Easy Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

Attention lemon lovers – You need to make this summer pasta salad asap! It’s loaded with bold lemon flavor, only requires a handful of ingredients and is so easy to make too!

A large white bowl filled with lemon basil pasta salad with a lemon wedge and parmesan cheese and fresh basil sprinkled on top

Pasta salads and summer just go together in my book. But then add some fresh basil, a squeeze of lemon and a healthy dose of parmesan – and ohh baby it’s a like an explosion of flavor for your tastebuds! Which is exactly why this lemon basil pasta salad needs to be at the top of your list this summer season! It’s an easy pasta salad recipe made with minimal ingredients, takes no time at all to put together and is by far one of my family’s favorite pasta salads to make!

Ingredients for lemon basil pasta salad

  • Dry pasta: Shorter pastas work the best for this pasta salad. I would suggest using penne, farfalle or gemelli pasta for this recipe. (I use gemelli.)
  • Lemon juice & zest: Helps to brighten up your pasta salad dish and adds so much flavor too! Look for lemons that are birght yellow with a a smooth skin and no brown spots for the best results. (Tip: Roll your lemons on the counter before cutting them to get the maximum amount of juice.)
  • Parmesan cheese: Adds a hint of salt that really brings out the flavor of your lemons. (You can use fresh or preshredded parmesan for this pasta salad. Sometimes we’ll use shaved parmesan too!)
  • Fresh basil: Adds freshness and a pop of color to your pasta salad! (Always use fresh basil and never dried herbs for this pasta salad recipe. Dried herbs aren’t as flavorful as fresh so you’ll need to use a lot more to really get that basil flavor.)
  • Cracked pepper: Puts the finishing touch on your lemon basil pasta salad!
  • Lemon-basil vinaigrette: Ties all of your pasta salad ingredients together! Plus is can even be made a head of time too! (Recipe & directions for the vinaigrette are below)
Lemon basil pasta salad in a white bowl surrounded by wooden serving utensils, parmesan cheese and lemon slices

How to make an easy lemon-basil vinaigrette

When it comes to salads (espeically pasta salads) the star of the show really is the dressing. And this lemon-basil pasta salad dressing is hands down one of my favorites to make! It only requiers a few simple ingredients and can even be made ahead of time too!

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (We use extra light tasting olive oil)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, sliced thin
  • Black pepper, to taste
  1. Place the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic cloves in a food processor and season with pepper to taste. Then blend the ingredients until smooth.
  2. Pour the vinaigrette over your pasta salad and enjoy! (Your should keep for about 1 week stored in the fridge.)

No food processor? No worries! You can also make this pasta salad dressing by mixing your ingredients together in a bowl too! (Just make sure to mince your garlic first.)

Angle view of a bowl of lemon pasta salad sprinkled with fresh lemon zest, basil and shredded parmesan cheese sitting next to lemons cut in half

How to make lemon basil pasta salad

  1. Cook your pasta according to the package’s directions. Then drain it and set your pasta aside to cool completely.
  2. Next, make up your dressing, shredded the parmesan (if using fresh cheese) and and slice your basil.
  3. Once the pasta is cool, add it to a large bowl with you cheese and basil and pour your desired amount of dressing over the top. Toss your pasta salad until it’s completely coated to your liking.
  4. Place your pasta salad in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes -1 hour before serving.
  5. Serve with extra parmesan and fresh basil on top
Close photo of pasta salad made with lemon basil and parmesan cheese in a white bowl sitting next to a dark blue linen napkin

Ideas for serving lemon basil pasta salad

While I personally believe this easy pasta salad is amazing all on it’s own – here are a few fun ways that you can spruce it up too!

  • Add a protein! Grilled/shredded chicken, shrimp or scallops are great options to serve with this pasta salad! You can either add them on top or mix them right in! (Check out my recipe for Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Basil Butter!)
  • Mix in extra veggies! Want to make this cold pasta salad more of a well-rounded meal? Try adding zucchini, fresh tomatoes, cooked asparagus or even peas!
  • Turn your pasta salad into a green salad! Serve your lemon basil pasta salad over a bed of spinach or lettuce and add a little extra dressing and parmesan on top! (I love serving it this way for a main course meal for dinner.😊)

When should I serve my lemon basil pasta salad? This easy pasta salad would be perfect for potlucks, backyard barbecues, a family gathering or even as a simple summer side dish too! (Plus any leftovers you have make a great meal prepped lunch for during the week!)

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Easy Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

A delicious pasta salad made with gemelli pasta, shredded parmesan and fresh basil all tossed in an easy homemade lemon-basil vinaigrette! It's the perfect side dish for spring or summer!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Main Course, Pasta, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Easy
Keyword: basil, easy, lemon, parmesan cheese, pasta salad
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Caitlin Monson

Ingredients

For the pasta salad:

  • 1 box gemelli pasta (or your favorite type of short pasta)*
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, sliced thin
  • Optional toppings: lemon zest, extra parmesan cheese & sliced fresh basil

For the lemon-basil vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, sliced thin
  • Pepper, to taste

Instructions

To make the vinaigrette:

  • Place the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic in a food processor and season with pepper to taste. Blend the ingredients until smooth. Pour the dressing into a separate container and stir in the sliced basil.

To make the salad:

  • Cook pasta according to the box directions. Once it's done, set it aside to cool. (You want the pasta to cool completely so it won't melt the cheese.)
  • Once cooled, add the pasta, parmesan cheese and basil to a large bowl and toss with your vinaigrette.
  • Sprinkle with extra parmesan, basil and a little lemon zest right before serving.

Notes

*I would recommend using penne, farfalle (bowtie) or rotini pasta for this recipe.

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