Toasted Orecchiette with Zucchini, Corn, and Crème Fraîche Inspired by Bon Appetit

July 19, 2016
4 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Chez Panisse Vegetables comes to the rescue every summer with its many recipes and ideas. This year I've discovered the summer squash and corn pasta recipe, which I've adapted very slightly, using crème fraîche in place of butter and basil in place of the cilantro, and omitting the jalapeño. I've also been making it with orecchiette, which I toast in olive oil, a trick I read about in a recent Bon Appétit, which creates crispy, golden edges. This step is optional, but it adds nice texture and color and is just kind of fun. The key with this recipe is to cook the vegetables for no more than 3 minutes or they turn to mush by the end. Toasted pine nuts would be a nice addition here. —Alexandra Stafford

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 to 5 small zucchini, small diced to yield 4 cups
  • 2 ears of corn, shucked, kernels removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup crème fraiche
  • 1/2 cup basil, finely sliced
  • 1 dash Freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 Lemon for serving, optional
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Cook pasta al dente, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid (or even more if you want some on hand for reheating), drain pasta, transfer it to a large bowl, and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. When it shimmers, add the zucchini, corn, and garlic. Immediately reduce the heat to medium, season lightly with salt, and cook for 2 minutes undisturbed. Stir, and cook for one minute more, then transfer to a large serving bowl—zucchini may taste underdone, but it will continue to cook as it sits.
  3. Add 2 more tablespoons of the olive oil to the pan. When it shimmers, add the pasta and let it cook undisturbed for 1 minute. Stir, and let it cook for another minute. The edges should be starting to brown. Repeat this process for 2 more minutes, or until the pasta is browned to your liking, then transfer it to the bowl with the vegetables. Add the reserved pasta cooking liquid and the crème fraiche to the sauté pan and stir until emulsified, then transfer to the bowl of pasta. Add the basil, and toss everything together. Taste. Season with pepper to taste and more salt if necessary.
  4. Serve pasta with lemon wedges on the side, if desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Grace Aldridge
    Grace Aldridge
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
  • erin
  • Mondo
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

10 Reviews

erin March 17, 2021
This recipe deserves a lot more attention so I'm commenting again! I made it with broccoli last night (charring small florets with garlic, chilli flakes and lemon zest) and added an anchovy-parmesan panko crumb at the end. Toasting the orecchiette transforms the whole feel of the dish, much as it does with gnocchi.
erin March 8, 2017
Been meaning to try this for ages. Finally made it today with broccoli instead of zucchini-corn. The toasting of the orecchiette brings so much flavor and interest to the dish; I'm so pleased. You must do as the recipe says - get the oil very hot, tip the pasta in and then force yourself to count to 60 without touching it. Stir then count to sixty again. And so on for three or four minutes.
Alexandra S. March 14, 2017
Love the idea of using broccoli, especially this time of year. Thanks for your notes/reinforcement of the importance of the hot oil. Sometimes I keep a crossword nearby to keep me occupied when I need to be patient—it's so hard sometimes!
erin March 15, 2017
I had to sit on my hands! But it's better because once it toasts properly it doesn't stick, whereas if you keep trying to move it you end up with a mess. I've tried it with zucchini-corn now too (loved it, but personally prefer the broccoli) and I'm going to try cauliflower next. Thank you for an excellent recipe!
Mondo September 2, 2016
I made this a few weeks ago and it turned out great except I too had trouble with the browning of the pasta. The Orecchiette just kept sticking and only browned a little after leaving it in the pan way longer than recommended. Any thoughts? I'm planning on trying it again tonight. Thanks!
Alexandra S. September 2, 2016
So gad you liked this and sorry for the trouble with the browning! Two thoughts: 1. Be sure to get the oil very hot — really make sure you see it swirling around and starting to smoke — before you add the pasta. 2. Resist stirring for at least a minute if not longer. Peak at one to see if it's browning, and if it is, then you can start shaking the pan or giving them a stir. If it's not, let them sit another minute longer. Good luck!
adorrain August 13, 2016
I couldn't find Orecchiette, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Two things I must have done wrong: I never got my veggies or pasta to brown. I suppose the heat wasn't high enough? Or I was using a scan pan, perhaps I should have used the stainless? And I didn't get the creme friache to emulsify. All in all, the flavors were nice, but without the browned veggies the color was lacking. Any tips?
Alexandra S. August 13, 2016
Hi Adorrain! Sorry for the trouble with this one! It does sound as though the oil wasn't hot enough when you add the ingredients. If you give it a go again, be sure to use a large pan, get the oil shimmering before you add the vegetables and the pasta, and resist stirring for the first minute or so. (Be sure to turn the heat down to medium once you add your ingredients).

In regard to the creme fraiche, I would try to bring it to room temperature before using it, and if you don't have a flat-bottomed whisk, try using a fork.

Hope that helps!
Grace A. July 26, 2016
I made this last night and it turned out amazing! I did have to cook the zucchini mixture for more than 3 minutes since there was so much in the pan (used a 12" cast iron), but I took them off before they got mushy. I tried substituting Greek yogurt for the creme fraiche since I couldn't find the latter in the grocery store, and it didn't emulsify. Next time I would probably try substituting sour cream instead.

Also, make sure you add a good amount of salt and pepper at the end since the zucchini really needs it.

Would definitely make again!
Alexandra S. July 26, 2016
So happy to hear this, Grace! Would totally agree re salt — i was worried the tablespoon of salt in the cooking water would make the pasta too salty, but it doesn't — you definitely need to add at the end.

I'm going to make a note about sour cream — I'm sure that will work well when creme fraiche can't be found. Thanks for writing in!