Hot Summer Days and Cool Lemon Pasta Salad

It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth; You made both summer and winter. Psalm 74:17

You know what they say about Minnesota – if you don’t like the weather just wait 5 minutes.  And you know what?  I love that.  We had snow in May, and then a few weeks later broke a warm weather record when we had a 103° day. Yes. In Minnesota (also known as Minnesnowta).  The past two days have been HOT. Crazy hot.  When I got into my car this afternoon the temperature gauge showed it was 105° degrees outside (okay, it SAID that, but I think it was closer to 98° or 100° – my car has an odd sense of humor).  And when the weather gets that hot, you can almost bet there’s going to be an intense storm. 

Plus, in this kind of weather, I really crave cold salads.  I don’t want to eat anything hot, even if it’s grilled – but I want something filling.  So of course I got a craving for one of my favorite summer salads – Lemon Pasta Salad. I got home and I was really beat so I decided to take a nap and then go grocery shopping.  This turned out to be a big mistake adventure.  Right before I left for the store we had 60 MPH (yes, that’s not a typo, I said sixty) wind gusts. 

Then things seemed to settle down, so off I went to our local store which is about 1/2 a mile away. When I got near the store I noticed some of the traffic lights were out. Then I got in the store and the overhead lights were flickering (let me tell you, a bunch of fluorescent light bulbs flickering gives me a major eye twitch).  Then I realized that the staff was busily putting up big sheets of plastic over all the cold stuff (deli counter, veggies, cheese, yogurt, etc.). The power was out so they were covering everything so the generators would keep it cold – but that meant you couldn’t buy anything that was covered.  The craving I had for my special salad had taken control of my body, so I beat cheeks and whipped around getting everything I needed before anyone could plasticize it – and I got everything but the ham. I was pretty impressed with myself. 

Then I got up front and the lines were tremendous because there were only a few register open.  But I waited. And waited. And waited. And read a magazine. And waited. And FINALLY it was my turn!  And there were some sweet young men there who were offering to pack groceries (you can give them a donation and it funds their football team).  These kids were about 14 or 15 and so polite and they did an outstanding job of packing my groceries.  I didn’t have any cash, but I wasn’t worried – I figured I could use the cash machine.  Which of course wasn’t working because of the power outage. There’s the kids, smiling at me, and there I am with literally 2 pennies and useless debit card in my purse. I was so embarrassed!  I slunk out to my car.

Now I had everything but the ham.  Luckily there’s another grocery store about a mile away.  I looked at sky and it had some pretty scary clouds, but I was pretty sure I could make it to the store and get home before the storm hit.  I never was very smart that way. I did make to the store, ran in, got the ham, and made to my car just as the first drops starting falling.  As soon as I got out on the highway, it was deluge.  You could see the wind pushing the water across the road (that’s always a fun sight when you’re out driving around).  And then the hail started. 

I made it home pretty fast, but it was raining so hard that I just sat in the car for about 20 minutes until the storm passed. It was actually pretty cool to be in the car, so sort of in the open, and watch the rain and lightening.  I was just listening to the weather report  and I guess there were funnel clouds, too!  But the very best part was that I put the salad together and it tasted so good – it was the perfect dinner.

Here’s part of what you need.  Now remember, I had just survived a massive storm, so ignore the celery and pretend it’s the sugar canister. 


Here’s the rest of what you need. Those are frozen peas in the front there.  I really like peas, as long as they’re IN something. 

I don’t have a picture, but start a pot of water boiling for your pasta, and a second pot for your asparagus.  Then clean your asparagus and snap off the woody ends.

Steam the asparagus for between 2 and 3 minutes.  As soon as you take it off the stove, throw it in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking.  You want it tender crisp. When your pasta water starts boiling, add the pasta. You want to cook it al dente because it will absorb the dressing and it’s icky if it’s too floppy.

Dice some pretty red pepper and some green onion, and finely chop some basil.  Chop up the asparagus, too, and thaw the peas by putting them in your colander and running cold water over them.

Mix all these gorgeous veggies together in a big bowl. By this time the pasta should be about done.  Put it in the colander and run cold water over it.  If you’re really organized, you can dump the peas in the colander and then pour the pasta in.  The hot pasta water will thaw the peas and the cold peas will help cool down the pasta – but you’ll still need to run cold water over the pasta to make sure it stops cooking.

Cube some ham and mix it in with the veggies. If you’re not a ham lover, you could use chicken instead.  I really like the ham in this salad. Add the cooled pasta. Now, at this point you could also add some shredded cheddar cheese.  This is very good but sometimes I like a lighter version so I leave the cheese out.

In a smaller bowl, mix buttermilk, mayo, lemon zest, sugar and fresh lemon juice.  Stir this up and then pour it over the ham and veggie mixture. Mix it up really well.

You can eat it right away and it’s delicious – and it just gets better overnight.  I like to add just a touch of salt and nice amount of fresh ground black pepper to mine. I think this is a perfect summer salad. One thing to note, I cut the recipe below in half since there are only two of us eating it.

Lemon Pasta Salad with Ham


  • 1-12 ounce box of bow tie pasta, cooked al dente and cooled completely
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1” piece
  • 4 cups diced ham, turkey or chicken (I prefer ham)
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 – 16-ounce package of frozen baby peas
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (if desired)


  1. Cook the pasta al dente and then run cold water over it to cool it off.
  2. Clean the asparagus, discard woody ends, and steam for 2 to 3 minutes until tender crisp.  Chop into bite size pieces.
  3. Thaw the peas by running cold water over them.
  4. Chop the basil.
  5. Dice the red pepper and the green onions.
  6. Mix veggies, pasta and ham together in a large bowl.
  7. In a smaller bowl, mix lemon zest, lemon juice, mayo and buttermilk until well blended.
  8. Pour dressing over salad and mix well.
  9. You may also add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese to the mixture if you like.

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