zucchini and almond pasta salad

And so, we’ve finally fled the coop. We headed out last weekend to a house we’ve rented (with enough spare bedrooms for grandparents to come and babysit catch up with their favorite grandson, because we are brilliant, friends, absolutely brilliant) and I’m dispatching from the beach this week. I’ve already had a dinner with friends that involved multiple formats of broiled cheese, several tastes of local wines, watched the sunset, had my first and second full night’s sleep in weeks, and now with the promise of Dunkin Donuts coffee and freckles in my near future, I have totally arrived.

goodbye, city! hello, farms!
long island wines
alex and boys, skipping stones

I can’t wait to cook off the books this week, do that kind of thing summer junkies like me live for, heading to one of the innumerable local markets, grabbing all of the corn, eggplant and tomatoes our large and tiny arms can haul and eating simple meals. Still, I did attempt to do a little precooking and had I not stayed out until 11 p.m. with these bad influences the night before and packing in a zombified frenzy the next morning, I might have even remembered to bring this pasta salad with me. Whoops.

thinly sliced zucchini

I’ve been thinking a lot about pasta salads this summer, but less along the lines of those gloppy mayo attacks from a supermarket deli and more along the lines of the best pasta dishes, served cold. There’s a market near my apartment that has the best New Jersey zucchini I’ve ever tasted (firm yet tender, mildly sweet), and with this salad, I was trying meld my favorite ways to cook it — with toasted almonds but also carpaccio-style.

parmesan, paper-thin

What ended up in the bowl, with paper-thin slivers of parmesan, whole wheat spirals and a lemony dressing, was possibly more wholesome than I’d intended but completely satisfying nonetheless. I might add some feta or soft goat cheese instead of parmesan, some slivers of red onion when I make it again and I wouldn’t mind some white beans in there either but then again, I put white beans in everything. But mostly, I hope to not leave it at home next time; it deserves a better end than the one it is meeting in that lonely fridge in the city this week.

One year ago: Lighter, Airy Pound Cake and Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Two years ago: Key Lime Meltaways and Grilled Eggplant with Caponata Salsa
Three years ago: Summer Berry Pudding and Mixed Bean Salad

Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad

1 1/2 pounds zucchini (2 to 3, depending on size), halved lenthwise and very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 ounces parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, thinly sliced on a mandoline or with a peeler
1/2 cup slivered almonds, well-toasted and cooled (300 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, usually works)
1/2 pound pasta of your choice (I like the extra bite of whole wheat pasta in pasta salads), cooked, drained and cooled
5 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Further additions, if you wish: 1/2 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese (replacing parmesan), 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced (you can let this marinate in the dressing for a few minutes, to reduce its bite), 1/4 pound fresh arugula or 1/4 cup thinly slivered basil or 1 cup white beans, rinsed and drained

Toss zucchini slices with one teaspoon salt in a large colander set over a bowl or in sink. Let drain 20 minutes. If they taste too salty to you, rinse and drain them again.

Stir zucchini, parmesan, almonds and pasta together. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice, seasoning generously with black pepper and salt to taste. Toss with salad and adjust seasonings to taste. Pack up salad and take it with you to the beach.

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163 comments on zucchini and almond pasta salad

  1. I am mad about zucchini right now, and since my husband hate mayo this salad is pretty much the perfect picnic food. I’m already making mental plans to lay at picnic point on Govenor’s Island next weekend! Thanks Deb!

  2. This looks like something I’d come up with too, Deb! I feel the same way about this time of year — going to the farmers’ market always yields a bounty of gorgeous vegetables that shine without any elaborate recipes. Your pasta sounds wonderful.

  3. This looks perfect for summer! I love pasta salads that I can throw together like this in the morning that make themselves taste even better by the time I am ready to eat them! I have an almond allergy — anyone have any good nut substitutions? I usually go with walnuts, but this recipe screams pine nut to me as well!

  4. Yum! A new idea for the huge zucchinis that arrive weekly from my CSA veggie box.
    I think I might try some feta or goat cheese instead as Deb suggests. And who can go wrong with a few white beans in there as well!

  5. ilse

    Well, yay Deb!! I’ve been keeping an eye on that precise one for a while. With such a rec I’m sure to get it! I love/hate getting mandolines… My mom gave me a super expensive one and it just does not work -pleasantly, anyway. :) Thanks!

  6. I am throwing a dinner party tonight and was planning on doing Zucchini ribbons with Pappardelle and a homemade tomato sauce. Perhaps I will go the lemon/olive route instead.


  7. Momcat

    How big was that lemon? The juice of one lemon can vary tremendously, as you know. So, how much lemon juice to go with 5 tablespoons of oil? I have never had much luck with a lemon vinaigrette, always too much of one or the other. A ballpark proportion would be helpful. Thanks! I really want to try this salad.

  8. RubyRoo

    My boyfriend and I have been on a tour-de-zucchini-force in the past weeks, and as his absolute summer favourite is pasta salad, this will definitely be on the menu for dinner tonight!

  9. What meat tidbit additions might you recommend for those of us with husbands who don’t recognize meatless food? Does prosciutto sound like it would be delicious in here maybe?

  10. I am also getting ready for my beach vacation in a few more weeks, your sunset photo has me all gooey shoed and tingly! I can’t wait! Have fun! Tell me where the spare key is and I will rescue the pasta salad…no need for it to go to waste!!!
    [remember your sun screen].

  11. I had my time at the beach (well, a beautiful lake) in July, but I am slightly jealous of your vacation. At least you are giving us a taste with those great pictures. Hope you get to relax a lot and enjoy all that good food!

  12. Jen

    Oh how I love August. I always despised have a summer birthday, one that happens just when school is starting, but now I’ve realized that in the midwest (and really anywhere north of Virginia) summer is this blessed opportunity where time moves a little slower and we stop and appreciate what’s around us. I’m glad you got a chance to take some much-needed time out of the city.

  13. Sandra B

    I am so glad you’re getting a chance to get away for some fun time, true sleep and respite. Thank you for yet another delicious recipe!

  14. Susan

    What a revelation those pickled onions were when you posted that method a while back. I’ve not made a vinaigrette since that I haven’t pickled the shallots in it before adding them to whatever salad I’m making. Shallots are my onion of choice for all salads now. My daughter was just telling me last night that she’s just crazy about using lemon juice in combination with the vinegar called for in most dressing recipes. She said it adds such a bright flavor boost to them. Can’t wait to try this recipe, pasta salads are a favorite summer meal for me. are brilliant! Your Mom must have just beamed and happy danced to have been invited to vaca with the Young Prince!

  15. Jean Marie

    What a nice spin on your zucchini w/almonds which we are addicted to. I like the idea of using whole wheat pasta and goat cheese would probably be awesome. Not that good parm isn’t! Have a great trip. Jealous …

  16. Arggg 1 hour too late. I totally was craving a pasta salad with vinagarette… created one with zucchini, but wasn’t as good looking as this one is… oh well, there is always dinner!

  17. I love your description of the “gloppy mayo attacks from a supermarket deli”. If gooey mayo overload is not enough to turn me off, the 5000 ingredients listed on the label makes my stomach turn. Thank goodness for simple, real food!

    1. deb

      Rayven — My husband loves vegetables.

      Liz — Main? Side? At a picnic? Hard to say. 2 ounces pasta per person is a normal estimate for a first course but there are a lot of vegetables in here and I think it could serve four people a light dinner.

  18. Susan

    This post practically brought tears to my eyes – your images and prose conjure up the perfect feeling and desire for a beach rental in late summer. I long for it. But besides that… thank you for the tasty zucchini salad idea!

  19. This looks really delicious, healthy, and easy. A great way to use leftover pasta, for those with vegetable gardens. (I’m not one of “those” people, but I admire them! LOL)

  20. Made it, just finished it, loved it. No meat additions (yet!?) but I swapped out the parmesan for feta, took her up on the basil. De. lish. us. My issues include: making the right amount of noodles :( . There are lots of leftover noodles that I at least thought to keep from diluting all my other ingredients. :)

  21. Caroline

    Yummy! I added the white beans. I think it would be great with the basil. I might also use pine nuts instead of almonds next time. Thanks for the recipe!

  22. This sounds perfect (especially since I have every ingredient for it already, including the cooked pasta that I needed to find a use for). I can’t wait to make it!

  23. jenniegirl

    Just got back from a week in Martha’s Vineyard-always good to make friends with vacation houses! MMM….vacation. Have fun! Enjoy the Dunkin Doughnuts coffee. And fun in the sun…or shade. I tend to burn (and freckle!)

  24. I’d say those three are some of the best bad influences you could ask for. Enjoy your vacation, Deb! The beach looks lovely, as does the salad, whatever its fate.

  25. I actually prefer all my pasta dishes cold – I have a tendency to cook up several lots of pasta (and the add-ins) at lunch-time (usually whole wheat spirals, too!) then pop it in the fridge ready for dinner. Even in winter. :) So I can’t express how excited I am to make your version… hurrah!

  26. This looks so delicious, fresh and healthy. Perfect!

    I love the sunset photo, it’s beautiful. I also love the photo in the car mirror. Cute!

    Have a great trip and good idea to bring the babysitters….I mean Grandparents. :D

  27. I love zucchini, or where I come from, courgettes, with pasta. A twist on this recipe is to shred the courgette, fry lightly in olive oil with chopped anchovies and garlic, pine nuts and then serve with spaghetti instead of fusilli.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  28. Hi – we have so much of that delicious zucchini in our garden right now – I’m always looking for recipes to use them up. Friends have also been the recipients of several of those beautiful squash as well. Have a wonderful time on you get-away! Did I tell you or another blogger about the grilled potato salad recipe that includes grilled zucchini and radicchio? Really delicious and super easy – I bet you could even sneak in a few white beans! Loved your photos! Ciao,bella!

  29. Katie

    So…the idea of you and Pioneer Woman hanging out together makes me incredibly jealous. Add Heather “Dooce” Armstrong into the mix, and it’s pretty much my blogger ‘last supper’ dream. Hope you had fun!

  30. Anne-Renée

    re. Mandolines
    the swiss firm Zyliss makes a very good, not to expensive mandolin. Bought mine by chance – and I love it!!
    This salad is tonights dinner – sharing it with a friend over a bottle of chilled white wine :-D

  31. glenn mellinger

    I cannot wait to make this sounds wonderful..especially with the white beans….perfect lunch…. down on the dock with friends or
    at the Hollywood bowl for our picnic dinner under the stars…

  32. nan

    I’m green with envy – the beach! Sun! Warm weather! We had a “beach party” ourselves last night…indoors as it was too freakin’ cold to be outside – and of course it was raining…it was fun, with great friends and great food but I would have loved to have been at the beach! Lucky girl – enjoy – and make sure you put sunscreen on the babe…now I sound like a grandma! xo, Nan

  33. Caroline

    Raw zucchini goes so well with toasted almonds, shaved Parmesan, and lemon vinaigrette! I’ve been making a similar salad, except it’s of the pastaless variety. You just use more zucchini (or yellow squash) and toss with a couple handfuls of arugula.

  34. Marge

    Thank you so much for all your wonderful recipes. My garden is producing tons of zucchini this year. Yesterday I made your zucchini bread and I just made this salad for dinner tonight. Thank you!

  35. Looks like a typical summer meal at my house. Except this year, for the first time ever, my zucchini plants pooped out on me. Usually I have an overabundance that I don’t know what to do with and this year I’m mourning their absence. Thanks for listening to my sad gardening story brought forth by this delicious looking dish that you’ve shared.

  36. Like everyone I’m pretty desperate this time of year for a new zucchini dish; this sounds unique and delicious and as many pasta and veggie dishes I’ve throw together over the years, never have I consider zucchini with almonds. A must try.

    And now I also miss North Carolina. I live in Denver and the Rocky Mountains are a short drive from here, but if I could trade? I would trade them for the beach. But in Colorado. Beautiful picture!

  37. Can’t wait to make this with one alteration – my new favorite ingredient – unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil. There is a peppery bite to it that grows in your mouth and would be loverly with the zucchini.

  38. jenniegirl

    Completely hijacked your recipe so much that the only thing remaining is the zucchini and lemons…and I cooked the zucchini! Couscous, leftover grilled chicken, corn and tomatoes left over from the tomato corn pie I made last night (!) cubes of gouda, olives, white beans, red onions…the thing I love about your site is that when I’m stumped as to what’s for dinner, you give me a place to start! Love that so so much! Never thought I was an inventive cook-now I’m learning to trust myself, the seasons, and what is yummy and fresh! Can’t believe that two years ago I used cream of mushroom soup, Velveeta, and sad tomatoes in January on a regular basis. Thanks for the impact! Sorry to be such a suck-up! Have a great vacay!

  39. Linda

    Made this last night with some sustitutions; didn’t have zucchini or almonds so used cukes & pine nuts (toasted on the stove top) with the suggested feta cheese—it was wonderful!!!!

  40. Leanne

    Read the guidelines before commenting since it’s my first time, and I’m still laughing! :) I was already boiling pasta and toasting almond slivers when I realized my zucchini had gone bad, so I went with cucumber, red onion and feta instead of the zucchini and parm- it’s delicious! And so much better the next day. The almonds were a revelation, never would have thought of it but so good.

  41. Momcat

    Made the salad last night, served it with some crab cakes. Salad was wonderful! I kind of eyeballed the ingredients and ended up with way too much pasta and not enough zucchini, but still, we both loved it. The lemon dressing was a real winner. My husband wants me to make it again, right away. BTW, I added some arugula leaves (not enough) and they were so delicious with the lemon dressing, I’m thinking of all kinds of new salad ideas!

  42. This was SO good! I added white beans, as suggested, but I also cut up about two cups of small cauliflower florets. I’d been cutting up a head of cauliflower for lunches, and experimentally dipped a floret in the dressing, and YUM! I think next time, I’ll try doing some broccoli florets, and switch to feta cheese, so that it disperses through the noodles a little better than the Parmesan did. I ended up doubling the dressing, because I wanted more of the bright flavor of the lemons.

    My mother-in-law loved it, and my two year old son even ate it!

  43. mmc

    Just wanted to say thank you for an amazing recipe that uses so much zucchini–we managed to get rid of what we had harvested so far. I was surprised at the amount called for, but it was perfect, and we had this as a main dish last night served over some lettuce leaves. Feta instead of parmesan was perfect.

  44. Julia

    This was delicious and easy! I made it with the suggested blue cheese substitution and used mushroom ravioli for the pasta. I cut the cooked ravioli in strips to make it easier to eat. Used less than half of the salt on the zukes because of the salt already in the ravioli. The salad looked and tasted great!

  45. Sarah

    WOW! I just got done making this, and its delicious!!!! I went ahead and added the onion like you suggested. So good. I will make this again and again!

  46. Amber Wagley

    Made this dinner the other night, and we really enjoyed it. Very simple but very tasty. Marinating the onions a bit was a great idea; I’ll definitely use that idea for other recipes as well. Liked the crunch that the almonds provided.

  47. I can’t express how much I love your site. The photography, the food, the lists of seasonal recipes? Build your own smitten kitchen? And the promise of a Smitten Kitchen book? I am truly smitten!

  48. this is such a nice recipe for a light and healthy pasta salad. I’ll take lemon and olive oil over mayo any day. My family is a huge fan of pasta salads for lunch so i will definitely be making this soon. thanks for the recipe! :)

  49. This is my current obsession right now. All summer long all I want to make are iterations of white bean and fun-shaped pasta salad, always with some variation of the red onion/wilty geens/tangy cheese theme. I’m also a huge fan of stirring in the nutritional yeast, to give it a cheesy taste without so much actual cheese. Yours looks so much better with the zucchini thinly sliced, though — I can’t believe what an aesthetic difference that makes!

  50. Ann

    I just found your blog and I’m in heaven. I love to entertain and seeing your images of New England send me down memory lane (I grew up in CT). I look forward to reading your blog – I only wish we were neighbors, you entertain my style and I just think what kind of yummy dinner parties we would have. LOL!. Beautiful site. I can’t wait to explore. I’m sending this to all my LA foodie friends.

  51. This is exactly the kind of recipe I like for weekday lunches; I made it this evening and it’s delicious (I added small white beans)! Can’t wait for lunch hour tomorrow!

  52. Elise

    Okay, I physically NEED to know what part of the country you’re describing in this last couple of posts! Wineries, farmer’s markets, beaches, bunnies AND deer? Sign me up!

  53. Chris Madeo

    I tried to e-mail this question and it wouldn’t go so hope it’s not inappropriate for blog. Where are you vacationing? It sounds wonderful and we are looking for a place at beach to vacation – you can e-mail me back if you don’t mind saying where you are. I love your recipes!!!

  54. shelle

    Thank you this recipe was delicious. I used feta and a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat. Next time I will use more zucchini I enjoyed its texture after salting it, almost cucumbery.

  55. I took this pasta salad to a lovely picnic in the park– it was the perfect meal for a sweltering summer night! It was filling without being heavy and the lemon-y dressing was so light and fresh! This is definitely a keeper recipe for me…

  56. I just made this with some zucchini that was going bad and I briefly sauteed it with a tbsp of olive oil and then mixed it in with the pasta and almonds! It was a HUGE success! Everybody loved it! I have no leftovers to take to the beach! I will make again!

  57. Ooh, that pasta salad looks delicious and healthy. Way to go! You can consider me smitten. Thanks for the healthy eating inspiration. I certainly need all the help I can get. Cheers!
    Jen Melo, author of the I will eat better diary

  58. Carrie

    I served this warm for dinner last night and it was the perfect summer meal! I added extra parmesan cheese and chopped up about a cup of basil & arugula. Also, after I drained the zucchini, I let them marinate in the lemon and olive oil for maybe 10 minutes. Thanks Deb, I will be making this again!

  59. Sibyla

    Love this! I made it yesterday and had it today for lunch. I used feta and I would prefer something a little bit more decent, I am going to use ricotta next time but still it was very nice, especially the almonds:) Thanks!

  60. Yum! I made this tonight and it was flipping delicious! I added some roasted yellow cherry tomatoes and grated the cheese instead of sliced it. Super good and will be making this relatively easy dish again! Thank you for sharing :)

  61. I’ve been practically counting down the days til I could make this again after last summer. I seriously even looked it up every now and then during the fall and winter just to visit the recipe and sigh wistfully. I just inhaled my first bowl of it for the season and was reminded why it’s one of my favorite meals ever! Whole wheat penne this time, which I didn’t venture out to try last summer! As always, mine skips the arugula, ups the basil; skips the parm, replaces with feta. Thank you a million times over.

  62. Sarah

    This is so, so good! Thank you, it’s been totally rocking my world for days now. And this was after my zucchini hatred had been building for weeks. It’s refreshing, deep and unusual.

  63. Cassady

    Just made this for a summer potluck with friends, and everyone loved it! I’m an avid reader of the blog, but have only made a few recipes (I’m more of a reader than a cook), but the select few have all turned out deliciously!

  64. Liz

    I just made this and thought it was delicious! I also tried it with your buttermilk dressing from the broccoli slaw recipe (LOVE!) with the sugar omitted and thought it was even more delicious (I also added a couple of freshly chopped tomatoes).

  65. Wanted to make a pasta salad with zucchini in it and was happy to see smitten kitchen come-up early in the search results. This is without a doubt my favorite pasta salad of all time. First time around, included the red onions. Second time around, I included the white beans as well. So amazing.

  66. Noa

    I swapped half the zucchini with roasted cauliflower, used feta cheese instead of parmesan, and fed it to my two men on a picnic last weekend. The 37 years old, never a fan of zucchini, said that “this salad tastes like more”. The picky 13 months old didn’t say anything, because he was too busy stuffing his face (he got an almond-less version, of course). Thanks for a great recipe!

  67. Samantha

    So now that I have made this and am reading through it again, I notice it says “or” in the additions. In case anyone needs to know, this makes a massive amount of salad if you include all the additions listed, as in its in my biggest bowl and I’m having a hard time stirring it. That said it’s very good, though I doubled the dressing and added olives for saltyness once I came to the conclusion that you could not have meant for me to stir all of those things in one bowl. If you do this I recommend doubling the cheese, almonds and dressing, Its yummy!

  68. AK

    I’ve been making this almost every week in July with a ton of fresh basil. It just seems too hot to make anything else. I don’t even bother with a main course or another side dish. I could live on this pasta all summer I think.

  69. Alice Kintisch

    I made this yesterday for a potluck party. The zucchini was from my garden, which seemed promising. However, I think I may have missed the mark on this one since it was essentially bland. Perhaps I didn’t season it enough or use enough cheese. I’m going to eat the leftovers tonight, but I’ll add more salt and pepper and more cheese. I’ll reevaluate after that.

  70. Margaret

    Approximately how many people would this serve?

    I am having a party this weekend with about a dozen people and want this to be a solid-sized side.

    1. deb

      I’d say 4 very heartily and 6 to 8 with other things around. Don’t forget to season — the salt, pepper, and lemon really do the heavy lifting here. Enjoy!

  71. Alice K.

    Funny Smitten Kitchen moment yesterday… I made this dish for dinner, went to add a comment, and saw that I had commented last year having made this for a potluck event. This time I liked the dish better than I did last year (my comment wasn’t very favorable last time). I liked it a lot! This year I added marinated red onion and white beans (for protein).

  72. tolalla

    I made this recipe today. I wasn’t sure about the raw zucchini, but the recipe turned out great! I sliced the garden fresh zucchini about 1/8″ thick, not paper thin. It turned out beautiful and had a nice crunch without tasting raw. I used brown rice pasta, added 2.5 oz. spinach, and 1 can of great northern white beans drained and rinsed. I had grated perorino cheese, so that is what I used. Thank you so much for the recipe. It was beautiful and we loved it! I will happily use this recipe for potlucks or for company.

  73. This is one of my favorite zucchini recipes, and I’ve been bringing it to potlucks and bbq’s for years now with much praise. To make this a vegan or cheese free option for potlucks, I skip the cheese and add lemon zest, thinly sliced onion and basil, and that really kicks up the flavor. Any way you do it, this salad has such a great mix of textures and flavors.

  74. SC

    An urgent question, even though this recipe was posted a long time back. How much in advance can I prepare this? Will it keep overnight in the fridge? Should I let it come up to room temperature before serving. Thanks very much! Your blog is amazing and I believe it has led me to become a better cook :) So thanks once again.

  75. Michele Archambault

    It’s been in the mid-90s and humid here in Boston, so I’m in search of recipes that require minimal cooking/heat. I like that the zucchini is drained here, rather than cooked. I drained the cooked pasta right over the zucchini in the colander. Then rinsed it all together. Do not shy away from the almonds and get them right to the point where they are sufficiently browned, but not burned. They make the dish, similar to the zucchini almond side dish on the site. I’m not sure if I’d like this as much without the add-ins. I added cannelini beans, red onion and lots of basil. Next time I will do it with feta. I think that will be even tastier than the shaved parmesan. I also think that the texture of whole wheat pasta would be better, as Deb mentioned. Plus, the color would be nice vs. a white pasta. Definitely a great picnic item.

  76. Deborah Drosnin

    I am not a big fan of pasta salads, but I loved this one. As suggested, I added arugula, basil, red onions, and white beans (but kept the sliced parmesan) and it was delicious. I sliced the zucchni 3mm thick (about 1/8 inch) on my mandolin. I suspect the salad would not be as interesting without the additions.