Summer Weekend Pasta

July 15, 2012

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

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 cut it off at the pass 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.

Amanda Hesser

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
In This Recipe


  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, spread the bacon in a large saute pan, add the garlic clove, and set over medium heat. Cook the bacon until it's crisp and its fat has rendered. As you remove the bacon from the heat, stir in the red pepper flakes.
  2. Grate the summer squash on a box grater. Gather the gratings in a bowl and salt the squash -- I add about 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt. Toss to mix. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, and up to 30 minutes.
  3. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta but don't shake it; you want a little pasta water to help create a sauce. Pour it back in the pot.
  4. Take fistfuls of the squash and squeeze it as firmly as possible to extract any liquid. Add the pressed squash to the pasta. Continue until all the grated squash has been squeezed. Then scrape the corn into the pot, and use a slotted spoon to add the bacon (if there's less than 2 tablespoons fat in the pan, I add the bacon and fat to the pasta); discard the garlic clove. Toss the pasta. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Also pepper and the basil. Toss again. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons of olive oil at this point. Spoon into shallow bowls and top with grated, cheese, but not too much. (And pour yourself a glass of sparkling Gruner Veltliner.)

More Great Recipes:
Pasta|Italian|Clove|Bacon|One-Pot Wonders|Summer|Entree

Reviews (86) Questions (3)

86 Reviews

bethL July 6, 2018
I made last night. I used spiralized zucchini I had purchased. Seems a good shortcut.<br />I'm not sure I did it quite right, since I didn't fully understand the instructions. BUT, whatever, YUM.<br />Questions:<br />Once the bacon and garlic are cooked and removed.<br />Is everything suppose to be combined that pan? I removed a little of the bacon grease then cooked everything together once combined. (not the basil) There wasn't sauce.
Author Comment
Amanda H. July 6, 2018
I combine everything in the pot that the pasta was cooked in. After draining the pasta (leaving a little water in the pan), I add the pasta back to the pasta pot and then add the squash and other ingredients. I use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and garlic from the pan they were cooked in to the pasta pot. Hope this clears things up!
bethL July 6, 2018
Thanks Amanda! I bet, without the bacon grease, a lot healthier:) I look forward to trying it that way next time.
Author Comment
Amanda H. July 6, 2018
I must confess, I often add the bacon grease!
bethL July 6, 2018
Kathleen June 25, 2018
Yummmmm! This is such a fantastic and easy to execute dinner. Like another commenter, we made with half the amount of pasta because we prefer for our pasta dishes to be topping heavy. It was great this way. I used green zucchini instead of yellow because it looked better at the farmer's market, and this is obviously a negligible difference in taste. We saved a bit of the pasta water to splash into the pot instead of olive oil to help things come together. I will definitely be making this a few more times this summer!
Author Comment
Amanda H. June 25, 2018
Great to hear you liked it!
luvcookbooks September 13, 2017
Hi, thanks for adding this recipe! I made it for dinner last night with farmer's market summer squash and corn, pancetta instead of bacon. It was simple and quick, but tasted "extra". I think grating and salting the summer squash and having seasoning meat made a difference. Keeping this recipe in my Summer section.
Megan H. August 28, 2017
What can I substitute for bacon? I do not eat meat. Looks like a fresh summer meal!
Author Comment
Amanda H. August 28, 2017
Hi Megan, you could skip the bacon and just cook the garlic and red pepper flakes in a few tablespoons of good olive oil. Should still be great!
Megan H. August 28, 2017
Okay perfect! Thank you!
Sherry Z. June 15, 2017
Just made this dish and we really enjoyed it! BUT-- (1) I added some asparagus that I had around (cut into 1.5 inch pieces and quickly blanched in the pasta water for 1 minute). and (2) MOST IMPORTANT: i added half a lemon worth of juice, which elevated the living hell out of it. Next time I will be adding in the zest as well.
Rhonda35 August 2, 2016
I have never tried this recipe! What kind of rotten sister am I? (No need to answer, Amanda!) ;-) I have a request for pasta tonight and have all the ingredients, so I will finally give it a go.
Author Comment
Amanda H. August 6, 2016
Your sister status just improved x1000. : ) xxo
Lizbeth E. July 26, 2016
Made this last night and it was a hit with the family! I fished out the garlic clove as directed but couldn't resist it's crispy bacon grease fried goodness so I ate it! Yummy!
Author Comment
Amanda H. July 26, 2016
Have done that myself! :)
Margie August 23, 2014
I tried this tonight and loved it! Used zucchini, and next time will allow to drain for much longer (only did 15 minutes). This dish is light and filling - a wonderful combination. Will be a staple for summer dinners to be sure. Thank you!
Stephanie August 13, 2014
Is it possible to use canned corn?
Author Comment
Amanda H. August 13, 2014
I think frozen corn would be better than canned, but you can also skip the corn if you can't get fresh.
Allison K. July 20, 2014
The perfect use for my first two ears of CSA corn of the summer! I was unexpectedly out of garlic but I did have a shallot and a couple of garlic scapes so I used those instead. I'm glad that despite the careful calibration of this perfect pasta dish that Amanda and Tad did, it's still open to some interpretation!
Nutmeg3000 July 16, 2014
This was so good! I loved the fresh basil in some of the bites. We cut the pasta in half and it was still a very nice ratio of pasta and the other ingredients.
Jenny July 7, 2014
This was absolutely delicious--a perfect combo of flavors and textures. I made it for two, so halved everything except the garlic (which I actually doubled.) Stirring in pasta water made a light, creamy sauce, and the squash virtually disappeared except to add a tender bite. Also worked well with spaghetti which was all we had on hand. Will definitely make again as the squash and corn keep coming this summer!
Author Comment
Amanda H. July 7, 2014
Thanks for giving it a try, Jenny -- and good to have your notes.
MmeTrish June 26, 2014
The family LOVED this (used zucchini for summer squash) and everyone sad there was not enough for seconds. Thank you, Amanda, for a unique pasta experience that inspires me to work on my own creations!
Author Comment
Amanda H. June 26, 2014
I'm actually planning to make it tomorrow night with zucchini. Must have channeled you. I look forward to your pasta recipes -- upload them so we can share!
Tracie March 28, 2014
This was delicious. I made this for a bbq over the summer and it was a hit! Super easy to make as well and feels light for a pasta dish!
Nicole February 10, 2014
I made this a while back when it was warm out. I wasn't a huge fan of the rawness of the squash (which is strange for me, because I can eat raw zucchini by the slice when not in this dish). I may either reduce the amount of squash, or blanch it before incorporating it to take the bite off.
Rebecca M. August 21, 2013
I'm surprised no one has asked this but I love the plate itself. Can you share your source for dishes?
Author Comment
Amanda H. August 21, 2013
This plate is made by Mud Australia: We don't yet carry their plates in Provisions, but hopefully soon!
Mark August 19, 2013
It;s not like me to depart from your recipes, but I used ground turkey instead of the bacon and found some great tri-colored orecchiette - Home Run. We couldn't eat it fast enough.
Author Comment
Amanda H. August 19, 2013
Love hearing about home runs!
Author Comment
Amanda H. August 17, 2013
I made this again last night, and couldn't find yellow squash so I used green zucchini this time. It worked well and the green was pretty -- in case anyone is looking for a slight variation. Also straight-up tripled the recipe and the proportions worked fine.
regina S. August 17, 2013
I would had some lemon zest and juice.<br />Gina
catherine H. August 14, 2013
This sounds amazing, but my husband has developed an allergy to raw zucchini (and I assume would have the same reaction to yellow squash). Without asking for medical advice but only culinary, would you recommend sauteing the squash briefly (which will neutralize the proteins causing the allergy) or switching to a different raw vegetable?
Author Comment
Amanda H. August 14, 2013
Sure, I would saute it in some oil after salting and squeezing the squash.