The Perfect Pasta Salad With Zucchini And Mint

How to make the perfect pasta salad

Food Editor Andy Baraghani wants you to stop shocking par-cooked pasta in ice water.

That's cruelty to orecchiette and garganelli and campanelle and all the other beautiful little shapes he taps to make summery pasta salads for us in the Test Kitchen.

Andy prefers to cook the pasta the way he always does, in boiling salted water until it's al dente, and then strain it. He does have one trick up his sleeve, though: In the last couple of minutes, he adds long, delicate haricots verts to the pot.

The drained pasta and vegetables hang out for a bit, coated in a bit of olive oil, while he cooks some shallots and garlic with coins of zucchini. Once he adds all that to the pasta with a big squeeze of lemon, chile flakes and fresh herbs, it's ready to go.

The thing about pasta salad is that it tastes best when you treat it like a salad: Once you've added the acid, it's time to serve it (see the recipe).

Sure, it can hold longer than mixed greens since it's made up of beautiful frills of pasta and not delicate leaves, but the moment you've tossed everything together, while the pasta and the olive-oil slicked vegetables are still warm and nudging the thyme and mint to perfume the kitchen, the dish is at its most delicious.

Short, textured shapes work best

Some other pasta salad tips from the Test Kitchen:

1. Pasta

Keep it short, folks. Shapes like bow ties, penne, garganelli, campanelle or maccheroni al torchio are ideal because they can be evenly coated with dressing, and herbs will cling to them.

2. Herbs

They're not superfluous garnishes, they're necessary to the dish, adding bursts of fresh flavor. Zucchini and mint are BFFs, but we like to add some thyme to the zucchini while it's cooking for an even deeper fragrance.

3. Texture

Delicate haricots verts, almonds and sliced zucchini each offer its own kind of crunch, and each one is vital! If you're doing it right, every bite will be a little different.

4. Heat

We turn to red chile flakes and more black pepper than we'd normally use—there's no real sauce to speak of in this pasta salad, so you want to make sure things are generously seasoned.