Oh, it’s that time of the season. Zucchinis have invaded your garden, your CSA share and your local farmers markets. Maybe you have “kind” & giving neighbours who foist gigantic summer squash in your direction or you discover a mystery bag of zucchini dropped onto your front porch in the middle of the night. This kind of intense squash activity might be thrilling or it may just scare the beejebus out of you. I find myself somewhat dead centre – I don’t love zucchini or summer squash, but I’ve crawled out of the “hate” trenches. Call me zucchini ambivalent.
Some friends went away recently and asked me if I could take over their CSA share for a week. Inside the bag I found Chinese cabbage, oak leaf lettuce, a gigantic head of garlic, and 4 different kinds of summer squash. Instead of freaking out about all that squash, I decided to keep a level head. My first foray into squash territory was to slice a large, yellow patty pan squash into thin slices, grill them and top them onto some barbecued pizza. Nestled next to salty salami & gooey mozzarella cheese, it was a tasty success.
The next summer squash round I went simple. This is the kind of dinner that takes as long as pasta does to cook. Whatever kind of pasta you have on hand will be fine. There’s no stressin’ and no fuss. And it tastes like summer with big chunks of garden tomatoes, summer squash and a heavy hand of fresh basil. Lemon zest and juice add interest. Dump it in a bowl, sprinkle in some Parmesan cheese or add more fresh basil and dig in. Preferably outside on a summer evening with a cold glass of pinot grigio and your favourite husband across the table.
simple summer pasta
To make this dish gluten-free, just use your favourite g/f pasta.
250g pasta (long or short, your call)
1 T chicken or vegetable stock base or 1 cube of chicken or vegetable stock
2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garden tomatoes, seeds removed & large dice
1 small summer squash or zucchini, diced
kosher salt & ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh basil, sliced into a chiffonade
zest & juice of 1/2 a lemon
parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Cook pasta in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, according to package instructions. Just before the pasta is nearly done, remove some of the cooking water, leaving just enough to keep the pasta wet but not covered (about 1/2 c to 1 cup of liquid). Add stock base or cube, stir and cover over very low heat.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over med-high heat and add in onion and garlic. Cook until translucent and soft. Add in the tomatoes and squash, along with a good sprinkle of kosher salt and a hefty grind of black pepper. Saute until the tomatoes and squash get a little colour and wilt slightly from the heat – about 5 minutes or so. The zucchini is best with a bit of bite left and don’t let the tomatoes disintegrate into sauce, they should still retain some structure. Add in the cooked pasta, along with about 1/4 c or so of the cooking liquid. Toss with basil, lemon zest and juice and let the liquids reduce slightly. Serve with parmesan, if using. Makes 2 large bowls with a little leftover.