I love zucchini and other summer squash. It's delicious. But it can get somewhat tiring trying to come up with new recipes and new ways to use all of the squash I pick up during the summer when it seems to overrun the farmer's market. This summer I am determined to join a CSA so I am certain that I will be eating even more squash than usual, which means I need to figure out even more ways to use it. So when I picked up Mario Batali's new vegetable-driven cookbook, Molto Gusto, and saw the recipe for Pennette with Summer Squash and Ricotta, I knew I had to try it. Not only does the recipe use squash, but it pairs squash with ricotta and mint, which I think is a fabulous combination. The cookbook also contains a recipe for Linguine with Zucchini & Bottarga that I am determined to try once I track down some bottarga, which I believe I have seen at Chelsea Market.
While I do intend to make this recipe as written at some point, today I decided to play with the recipe a bit. Generally I make the recipe as written the first time and then start playing to my heart's content (unless upon first glance at the recipe I feel like I can improve upon it by adding this or cutting that), but we're doing it all backwards this time. I included Mario's recipe as intended, as well as the recipe as I adapted it. I like to give credit where credit is due, and I certainly didn't come up with the whole recipe on my own. I didn't have any normal pennette rigate. Instead all I had was whole wheat penne rigate. I'm not sure how or if pennette rigate differs from penne rigate, but that's ok. Since I was using whole wheat pasta, I had to amp up the flavor of the zucchini and the ricotta a tiny bit. I find that whole wheat pasta is far drier than regular pasta, not to mention grainier. I also find that it requires far more salt and seasoning to make it flavorful. So I added some crushed red pepper flakes to amp up the flavor of the zucchini a little more, as well as some lemon zest to give the ricotta mixture a little more tang. I also upped the amount of fresh mint that I added to the pasta, but that change was fairly minor in comparison to the others.
I really liked this pasta recipe. It made a wonderful healthy lunch! Actually, healthy or not, it was wonderful. The addition of the crushed red pepper, the lemon zest, and the additional tablespoon of fresh mint were lovely. Without them I don't know if the pasta would really sing. I'm not sure if the creaminess of the ricotta and the sauteed zucchini could carry whole wheat pasta without the other additions. Shockingly enough, I didn't even miss the regular pasta - which is saying a lot! Give it a shot both ways and let me know what you think.
Recipe after the jump!
Whole Wheat Penne Rigate with Zucchini & Ricotta
1/2 cup fresh ricotta (I used a very nice part-skim ricotta)
1 tsp lemon zest
3 tbsp evoo
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 tbsp warm water
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (if you're not into heat, use 1/2 tsp)
3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half and sliced into 1/3-inch thick half-moons
1 lb. whole wheat penne rigate
4 tbsp fresh mint, coarsely chopped
coarsely ground black pepper
Whisk the ricotta, lemon zest and 1 1/2 tbsp evoo together in a small bowl. Add the parm-reg, whisking until it is evenly incorporated. Whisk in 1 tbsp warm water so that ricotta mixture has a nice creamy consistency, almost like a dollop of creme fraiche.
Heat remaining 1 1/2 tbsp evoo in a large saute pan with lid over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, but be careful not to burn the pepper flakes. Add the zucchini and stir to combine. Cook, stirring regularly, until just tender and golden-brown, about 5-6 minutes. Season well with salt and remove from heat.
Cook pasta in heavily salted boiling water (you need to use a ton of salt with whole wheat pasta before it tastes good) and cook until just al dente according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Add the cooked pasta and the reserved pasta water to the zucchini mixture, stirring and tossing over medium heat to mix well. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow to steam together for 2 minutes.
Stir in the mint, season with more salt (if necessary) and pepper. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Garnish with dollops of the ricotta mixture.
Serve immediately with additional parm-reg (if desired).
Pennette with Summer Squash & Ricotta
By Mario Batali & Mark Ladner
1 cup fresh ricotta
6 tbsp evoo
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
2-3 tbsp warm water
1 lb. summer squash or zucchini, cut lengthwise in half and sliced into 1/3-inch thick half-moons
Maldon, or other flaky sea salt
1 lb. pennette rigate
6 tbsp fresh mint, coarsely chopped
coarsely ground black pepper
Bring 3 quarts water to boil in a large pot and add 3 tbsp kosher salt to boiling water.
Meanwhile, whisk the ricotta and 3 tbsp evoo together in a small bowl. Add the parm-reg, whisking until it is evenly incorporated. Whisk in 2 tbsp warm water, then another if necessary to loosen the consistency.
Heat remaining 3 tbsp evoo in a large pot over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring regularly, until just tender and golden-brown, about 4-5 minutes. Season well with sea salt and remove from heat.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/3 cup pasta water. Add the cooked pasta and the reserved pasta water to the squash, stirring and tossing over medium heat to mix well. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and allow to steam together for 2 minutes.
Stir in the mint, season with more sea salt (if necessary) and pepper. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Garnish with dollops of the ricotta mixture.