Sonoma’s Bing Cherries Are the Star of This Summer Pasta Salad

Dive into Sonoma County's cherry season this summer with a bright, versatile pasta salad recipe.

Biting into the first of the season’s cherries can be transcendent—the taut skin snaps, releasing a burst of tangy juice and sweet flesh. Go ahead—have another. And another.

Locally grown cherries generally first become available in Sonoma in late May or early June—first the rich, dark Bing, followed in a few weeks by the sweet Rainier cherry and the beautiful Queen Anne. Both have pale yellow skin with a red blush and carry through until mid-summer.

Bings are lovely in classic dishes like cherry pie or clafoutis. But a savory pairing is delightful and refreshing. Paired with two other crops also just coming to the markets, sweet corn and Genovese basil, Bing cherries star in a surprising— and easy—early summer pasta salad.

If you prefer a bit more sweetness, use orange zest and orange juice instead of lemon. Don’t care for chèvre? Use feta. The salad is all about the cherries, with the other ingredients playing a supporting role.

As cherries come into season in Sonoma County, Sonoma magazine recommends a delicious way to incorporate the fruit in a bright summer pasta salad. (Shutterstock)

Early Summer Bing Cherry Pasta Salad

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

Kosher salt

8 ounces orecchiette pasta

Kernels from one ear of fresh corn

1 small red onion, trimmed and diced

1 small-medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced thinly

6 small radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly

1 pint (about 1 ¼ pounds) ripe Bing cherries, pitted and halved

Handful of fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

8 to 10 spearmint leaves, cut into thin ribbons

5 or 6 tarragon leaves, minced (optional)

1 shallot, minced

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces fresh chèvre

Freshly ground black pepper

Fill a medium saucepan half full with water, add a generous tablespoon or so of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, put the corn kernels into a wide, shallow bowl. Add the onion, fennel, radishes, cherries, basil, mint, and tarragon. Toss gently and set aside.

Put the shallot into a small bowl, add a generous pinch of salt and the vinegar, and set aside.

When the pasta is done, drain it, rinse it briefly in cool water, and drain again thoroughly. Add the pasta to the bowl with the vegetables and cherries and gently toss everything together.

To make the dressing, add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the shallot and vinegar mixture and stir in the olive oil. Taste for salt and acid balance, adding a bit more vinegar or lemon juice if necessary.

To serve, pour the dressing over the pasta. Break the chèvre into small pieces and scatter on top, add several turns of black pepper, and enjoy right away at room temperature.