pasta is one of my favorite foods because it is quick, easy, and versatile. it can be served with vegetables, meat, or just plain with a splash of olive oil. in the summer, though, i've found a lot of traditional pasta pairings are just too heavy. red sauce and meatballs are not harmonious with humid evenings on the patio and teary glasses of iced tea.
when i came across a recipe from mario batali, "pennette with summer squash and ricotta", it sounded like the perfect way to enjoy pasta in the summertime. i've prepared similar dishes before, but what really intrigued me about this was the addition of mint.
1) cook 1 pound pennette rigate in water salted with kosher salt (i used whole grain penne from barilla)
2) whisk together 1 cup fresh ricotta and 3 tbsp olive oil. add 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (i used pecorino romano because i do not have mario batali's cheese budget) and whisk till combined. whisk in 2 tbsp warm water, then another tbsp if necessary to loosen the consistency. i also added a splash of lemon juice to give it a little citrus kick.
3) slice 1 pound summer squash or zucchini, or combination, into 1/3" thick half moons (i did not feel it was necessary to get out the ruler. mine were probably all different thicknesses). heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook squash until just tender. season with maldon salt. um, i didn't really know what maldon salt was so i used lemon sea salt flakes that i had in my cabinet.
4) drain the pasta and reserve 1/3 cup pasta water.
5) add the pasta and reserved water to the squash, mix well. cover and steam over low heat for about 2 minutes.
6) stir in 6 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh mint, season with maldon salt and pepper, and transfer to serving bowl.
garnish with dollops of whipped ricotta with additional grated parmigiano on the side. the photo in the magazine had this really creamy looking ricotta sauce. mine looked lumpy like cottage cheese, but tasted fine.
the mint gave the dish a unique twist and an invigorating tanginess. perfect for a hot summer night on the patio.