Prepared with fresh tomatoes, corn, and zucchini, Summer Salsa Pasta comes together in less than 25 minutes. With a bright, fresh, flavour, this pasta dish relies heavily on some of the best that summer has to offer. Top with parmesan cheese and grab a fork; dinner is ready!
In the summer months, we eat an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini, and corn. I also prepare my own Restaurant Style Salsa, which is a thin salsa, not chunky like most of the salsas you see in stores. The thinner consistency makes a great substitution for marinara sauce. And, since salsa is prepared with mostly summer ingredients, it makes complete sense to prepare this Summer Salas Pasta with it; don’t you agree?
In most pasta dishes that center around a tomato-based sauce, more times than not, it’s a marinara. If you are not a fan of salsa, I have a quick and easy marinara sauce recipe that you can use in this dish instead. As much as I love marinara sauce, it’s the salsa that really makes this dish different. Unlike marinara, salsa will most likely have a bit of spice. A little bit of heat goes a long way in this pasta dish.
In addition to heat, salsa will also most likely have red and green bell peppers. Peppers are also a summertime vegetable, and pairs well with the corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. I strongly suggest you use salsa rather than marinara sauce. Use your favourite store-bought salsa, or use your own homemade salsa. If your salsa is chunky, you can always pop it into your food processor and pulse it a few times to get it smooth.
PREP EVERYTHING FIRST
Whenever I cook, I love to have everything I’m going to use in the recipe all ready to go. That means that I have what I need from the pantry and fridge all lined up on the counter. I even collect the spice jars that I’m going to need! When it’s all said and done, all of my ingredients are in front of me and what I’ve done is save myself the time of running back and forth from the stove to the pantry or fridge to get something.
The next thing I do is to wash and prep all of my meat and/or vegetables. If things are washed, and chopped, diced, or minced before I get started, then I can concentrate on the cooking and not leaving it unattended so that I can chop parsley. All of these things are even more important when the recipe comes together quickly like this one does. Trust me, once that garlic hits the pan, things move rather quickly.
LET’S TALK VEGGIES
For this recipe, the corn, zucchini, and tomatoes are the star. In Ontario, we can get corn on the cob just about anytime of year. But, locally grown corn can most often be found in August and September. For that reason, I tend to use frozen corn outside of that timeframe. Frozen corn is a great option when cooking, and should be used instead of canned corn.
If you have access to locally grown corn on the cob, please use that. Boil a pot of water and add the shucked corn cobs to it. Boil the corn for five minutes and drain. Allow the corn to cool and carefully cut it from the cob. You can set it aside until you are ready to use it in this Summer Salsa Pasta. Otherwise, you can use frozen corn right from the package without thawing it first.
For the tomatoes, you can use any tomato you like. Do not use canned tomatoes, because in most cases they are skinned and soft. The will not blister and release juices into the sauce like a fresh tomato. I am using cherry tomatoes which I have halved. If they were already small, I left them whole.
When you prep the zucchini, it’s important to not chop it into pieces that are too small. Zucchini has a lot of water content and will break down quite easily. To avoid this, cut it into larger pieces. In the end, the zucchini should be heated all the way through, but it should not be soft and squishy. Cut the zucchini into quarters, lengthwise. Then, chop each length into 3/4 inch pieces.
GET THE PASTA RIGHT!
Any pasta will do well in this recipe. But, for maximum flavour, you want to use a pasta that will hold on to that delicious sauce. Pastas like spaghetti, linguine, parppardelle, etc., are all great pasta options. But, they have one thing in common. The surfaces of those pastas are flat. A flat pasta means that the sauce can run off more easily. You want to use a pasta that the sauce will stick too.
Look closely at pastas like rigatoni, fusilli, or penne. They all have a ridged surface. Not only do the ridges get filled with the pasta sauce, but they also hang onto things like the bits or garlic, the grated parmesan, and just about anything else in your sauce.
I’m using casarecce. It is a short pasta noodle with curled edges and a groove down the middle. These noodles look a bit like little rolled-up scrolls. Casarecce, which literally means ‘homemade’, was originally made by rolling small rectangles of dough around a thin wooden pin or metal rod. Casarecce can be found online here.
Once you have decided on a pasta shape, the first thing you want to do is to cook your pasta. Whatever the amount of time the package suggests you cook the pasta for, shorten it by 2 or 3 minutes. The pasta will cook further in the sauce.
HERE’S WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
- Pasta – Use a short type of pasta, one with ridges to catch the sauce. See the section above for good pasta shape options.
- Olive Oil – Pasta and olive oil are like bread and butter. They’re just meant to be!
- Corn – You can use fresh corn cut from the cob or froze. See the notes above.
- Tomatoes – Cherry or grape tomatoes are best here. If they’re large, cut them in half, otherwise, leave them whole.
- Zucchini – One large zucchini is good. Be sure to cut it into no smaller than 3/4 inch pieces so that it doesn’t overcook.
- Yellow Bell Pepper – Any colour will do, but the yellow stands out nicely.
- Garlic – Fresh minced garlic is best here.
- Salsa – You can use homemade salsa or store-bough salsa. A smooth salsa works a million times better than a chunky salsa in this recipe. You will get more coverage and a more sauce-like consistency.
- Parmesan – Lots of parmesan goes into the sauce and more to garnish.
- Parsley – Stir chopped parsley through the pasta and garnish with it too for flavour, freshness, and colour.
- Salt and Pepper – To season.
HOW TO MAKE SUMMER SALSA PASTA
Begin by cooking the pasta in salted water. Be sure to undercook the pasta slightly. It will cook more when tossed with the sauce. Drain well and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic, and over medium heat, cook the garlic until it is lightly browned and fragrant. Next, add the tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, and salt. Stir into the garlic and oil mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes soften a bit.
Next, add in the corn and the zucchini. Stir into the tomatoes and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes before pouring in the salsa. Add the black pepper and stir the mixture well. Once the sauce begins to simmer and bubble, it is time to add the cooked pasta.
Stir the pasta through the sauce and allow the mixture to cook for 1-2 minutes. This will finish cooking the pasta, and thicken the sauce. Finally, turn off the heat. Stir through the parsley and parmesan. Plate, garnish, and serve immediately.
Summer Salsa Pasta
- 450 grams pasta (use either casarecce, rigatoni, fusilli, penne, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 large zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 1 1/2 cups corn
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
- 3 cups restaurant-style salsa
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)
- 1/2 cup parmesan, grated (plus more for garnish)
- Begin by cooking the pasta in salted water. Be sure to undercook the pasta slightly. It will cook more when tossed with the sauce. Drain well and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic, and over medium heat, cook the garlic until it is lightly browned and fragrant.
- Next, add the tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, and salt. Stir into the garlic and oil mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes soften a bit.
- Next, add in the corn and the zucchini. Stir into the tomatoes and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes before pouring in the salsa. Add the black pepper and stir the mixture well. Once the sauce begins to simmer and bubble, it is time to add the cooked pasta.
- Stir the pasta through the sauce and allow the mixture to cook for 1-2 minutes. This will finish cooking the pasta, and thicken the sauce.
- Finally, turn off the heat. Stir through the parsley and parmesan. Plate, garnish, and serve immediately.