What's for Dinner?: Summer Pasta (Zucchini and Basil Pasta)

Sunday, Jul 10, 2011 11:00am  |  COMMENTS (5)

Visit any Farmers’ Market or grocery store this time of year and you will be inundated with summer squash – those green and golden, nutrient-packed treasures. This week’s What’s for Dinner? will be showing you a quick recipe with these summer staples alongside other seasonal treats such as tomatoes and basil.

Before we get cooking, a bit about summer squash. Unlike their winter cousins you can eat all of them – skin, seeds and flesh. By and large there are three types:

  • Zucchini – the dark green ones of which the flowers are also edible.
  • Crookneck and Straightneck: yellow flesh and skin ranging from bright yellow to pale green.
  • Scallop: also available in shades of yellow or pale green, often with a sweeter flavor than other varieties.

This is a recipe for a quick, healthy meal using zucchini and straight-neck yellow squash. It comes with a sauce so creamy and thick, you would swear it is laden with cream, whereas in fact the sauce is just a puree of squash, basil and garlic. Leftovers from this recipe (if there are any, of course,) are delicious served with cold cuts.

Summer Pasta recipe – Serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons (tbs) extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 small summer squash
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 tbs fresh basil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8oz pasta ribbons, such as fettucine
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped, or you can use cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

The zucchini:

Cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds and then heat 2 tbs of olive oil in large skillet. Add 2/3 of the zucchini rounds and cook in the skillet until they are browned and crispy. Do not crowd the pan, you may have to do in 2 batches if necessary! When they are all cooked, transfer the contents of the pan to a paper towel. Discard the oil and wipe the pan.

The sauce:

Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 1 tbs olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and 1/2 tsp of the salt and then the star of the show, the remaining zucchini. Cook until the zucchini rounds are browned and crispy, which should take about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, add the basil (remembering to keep a few leaves back for a garnish), hit the button and puree.

Return the pureed mix to the pan and keep warm over low heat.

The pasta:

To cook the pasta, bring 2 quarts of water (with the remaining salt added) to a boil in a pan. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain the pan, but remember to save one cup of the water. You might need that for the sauce!

The final touches:

Add the pasta to the skillet with the zucchini puree. Stir and toss to coat the pasta in the puree. If the sauce is too thick, add some of that pasta water a little at a time. Add the zucchini rounds. Toss to mix well. Top with cheese and garnish with a few basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

A quick summer squash buying guide:

When buying summer squash, look for ones that feel heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished skin. Hard skin on a summer squash indicates that it is over-mature and doubtless will contain hard seeds and stringy flesh. Forget it! Size is not everything when it comes to squash – avoid oversized ones as they may be fibrous, while the little ‘uns may be lacking in flavor.

Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will lead to them rot quickly. It should be stored unwashed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about seven days. As the recipe above proves, it is worth it!


  1. POSTED BY Kristin  |  July 10, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

    This sounds like a perfect summer meal. Colorful and garlicky. Mmmm.

  2. POSTED BY Karen Banda  |  July 10, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

    Sounds yummy and easy, my two favorite things!

  3. POSTED BY lisadavies  |  July 10, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

    Thanks Kristin and Karen for your kind words. It is very easy, and manages to taste both summery and creamy (sounds like a contradiction I know) – without any cream!

  4. POSTED BY mara  |  July 10, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

    Another delicious sounding recipe! Are there tomatoes in there for garnish?
    I’ve already made your salmon with olives and oranges and the beet salad (I grilled the beets btw, too hot to turn on the oven at the beach that day). I may need you to come over and style my food, your photos are great! A request–a recipe for eggplant/aubergine?

  5. POSTED BY lisadavies  |  July 11, 2011 @ 8:12 am

    Mara – tomatoes are there for a bit of flavor too. Hmmmmm eggplant – here is a recipe for an eggplant dip. As it is going to be hot again, you could roast it on the grill outside too: https://thislittlepiggywenttothefarmersmarket.com/?s=aubergine
    Will think about some more eggplant stuff!

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