy as the salad sits.
If you're letting the noodles sit for a while before mixing them with the other ingredients, toss them in a drizzle of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together too much.
Play around with ingredients. This pasta salad is super customizable so add or omit ingredients to fit your tastes. Try adding other veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, onion, mushroom. You could also mix in a protein like hard-boiled egg, chickpeas, cooked bacon bits, shredded chicken, or ham.
Make it seasonal. During summer, add squash, asparagus or green beans to boost the flavors. For fall, add winter squash, pumpkin, carrots or brussels sprouts.
Note: The nutrition facts below are my estimates. If you are following any diet plan, I recommend cross-checking with your preferred nutrition calculator.