A good pasta salad is a must for summer’s outdoor dining

A creamy lemon aioli adds some zing to this pasta salad made with sun-dried tomatoes, arugula and shredded chicken. Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS

With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, it’s officially time to move meals outdoors. It’s hot in front of your stove, and don’t you want to enjoy the sunshine or a summer sunset?

Pasta salads are ideal for deck and porch dining because you don’t have to heat them up. They also come together in no time and make excellent leftover lunches.

This recipe can be adapted to personal tastes in so many ways. If you don’t like arugula, substitute finely cut baby spinach, shredded kale or a handful of fresh basil. Roma or cherry tomatoes can stand in for sun-dried. Trade the lemon aioli for a tangy balsamic vinaigrette. Garnish with some olives or your favorite chopped herbs. Anything goes!

I used busiate Trapanesi, a long twisted pasta from Sicily, because it is pretty and just feels fancy. Easier-to-find options include rotini, farfalle, fusilli or tube pastas like penne.

Like all good summer salads, this one can be served at room temperature or chilled, with some crusty Italian bread for scooping up dressing.


Serves 4.

1/2 pound spiral pasta such as fusilli or busiate

1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 large handfuls baby arugula (about 2 cups)

1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, or more or less to taste

1/4 to 1/3 cup creamy lemon dressing (recipe follows)

1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella

For dressing: whisk together 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 minced garlic clover and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. When it’s boiling, add a few generous pinches of salt and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package instructions (12 minutes for busiate). Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl.

Add chicken, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella to bowl, and toss gently to combine.

Add lemon dressing, a little at a time, until desired finish. Mix one last time.

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