When things get crazy busy in the summer and I barely have time to cook anything, let alone find good recipes that are actually worth taking pictures of and sharing with you (since I doubt you'd be interested to hear about how I made burgers...again...or any other comparable summer meal), I can thank my dad for finding good things and sending them my way. Ahh, retirement must be great! Anyway, over the 4th of July weekend my dad found an article about Mario Batali in the Wall Street Journal and saved it for me. I already threw out the article, and my short term memory is failing me, so I can't remember what it was about, but the recipe featured alongside the article was for pasta with summer squash. Seasonal, no? Batali's trick on this pasta is to undercook the pasta and the squash just slightly, then steam them together at the end, which apparently infuses the pasta with the squash flavor. Batali's version calls for penne, although Erik got excited over fresh spinach pasta at the store, so we ended up using that instead. Although I used Batali's technique, I think the spinach pasta was so flavorful on its own that it didn't pick up too much additional squash flavor, though the two did work well together. We also used basil instead of the recommended mint, although I intend to try it again with mint, because I'm sure it would be equally delicious. Whatever kind of pasta and herb you choose, this dish is fast, easy, and perfect for summer. This meal rounds out nicely with grilled herb and garlic bread.
Pasta with Summer Squash and Ricotta (From Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking by Mario Batali)
* Kosher Salt
* 1 cup fresh ricotta (go whole or low-fat, definitely not fat free)
* 6 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmiganio-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
* 2-3 tablespoons warm water
* 1 pound summer squash or zucchini, or a combo, cut lengthwise in half and sliced into 1/3-inch-thick half-moons
* Fancy sea salt (like Maldon), or kosher if that's all you have
* 1 pound of pasta
* 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint or basil
* Freshly ground fresh pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 3 tablespoons of kosher salt.
2. While the pasta water heats, whisk together the ricotta, Parmigano-Reggiano, and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of warm water to loosen the consistency; add the 3rd tablespoon if it's still too thick.
3. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep-ish skillet (that has a lid) over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's just tender and golden, 4-5 minutes. Season with your fancy salt, and remove from the heat.
4. Cook your pasta until it's barely al-dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/3 of a cup of the pasta water.
5. Add the pasta and the reserved water to the squash, stirring and tossing over medium heat to mix well. Pop a lid on and reduce the heat to low, and allow the pasta and squash to steam together for 2 minutes.
6. Stir in the mint (or basil), and season with additional salt, if necessary. Dish up the pasta and top with a dollop of the ricotta mixture. Garnish with additional chopped mint (or basil), and serve with extra grated Parm.
Champagne makes anything fancy. Even this easy dinner.
Erik's Garlic Thyme Bread.
Slice a baguette or a ciabatta loaf some other good bread. Melt a few tablespoons of butter. Stir in a tablespoon or so of chopped thyme. Brush both sides of the bread slices with the butter/ thyme mixture and then grill them for a 1-2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Watch the bread carefully, because it can burn quickly. Remove from the grill. Peel a large clove of garlic and rub the garlic onto both sides of the bread. Serve immediately. (PS, if you don't have a grill, you can do this on a cookie sheet under the broiler, just watch the bread closely!)