This summer, I made a commitment to myself to be outside as much as possible: riding a bike when I could take the subway, sitting on my fire escape when I could be on the couch, and forcing my friends to eat off paper plates while we awkwardly sit on grass or sand when we could be indoors, fully upright, at a table.

I have sent the words “Let’s picnic outside instead!” to all of my favorite group texts in the past few weeks, and while the response is mostly enthusiastic, it pivots to skepticism once everyone reads the follow-up: “I’ll bring pasta salad!”

Which I understand. Alone, the words “pasta” and “salad” are very exciting, and sound like Champagne corks popping. But combined into “pasta salad,” they always sound like a sad trombone. I blame all the terrible pasta salads I have encountered in airports, at subpar salad bars and on the buffet table at wedding and baby showers, full of canned olives and overcooked fusilli.

Fortunately, this version of pasta salad is not that. Just like your favorite salad from your preferred fancy salad place, this dish has enough going on, both in flavor and texture, to sustain your interest for an entire bowlful, and maybe even seconds.

It is lemony, with lightly fried slices of whole lemon; savory, with lots of lightly browned onions and zucchini (because, honestly, what else are you going to do with all that zucchini?); salty with capers and fresh feta; and insanely herby with dill, parsley or both. My noodle of choice is long, thick bucatini, for the way I can twirl it around those coins of summer squash (unconventional for this application, but I can’t resist a noodle twirl).

What makes this recipe pasta salad, rather than regular pasta? It has a high proportion of vegetables and herbs; we are talking 50-50 here, making it a good time to use whatever vegetables you happen to have in abundance.

It’s better at room temperature than hot. (Pasta salad doesn’t need to be cold, although this one is very good cold. It is also very good warm!) It relies on olive oil and juicy vegetables to create adequate sauciness to coat each noodle, not pasta water. It gets better with age (just like all of us), and it’s dressed, well, like a salad, which is to say it’s tangy, peppery and slightly salty.

Above all, it’s best eaten outside. Although leaving all the windows open and closing your eyes also works.

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