Zucchini, Crookneck Squash, and Carrot Pasta

July 23, 2012

By the time July looks to August and one warm day seems to melt into another, zucchini and summer squash have usually lain claim to any free space in our vegetable bed. This year, in an effort to keep things simple, we planted only a few classic varieties. One green zucchini, one striped zucchini, and one crookneck squash. Just enough to keep us completely stocked through September.

Squash wasn’t actually a favorite of mine as a kid. In fact, quite the opposite. Even now, I’m still quite picky about it. Luckily, I’ve discovered a few key techniques that make this abundant summertime vegetable wonderfully palatable to me. First, I barely cook it. Zucchini and other types of summer squash are best when blanched or sauteed just until tender, but still crunchy to the bite. Second, I avoid the seeds. The central seedy portion of a squash becomes exceedingly moist and flavorful when cooked. It certainly sounds good, but the mushy texture and squashy flavor are what turned me off as a kid and can still elicit spontaneous shudders today.

I employ my squash cooking technique quite successfully in our household, so my own kids have very few of the reservations I had at their age. A very good thing, especially since our three vines produce a steady supply of beautiful green and yellow squashes.

We’ve experimented with lots of different preparations. This simple dish is our “go-to” favorite. Quick, uncomplicated, and ingredient-driven, one might say it has a bit of Alice Waters-esque seasonal simplicity (but most would agree has more than an ounce of get-your-kids-to-eat-their-vegetables-and-like-it.) It starts with julienne strips of zucchini, summer squash, and (this time, but not always) carrots. I often vary the sauce, sometimes adding cream, other times pesto. I also add to the ingredients—including chopped toasted pine nuts or walnuts, pancetta or shredded chicken, basil or mint —depending on what I find in the garden or the fridge. The kids prefer it prepared at its most basic, tossed with oil, butter, and Parmesan.

Zucchini, Crookneck Squash, and Carrot Pasta

1 large carrot, peeled

1 large zucchini

2 small crookneck or yellow summer squash

7 oz. spaghetti noodles

2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 oz. good-quality Parmesan cheese, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, using a julienne peeler or mandoline, cut the carrot lengthwise into julienne strips. Cut the outer parts of the zucchini and crookneck squashes into julienne strips as well, stopping to rotate each squash when you reach the seeds. Reserve the center seedy portion of each squash for another use.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and stir gently. Cook until al dente, about 7 minutes or according to package directions.When the pasta is just tender, add the julienned squash to the pot and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain the pasta and vegetables. Immediately transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, add the butter, and sprinkle with half of the Parmesan. Toss until mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide equally among serving bowls. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining Parmesan. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings



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