For the last 10 weeks, or so, my weekends have begun with an early Saturday morning trip to the Evanston Farmers Market. (Sunday mornings are reserved for the Skokie Market.) Granted, my purchases have changed now that Summer is ending but one vegetable I rarely go home without is fresh zucchini. Whether I serve it within Mom’s caponata, stuffed like Grandma’s eggplant, sautéed with onion in olive oil, or served with pasta, a week doesn’t go by without zucchini making at least one appearance at my dinner table. So, when I recently watched Jamie Oliver prep zucchini and yellow squash for a penne dish, I sat up and took notice.
Normally when I prepare these 2 vegetables for my pasta dish, I either cut them into quarter-inch disks or shred them with my food processor. Jamie took them and, with a few simple cuts, fashioned them into penne look-alikes, and then prepared them carbonara-style. You can see his recipe here. I, however, prefer my carbonara cooked the more traditional way, so, I’ve chosen to cook these aglio e olio, with garlic and oil. (Coming soon: the recipe for spaghetti aglio e olio.) You may have a favorite way of fixing zucchini with pasta and I see no reason for you to change now. This post isn’t so much about how to cook the zucchini as it is how to prepare it. Even so, I’ve included general guidelines that I followed when I cooked the dish.
To begin, I selected 2 zucchini and 2 summer squash, each about 6 inches long, to be cooked with 1/2 pound of penne. You can easily see how you can increase or decrease the ratio of vegetables to pasta according to you own preference. Once that was decided, I started preparing the veggies as pictured below. Briefly stated, cut them into quarters; trim away the seed-filled center; and cut, diagonally, into penne-sized strips.
Clever, no? Anyway, to cook, add penne pasta to a pot of salted, boiling water. The package instructions for the penne I used stated the penne would be ready in 13 minutes. As a result, I planned to drain the pasta after cooking for about 10 minutes. So, once the penne is in the water and it has returned to the boil, start the clock. At the 5 minute mark, add about 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil into a deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 or 2 minced cloves of garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and yellow squash, season with salt & pepper, and continue to sauté until the 10 minute mark. Reserve some of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and add the pasta to the pan with the vegetables. Continue to sauté until the pasta is cooked to your liking. Add some of the reserved pasta water, if needed. When cooked al dente, remove from heat and mix in 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately, garnished with more cheese and chopped fresh parsley.
As I’ve mentioned, the point here is the preparation of the zucchini and summer squash. If aglio e olio isn’t for you, this dish could just as easily be prepared with a cream or marinara sauce, instead. For the latter, I would sauté the zucchini and summer squash in a little butter, timing them so that they’d be cooked to my liking when the penne is cooked al dente. Mix the vegetables with the cooked penne and dress both with the marinara. Garnish with a little grated cheese and some chopped parsley before serving immediately.
* * *