Summer Weekend Pasta

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.

Cutting bacon Grating summer squash

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Cutting corn from the cob Browning the bacon

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.

Squeezing the liquid from the squash Mixing the pasta

Pulling the basil leaves from the stems Chopping the basil

Summer Weekend Pasta

Serves 4

  • Salt
  • 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

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Summer Weekend Pasta

Photos by James Ransom

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


Arianamarie September 2, 2012
Why is there no Save Recipe or Print on this recipe? I want to make it!
Arianamarie September 2, 2012
Nevermind - I found them!
galsmu July 31, 2012
Love this recipe! Have made it several times now and have passed it along to my daughters who have also made it. I typically use green zucchini, add another ear of corn , and mix in more Parmesan.
Amanda H. July 31, 2012
Glad it's such a family hit!
smslaw July 23, 2012
We made the summer pasta for dinner over the weekend and it was a big hit. One change I'll make next time is to use much less salt to draw moisture from the squash. Even though I rinsed it, the dish was too salty for my taste. That didn't stop me from enjoying leftovers for lunch today.
We used zucchini, not yellow squash and used corn that was left over from the previous evenings corn on the cob.
TavolaMediterranea July 23, 2012
Beautiful recipe! I too am a fan of orecchiette. If you ever get the time to make the pasta itself from scratch, here's a great recipe for it: Adorable little things... and the texture once boiled is amazing!

~ Farrell
elysia July 19, 2012
Threw some sauteed garlic scapes along with the corn and squash - absolutely fantastic receipe!!!
BirdMonk July 19, 2012
Thanks for sharing! A couple of quick summer pasta dishes I was introduced to when I was living in Italy - both for penne - would involve a) sautéing mashed garlic cloves in olive oil until golden, adding thinly sliced zucchini and lightly browning them, draining on paper towel and then adding them to the penne pasta and tossing together with crushed pistachio nuts and chopped fresh mint leaves and b) adding the best canned tuna you can find (i'm partial to Sardinian) to the olive oil with sautéd garlic, sautéing the tuna in the oil & garlic, add a splash of white wine and cook off the alcohol and then add the tuna to the penne pasta and toss with some capers and thinly sliced pieces of lemon peel.
Amanda H. July 19, 2012
Love these ideas -- will try them!
BirdMonk July 19, 2012
Great, Amanda! One thing I realized after my initial post is that since for me - as I would imagine for most people here - seasoning is a matter of taste (pardon the bad pun :-) I didn't refer to salt or pepper, for example. It's been my experience with these dishes that salted pistachios and the tuna provide them with enough salt for me. And as far as measurements for the ingredients I've always used my eye to judge the proportionate relationship between everything that goes into them - i.e. one would want to have some of everything in each fork- / -spoonful...buon appetito!
TheWimpyVegetarian July 18, 2012
Gorgeous and looks delicious. I think I'm looking at tonight's dinner! Thanks!!
Amanda H. July 18, 2012
Hope it turned out well!
muireann July 18, 2012
adding another request for identification of the corn tool!
Amanda H. July 18, 2012
It's a corn peeler made by OXO!
susanm July 18, 2012
oh yum! looks awesome. i am of the same mindset when it comes to weekly pasta...i don't think i've ever made the same one twice. last week it was farmers market swiss chard and shaved fennel sauteed in olive oil, garlic & red pepper flakes. topped with lemon zest, pecorino romano, torn basil, lots of pepper and fresh olive oil. on orecchiette, of course.
weekly pasta soothes the soul!
Amanda H. July 18, 2012
That sound fantastic.
Muse July 18, 2012
This looks amazing...can't wait to try it!
Foodiewithalife July 18, 2012
Loving this recipe; what is the cool corn de-cobber??

Amanda H. July 18, 2012
It's made by OXO |
GossipGal July 18, 2012
Amanda: Is that an ice cream scoop or a special la- dee-dah corn cobber? But, whatever it is, I want one.
GingerB July 16, 2012
Love this pasta dish. As a vegetarian, I wanted to keep the color and add a flavor punch so I added roasted radicchio instead of bacon! Yummie!
EmilyC July 16, 2012
Love the looks of this pasta and appreciate the fork spearing consideration for kiddos (well, and for moms and dads eating leftovers the next day at work!). Definitely trying this simply can't have too many (good) ways to use squash in the summer.
Amanda H. July 18, 2012
True, true.
jmddc July 16, 2012
This sounds delicious and I have all of the ingredients on hand. Love knowing what dinner is going to be early in the day!
Amanda H. July 18, 2012
Me, too -- glad I could help!
mcs3000 July 16, 2012
Beautiful piece. Love it. ps. Wish Tad would post more. Those potatoes of his are genius.
Amanda H. July 18, 2012
I shared your comment with him -- he said "Oh, pshaw."