My husband, Tad, and I are always working on a pasta dish. There is no beginning and there is no end. It's a once-a-week dinner that we've been making for years, and each time we tweak it, depending on what's in season, what's in the fridge, what's going on in our work-addled heads. It usually begins with bacon or pancetta. When Tad's at the helm, canned tomatoes will likely find their way into the pan, and if it's my turn, a pinch of crushed chiles. We've drifted from penne to rigatone to orecchiette to shells. We like shapes that our kids can easily spear with a fork. Sometimes eggs get tossed in for a little carbonara effect. And, occasionally, Tad will slip in goat cheese in his mother's honor (she made an excellent pasta with asparagus and goat cheese). There's never a recipe because we never stop the music, we never let the ingredients race to their seats to get counted.
But this week, I thought it was time to put the pasta on record. We'd hit on a new summer variation that was pretty nifty. We've gotten into adding grated summer squash, which nestles into orechiette's little cups. Mixing fresh squash into hot pasta is an excellent way to produce soggy pasta; we drain the swamp by first salting the grated squash to draw out its water, and squeezing out the gratings before adding them to the steaming pasta. The base is bacon, of course, with a pinch of red pepper flakes and a smashed garlic clove. And to underline the sweetness and freshness of the dish, we fold in some fresh-scraped corn and chopped basil. The dish is part vegetable, part pasta -- buoyant, bright, and just what we crave on a steamy summer evening.
- 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 3 medium yellow zucchini, ends trimmed
- 1 pound orecchiette or small shells
- 2 ears corn, kernels cut from the cobs, juices and all
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped or torn basil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil, if needed.
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Photos by James Ransom