This is a surprisingly flavorful and very simple dish as presented. It's also the kind of recipe that lends itself to impromptu add-ins, such as pieces of grilled chicken or shrimp, a squeeze of anchovy paste or fresh shelled peas from the farmers market. Play it straight or improvise with what's on hand; either way, you'll have mastered one more way to make the most of summer's most prolific vegetable.
Serve with a radicchio and frisee salad.
- 12 ounces dried fettuccine pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon as needed (optional)
- 2 to 3 large (20 ounces) zucchini and/or squash
- 1 large clove garlic
- 8 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
- Coarse kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 to 4 basil leaves, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Place a plate near the stovetop.
Trim off and discard the ends of the zucchini and/or squash. Cut the vegetables in half lengthwise and place them cut side down on the cutting board; then cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (half-moons). Mince the garlic.
Add half of the zucchini/squash to the skillet, flat sides down, so they fit in a single layer. Cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pieces have browned, then turn over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the plate, then add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil, if needed; when it is hot, add the remaining vegetables and the garlic to the skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on 1 side, then turn them over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, if necessary, to keep the garlic from burning. Transfer the vegetables and garlic to the plate.
Turn off the heat under the skillet. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and the ricotta cheese to the skillet, stirring to dislodge any browned bits. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (The ricotta will be a little curdy; that's okay.) Fold the drained pasta and the vegetables and garlic, plus any accumulated juices, into the sauce, stirring gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. (At this point, other flavor ingredients can be added; see headnote.)
Roll up the basil leaves and cut them into very thin strips (chiffonade).
Divide the sauced pasta among individual wide, shallow bowls; sprinkle with the basil and the grated cheese, if using. Serve warm.
Adapted from "Summer Gatherings: Casual Food to Enjoy With Family and Friends," by Rick Rodgers (William Morrow, 2008).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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