Right about this time everyone's gardens are bursting with fresh produce and I find it absolutely amazing! The first of the red tomatoes are starting to appear, prickly little cucumbers that remind me of my childhood days, crisp green beans, potent heads of fresh garlic, shiny eggplants and enormous amounts of summer squash, particularly zucchini. Unfortunately, the little row of potted herbs on my own windowsill have not been so abundant. I've been able to harvest a bit of basil but the rest look pretty scraggly. I am hoping with a bit more research and a bit of TLC they will come around before long.
I did not grow up eating zucchini. Though my parents have always planted a vegetable garden big enough to feed the entire neighborhood, zucchini was never in the mix. I actually remember buying zucchini at the grocery store for a stir-fry recipe a time or two but I did not think much of it then. That all changed this summer when my sister-in-law brought a simple and delicious dish of grilled zucchini for dinner; I couldn't stop eating them! This mildly flavored fruit (yup, you read that right! ) can really handle some heat and that is where I believe it makes a difference.
I am astounded at just what people have come up with in order to use up the abundance of zucchini every summer. Being mild in flavor and high in essential nutrients, they are grated, pureed, and chopped before being incorporated into every kind of dish imaginable. I just have a slight problem with many of the beautiful looking recipes you find on Pinterest: most of them work to hide or overcompensate for zucchini's lack of "oomph". I fell in love with zucchini when it was the "star" of the dish and I wanted to cook up something along those lines. Diving into my cookbooks and my favorite food websites, I found that in order to make this summer squash a true star, consider cooking it in ways that bring out the best of itself. Sautéing, frying, roasting or grilling would probably be some of the best methods to try since the high heat allows for the squash to release quite a bit of it's moisture thus concentrating it's flavor and giving it a chance to caramelize. You do not need a whole lot else besides some good olive oil and a few spices to call it a complete dish.
As for the recipe itself - I was hankering for a pasta dish and with the amount of fresh summer squash sitting on my kitchen I knew I wanted to marry the two. After a bit of research I found exactly what I wanted to work with. I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite food sites, Bon Appétit, and love it as much as they do.
Summer Squash & Garlic Pasta
- Heat a large skillet on medium heat for a few minutes before adding the olive oil. Once the oil is hot enough (glistening and simmering) add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for about a minute until fragrant and the edges start to darken.
- Add half of the assorted squash, spreading it out in an even layer. Cook without stirring for 5 minutes allowing for the squash to caramelize. Stir and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Add in the remaining squash, stir to combine and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes thereafter. You are looking for the squash to turn "jammy" (this will cause it to stick to the pan).
- Meanwhile cook the rigatoni pasta according to the package instructions. Cook the pasta a couple minutes short of al dente.
- Reserve 2 cups of pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.
- Add the drained pasta to the cooked squash along with 1/3 of the parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Keeping the heat on low, toss together until everything is evenly coated. Repeat the addition of cheese with additional pasta water (as necessary) while continuing to toss until you have used up all of the cheese and the pasta is al dente and glossy.
- Add in the lemon juice and a generous drizzle of olive oil, give the pasta a final toss before serving.
- Serve with a garnish of fresh basil and generous sprinkles of the grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
- 1/3 cup olive oil + more for garnish
- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated, cleaned and sliced thin
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 lb assorted summer squash, quartered and sliced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp white ground pepper
- 8 oz Rigatoni or similar style large pasta
- 2 cups of reserved pasta cooking water
- 2 oz parmesan, finely shredded + more for garnish
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- fresh basil leaves for garnish